April 26, 2021
If you feel like the number of coffee drink recipes out there is approaching infinity, you are not wrong. New drinks rise to fame quickly thanks to TikTok and Instagram, and the classics aren’t going anywhere. To make ordering at coffee shops and recreating delicious drinks at home easier, we decided to make this guide to types of coffee drinks.
Types of Coffee Drinks
Caffeinated or decaf, hot or cold, straight or with milk—coffee drinks can be divided into many categories (the fancier the barista you’re talking to, the more categories they might be able to come up with). For ease of reading, we went with: espresso-based drinks, brewed coffee-based drinks, iced coffee drinks and spiked coffee drinks.
Different coffee brewing methods, such as French press, Chemex, vacuum coffee makers, Hario V60 and AeroPress produce coffee of different tastes and textures rather than different coffee drinks, so we’ll focus on those in a separate guide. If you’d like to know more about the most popular brewing methods and types of coffee beans, be sure to check out our overall coffee guide.
Espresso-Based Hot Coffee Drinks
The drink that started it all! Without espresso, there could never be a latte or an Americano. Espresso came to us from Italy, where it is commonly enjoyed while people-watching. Espresso is made in an espresso machine (but you probably knew that!). Now for the fun facts: In the ’40s and the ’50s, espresso used to be known as caffè crema. Nowadays, the word “crema” refers to a specific part of a well-made espresso—the creamy caramel-colored top layer. Yes, an espresso shot has three layers. There’s the heart (the dark brown base layer), the body (the middle layer) and the crema (the creamy foam top).
To add some confusion (sorry!), crema is also the name of a drink popular in Germany, Switzerland and Northern Italy that is somewhat similar to an Americano. An Americano is a diluted shot of espresso. A caffè crema is a long brewed espresso where all the water is passed through the ground coffee using the espresso brewing process, which helps preserve the beautiful frothy layer of coffee foam. Use this info in your next trivia match!
An espresso doppio is simply a double-shot espresso. It’s often prescribed by the internet to those working long hours or preparing for exams.
Espresso macchiato or caffè macchiato (literally “stained coffee” or “marked coffee”), is an espresso drink with a small amount of foamed milk. The milk is scooped into a cup with a teaspoon.
Espresso Con Panna
Another Italian coffee delicacy, espresso con panna is just espresso topped with whipped cream. It can be made double or triple if you so desire.
Lungo, which means “long” in Italian, is a different way of pulling an espresso shot that uses double the amount of water. A lungo is 2 ounces and has a slightly milder flavor than a traditional espresso. It’s sometimes known as a “long shot of espresso.”
Ristretto is a “short shot of espresso.” It’s prepared with the same amount of ground coffee and half the amount of water as a classic espresso.
A cortado is a small hot coffee drink that contains espresso and warm milk. No foam is added. The balance between the espresso and milk is approximately 1:1. The milk is added primarily to reduce the acidity of the espresso.
More of a dessert than a coffee drink, an affogato is a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of gelato. Additional toppings may include crumbled biscotti, whipped cream, liqueurs, chocolate or caramel.
An Americano is an espresso shot (or two) topped with hot water. A popular belief is that it was invented in Italy during World War II due to American soldiers adding water to espresso to make it similar to drip coffee.
A red eye consists of freshly brewed coffee with an added shot of espresso, though some coffee shops may offer it with two extra shots of espresso. Whether that’s too much is for you to decide!
There’s much disagreement over where lattes originated, with some possibilities being the Austro-Hungarian Empire, France, Italy, Portugal and California. It is clear, however, that the latte was popularized in Seattle, Washington in the ’80s and gained worldwide recognition in the ’90s. A latte typically consists of one shot of espresso, steamed milk and a very thin layer of milk foam. Latte drinkers in the U.S. enjoy many seasonal flavored lattes, the most popular of which being the pumpkin spice latte.
“Latte macchiato” directly translates to “stained latte.” That’s right—this time it’s milk being stained with espresso (as opposed to espresso being stained with milk in an espresso macchiato). Firstly, milk is steamed with a steam wand of an espresso machine. Then, a shot of espresso is poured through the layer of foam, creating that aforementioned “stain.”
A cappuccino is supposed to be equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. It’s also often topped with some cinnamon or cocoa powder. This popular drink takes its name from the Italian Capuchin monks, because the mild color of a cappuccino resembles that of the Capuchin monks’ robes.
Did you know that there are two kinds of cappuccino, wet and dry? A “wet” cappuccino is creamier because it has more steamed milk (or microfoam, the same kind of flexible creamy foam that is used for latte art). “Dry” cappuccino uses more frothed milk, or macrofoam, that has noticeably larger bubbles.
Caffè breve is made like a cappuccino, but with steamed half-and-half instead of whole milk.
A flat white is yet another combination of espresso and milk that came to us from Australia. It’s made with microfoam and is served in a ceramic cup. It has less milk than a latte and, as a result, has a stronger coffee flavor. A flat white also has less foam than a cappuccino because it needs to remain, well, flat.
A go-to drink for coffee drinkers who actually don’t like the taste of coffee that much, mocha combines a shot of espresso with steamed milk and chocolate. The chocolate can come in the form of chocolate powder, chocolate sauce, syrup or even a melted chocolate bar.
A Russian espresso-based coffee drink, Raf coffee has an interesting history. According to the legend, the baristas at Coffee Bean (a Russian coffee shop chain) named it after the customer who invented it. His name was Rafael—Raf for short. The beverage consists of an espresso shot, half-and-half and vanilla sugar steamed together. Raf coffee has a light cream to beige color and no layers. A very popular variation of Raf is lavender Raf, made with homemade lavender syrup.
Originally from Valencia, Spain, café bombón is made with a shot of espresso and a layer of sweetened condensed milk (in a 1:1 ratio). It is usually served in a shot glass. In some cafes, the drink is topped with whipped cream. A similar drink exists in Thailand (Kopi Susu Panas) and Malaysia (Kafe Ron), but instead of espresso, regular brewed coffee is used.
Vienna coffee, or Einspänner, can be served in a ceramic cup or a tall glass, often a latte glass. It’s made with two shots of espresso and a whole lot of whipped cream, ideally homemade. Shredded chocolate or cocoa powder is often sprinkled on top.
Brewed Coffee-Based Drinks
Cafe Au Lait
Cafe au lait is usually made with filter coffee, not espresso, which makes it a favorite among those who drink their coffee at home. However, if you do have an espresso machine, you can make cafe au lait with an espresso shot. Simply add a generous amount of hot milk, as a cafe au lait requires no foam.
A keto favorite, bulletproof coffee is a smooth and rich coffee drink. It’s freshly brewed coffee blended with 1 or 2 spoons of high-quality butter or ghee, and 1 tablespoon of MCT oil. Some people add a pinch of salt and/or cinnamon. The drink includes Omega-3 fatty acids and is believed to reduce appetite, increase energy levels and promote good digestion. The name typically refers to the Bulletproof brand, though some places will call their version of this coffee “Bulletproof,” too.
Shop Bulletproof Coffee ingredients:
Iced Coffee Drinks
Most iced coffee drinks are literally just cold versions of the drinks mentioned above. To learn how to make iced coffee at home and to read about delicious drinks like frappes and Vietnamese coffees, consult our iced coffee guide.
Here are some of our favorite canned iced coffee drinks:
- Starbucks Cold Brew Vanilla Sweet Cream
- Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino
- La Colombe Triple Latte
- Chameleon Organic Dark Chocolate Oat Milk Cold Brew Latte
Spiked Coffee Drinks
For this iconic coffee cocktail, you’ll need freshly brewed coffee, Irish whiskey (Jameson is a classic choice), brown sugar (some people just use sugar cubes) and lightly whipped cream.
Another cold-weather favorite, Baileys coffee is made by combining brewed coffee with a shot of Baileys Original and a generous amount of whipped cream. Other Baileys flavors, like Vanilla Cinnamon or Salted Caramel, can be used.
Caffè corretto is a combination of espresso and grappa, a grape-based Northern Italian brandy. In other parts of the world, sambuca or traditional brandy are sometimes used instead.
No time to mix exciting drinks? Try these canned spiked coffees:
Are spiked coffee drinks your favorite? Try some of these fun boozy coffee cocktail recipes.