A Complete Guide to the Types of Coffee

The world of coffee can be overwhelming for many people. It may seem like all these drinks are the same thing. Before hitting up your local coffee shop, read about the unique flavors of the different types of coffee drinks, the brewing method, and how to make them at home for cheap!

Understanding the different types of coffee is fundamental to fully appreciate this drink. Water coffee ratio, flavours, method of preparation, are things that change the taste and your experience with coffee.

During my job as a barista, I had the opportunity to prepare and enjoy the majority of the types presented in this article.

I invite you to keep reading to learn more to fully enjoy your next visit to the coffee shop or when you will make them at home.


Plain Espresso

1 Fl oz espresso

A plain espresso shot is a traditional way to drink coffee in Italy. Espresso shots are small, making them an easy way to get caffeinated quickly. While they are great for energy, espresso is more than just a way to wake up.

Espresso has a rich and powerful taste that takes some adjustment. Good espresso tastes bittersweet, aromatic, and slightly reminiscent of chocolate. The best espresso shot has blended the sweet and bitter flavors of the coffee bean into one beautifully dark drink.

A well-brewed shot of espresso can also be identified by its crema layer. The crema is a foamy substance that sits on top of the espresso shot. It is created when the carbon dioxide released by the coffee beans blends with the highly pressurized water. The crema is the bitterest part of the espresso shot.



1 Fl oz espresso and 1 Fl oz heated milk (untextured)

Cortados are espresso drinks that originated in Spain. A cortado consists of equal parts espresso and milk but is unique in texture. Unlike similar drinks that require equal parts espresso and milk, the milk in a cortado is heated but not textured.

Textured milk, often referred to as steamed milk, contains microfoam. Microfoam is made from small air bubbles that get trapped in heated milk and make it frothy or foamy. Cortados do not contain microfoam, just heated milk.



½ Fl oz concentrated espresso

Ristretto translates to “restricted” in Italian because this type of espresso restricts the amount of water used to create it. Ristrettos are half as big as espresso shots but make up for it in flavor and caffeine content.

Because ristrettos use the same amount of coffee grounds but half the water of a normal espresso shot, they are extremely concentrated. The flavors of a ristretto shot are bigger and bolder than plain espresso.



1 Fl oz espresso and 8 ounces hot water, mixed

The Americano is one of the only traditional espresso drinks that does not include dairy. Americanos consist of espresso diluted with water. The dilution of the espresso shot makes it more palatable to those who do not like its bold taste.

Americanos were created by American soldiers stationed in Italy who wanted a taste of home. Although Americanos look like drip coffee, they have a distinct espresso taste.


Espresso Macchiato

1 Fl oz espresso and a splash of steamed milk

An espresso macchiato is how macchiatos are served in Italy. Macchiatos are the sweetened version of plain espresso. They consist of a single espresso shot and a splash of steamed milk.

The steamed milk is added to cut the bitterness of the espresso enough to sip it casually while reading or chatting. It is not meant to be overly sweet and is served without sugar or flavored syrups.

Espresso macchiato

Latte Macchiato

1 Fl oz espresso on top of 8 oz steamed milk, not stirred

The latte macchiato is more closely related to a latte due to its sweet nature and use of steamed milk. This drink is made from 8 ounces of steamed milk that has been carefully topped with one shot of espresso.

The latte macchiato is meant to be a layered drink. The steamed milk fills the bottom part of the cup and the espresso shot sits on top. It is often served with ground cinnamon or other spices.

latte macchiato
Latte macchiato


1 Fl oz espresso blended into 8 oz steamed milk and topped with milk foam

The latte is one of the most popular espresso drinks because of its inherent sweetness and its creamy taste. Lattes are made of 8 ounces of steamed milk that has been blended with a shot of espresso.

Lattes are commonly topped with milk foam. Although they are rarely served with flavored syrups in Europe, lattes in America are renowned for their many flavor options.


Flat White

1 Fl oz espresso topped with milk foam

Flat whites are some of the most aesthetic espresso drinks due to their use of milk foam. Milk foam, also known as microfoam, can retain its shape and texture more easily than steamed milk. Because of these unique qualities, the milk foam is used to make latte art.

Although latte art is a common topping, most Flat whites are marked with a single white spot. The milk foam is thick enough to hold its shape as a circular white dot in the center of the drink, which marks a well-brewed Flat white.

Flat white


2 Fl oz espresso, 2 Fl oz steamed milk, 2 Fl oz milk foam, layered

Cappuccinos can be hard to identify but they are the most structured drinks on any cafe menu. Cappuccinos can be divided into equal thirds. The bottom third of a cappuccino consists of espresso, the middle third consists of steamed milk, and the top third consists of milk foam.

Cappuccinos have distinct layers between every ingredient and should not be stirred. Although cappuccinos are traditionally served without additional sugar, ground cinnamon and other spices are often added on top.


Espresso con Panna

1 Fl oz espresso topped with rich whipped cream

Espresso con Panna is commonly served in many Spanish-speaking countries. It translates to espresso with cream, which is a perfect way to describe its main ingredients.

Espresso con Panna consists of a single espresso shot topped with rich whipped cream. The whipped cream is made fresh and is never store-bought to preserve the integrity of the espresso’s flavor profile.

Espresso con panna

Drip Coffee

Drip coffee is the most popular type of coffee served in America. This brewing method gets its name from the way the coffee drips slowly into the carafe.

Drip coffee can be made in two ways: with an automatic machine or manually. Drip coffee machines can be pricy, but they make mornings much easier. Most of them can be prepared the night before.

Manual drip coffees are usually called pour-overs. Although their materials do not have to be as expensive as the machine brewers, they often are. Pour-over coffee is the brewing method of choice for many baristas because it provides complete control over the brewing process.

Pour-over coffee’s great freedom of expression also means that it is easier to make mistakes. Pour-over coffee requires skill but is easy to master with enough practice.

Drip coffee

French Press

The French press is one of the most hands-off manual brewing methods. To use a French press, simply scoop the coarsely ground coffee into the carafe and let it soak in hot water for 3-6 minutes. Once time is up, push the plunger filter down to separate the coffee from the grounds.

French press coffee can then be poured directly into your cup. French press coffee tastes earthy and slightly silty. It has a deep and rich taste that is often described as dirty and flavorful.

French press

Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee is a newer brewing method that is completely heatless. Because of the lack of heat, cold brew coffee has a longer brew time. It often sits for 12-24 hours before it is ready to drink. Cold brew coffee is often made in big batches and can be stored for up to a week in a fridge.

This type of coffee is made by combining extra coarse coffee grounds with room temperature water and allowing them to percolate overnight. Once the brewing is done, the coffee grounds are strained out with a coffee filter or a cheesecloth.

Cold brew

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee has the most unique tastes out of all the coffees we have discussed so far. This is because the coffee grounds are not strained from the finished product. To brew Turkish coffee, combine water and extremely fine coffee grounds into a small, skinny pot.

Turkish coffee is brought up to a boil and removed from heat three times before it is ready to serve. Turkish coffee is served in very small demitasse cups. Because the coffee grounds for Turkish coffee are so fine, they stick to the bottom of the cup.

Although most of the coffee grounds remain at the bottom of the cup, their addition creates a strong and thick drink. Turkish coffee is one of the strongest coffees a barista can brew.

Turkish coffee

How to Brew these Types of Coffee at Home Without an Expensive Espresso Machine

Not everybody has access to the best espresso and coffee machines. Any espresso machine worth its salt is going to be expensive. There are many other ways to brew espresso at home that is less expensive, easier, and just as delicious. Read more in the guide about how to make espresso at home.

Nespresso and K-Cafe Single-Serve Machines

The Nespresso and K-cafe single-serve espresso machines are a great way to brew espresso at the press of a button. While both of these coffee makers are fairly expensive, ranging from $100-$200, they are still cheaper than an espresso machine of the same quality.

These single-serve espresso machines are perfect for beginners because they brew exquisite espresso every time. The pre-portioned espresso pods and machine settings allow anyone to brew great espresso in minutes with minimal cleanup required.

Moka Pot

Moka pots are often used by Italians to brew aromatic espresso right in their own home. These brewers are relatively inexpensive and can brew strong and flavorful espresso in minutes.

The Moka pot consists of three chambers. The bottom chamber is filled with water so that when the Moka pot is heated, the water becomes steam and rises through the middle chamber directly above it.

The middle chamber of the Moka pot is filled with finely ground espresso. As the steam rises, it forces its way through the espresso and absorbs its bittersweet flavors. The coffee-flavored steam continues to rise to the top chamber of the Moka pot where it condenses as freshly brewed espresso.

Although using a Moka pot takes a bit of practice, anyone can learn how to brew real espresso with this simple instrument.

How to Steam Milk at Home Without a Steam Wand

Frothed milk is an important part of many espresso drinks. Being able to produce espresso drinks at home requires steaming milk, but steam wands can be expensive. Here are some simple, affordable options to get the great taste of texturized milk.

Milk Frother

Milk frothers are a great tool to have on hand. While milk steamers shoot hot air into chilled milk, frothers texturize already heated milk. Milk frothers can be compared to tiny, electric whisks.

They can introduce small bubbles of air into the milk. These air bubbles get trapped in the hot milk and become microfoam. Microfoam, as we stated earlier, is another way to describe the sweet, velvety ingredient called milk foam.

Hot Mason Jar Method

The hot mason jar method is a perfect lifehack for created texturized milk with only the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. Heat any mason jar (lid included) by filling it with hot water and allowing it to sit for a few minutes.

While the mason jar is warming up, heat the amount of milk you want to texturize in a microwave or a saucepan. Pour the hot water out and fill the mason jar with the heated milk. Secure the lid and make sure there is a good amount of air inside.

Once the lid is secured, shake the jar vigorously. By hitting the heated glass, the milk is forced to mix with the air inside the mason jar which creates microfoam. This method requires a bit of arm strength but is a great way to make texturized milk in a pinch.

French Press Method

The French press method is the most exciting milk-steaming method to use. Although it requires access to a French press, it is a huge money saver and produces more frothed milk than any other method.

To froth milk using a French press, pour the heated milk into the brewer’s carafe. Make sure both the carafe and the plunger filter are clean from any previously brewed coffee. Place the lid on the carafe and use the plunger filter to create air bubbles in the milk.

This is most efficiently done by rapidly pushing the plunger up and down. The holes in the plunger filter allow air bubbles to combine with the heated milk, creating a beautiful, frothed drink.


The word of coffee is open to everybody. It is okay if you can’t enjoy the taste of plain espresso or don’t own your steam wand, there are still other types of coffee that will make you appreciate coffee.

Not every coffee lover can name all the brewing methods. By reading this article and trying new drinks, you are well on your way to being a coffee aficionado.

Leave a Comment