Latte, cappuccino, cortado, oh my! Have you ever stared at a coffee shop’s menu and wondered what the heck half the items are? Or maybe you’re feeling adventurous, ready to try a new drink, but there’s so many types of coffee drinks that you don’t know where to start?
Here we’re defining all the various coffee drinks so you can order with confidence.
A Complete Guide to Coffee Drinks
This one doesn’t need much explanation – black coffee is simply a mix of water and coffee! There’s no milk or sugar added. (Unless you add it yourself, of course.) The French name for black coffee is “café noir,” which is good to know if you’re feeling fancy or just want to annoy your spouse by insisting they call it by its proper name.
A shot of espresso is approximately one ounce of highly concentrated coffee, prepared by forcing boiling water through ground, dark roast coffee beans. It’s sometimes call a “short black.” Espresso is the base for many of the following drinks.
A doppio (“double” in Italian) is simply two shots of espresso. Double the espresso, double the caffeine, double the drink – generally 60 ml of liquid.
The word ristretto is Italian for “restrict.” (Or “narrow” or “limited.”) A ristretto is like an espresso, using the same amount of coffee that is more finely ground and just half the water.
A lungo is a long pull espresso – the opposite of a ristretto – meaning the same amount of espresso with more water. While a normal shot of espresso is pulled for 18 to 30 seconds, a lungo may be extracted for up to a minute, depending on bean type and pressure of the machine.
This is what we order most often when we go to a coffee shop! A latte is simply a shot of espresso with steamed milk, topped with a little bit of foam.
Lattes are extremely customizable, from adding shots of flavoring syrup (think vanilla, peppermint and caramel) to choosing your preferred milk (whole, skim, oat, almond, soy). And who doesn’t love a seasonal drink? Hello, pumpkin spice latte!
Prefer your shot of espresso with just a touch of milk? Order a macchiato. A macchiato is a shot of espresso with just a splash of milk that’s usually foamed.
Love your froth? Then a cappuccino is your drink! A cappuccino is made with espresso and equal parts steamed or foamed milk. It’s a smaller volume drink compared to a latte. As you can probably tell by its name, cappuccinos originated in Italy.
A flat white is similar to a latte, but with less milk that is frothed for a velvety feel. This results in a slightly smaller volume drink (compared to a latte) with a higher proportion of coffee to milk.
Need an extra jolt of caffeine – enough to theoretically keep you awake through a red eye flight? A red eye is a cup of drip coffee mixed with a shot of espresso.
If a red eye isn’t quite cutting it, go for a black eye: a cup of drip coffee mixed with two shots of espresso. (Not for the faint of heart, caffeine-wise.)
Hey, sweet tooths! This one’s for you. A mocha is similar to a latte (espresso + hot milk), but with chocolate, added via cocoa powder or chocolate syrup. Think of a mocha as a grown-up hot chocolate. The name derives from Mocha, Yemen, a city that was one of the centers of early coffee trade.
An Americano is very similar to black coffee; it’s an espresso shot diluted with hot water. Taste and strength can vary, however, depending on how much water you add.
Cortado (or Gibraltar)
A cortado = equal parts espresso and steamed milk. They are best for a quick hit of espresso without the acidity. Remember cortados this way: cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar, meaning “to cut.” (You may also see them called gibraltars.)
Café au Lait
No one likes when milk cools off coffee too much, so that’s where café au laits come in. A café au lait (French for “coffee with milk”) is simply coffee with a splash of hot milk.
A galão is a Portuguese drink that’s very similar to a latte or cappuccino. It’s a mix of espresso (one quarter) and foamed milk (three quarters) served in a tall glass.
The first time I had an affogato was a New Year’s Eve – the best NYE of my life. An affogato is a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of espresso. It’s the perfect post-dinner treat.
For a touch of something sweet, consider a miel, which is essentially a latte with a healthy dose of honey added. They are oftentimes topped with a dash of cinnamon.
A breve (“short” in Italian) is an espresso-based drinking similar to a cappuccino, but made with steamed half-and-half instead of milk. The half-and-half produces a very creamy foam, for a slightly more decadent drink without any added sugar.
So next time you’re wanting to try something new, you’ll have a much better idea of all the different types of coffee drinks to make an excellent next choice!