Have you ever wandered into a coffee shop, keen for a delicious cup of joe, only to be overwhelmed by hundreds of types of coffee drinks listed on the menu?
If you’re unsure what each option contains then how can you know where to begin. It can be especially frustrating when coffee shops just list names without any description of the drink at all. Good coffee comes in many different forms and once you understand the different coffee names you can order with confidence.
You don’t need to know your arabica beans from your robusta or dark vs light roast to get started. If you understand the brew methods and ingredients then you’re well on your way to enjoying the best coffee you’ve ever had.
We have all the coffee names here so you can refer to this chart whenever you’re confused or facing a menu option you’ve never seen before. We will start with the humble espresso and all its variations to whet your coffee appetite.
A shot of espresso is a rich, concentrated shot of coffee brewed under high pressure. To brew ‘true espresso’ you really need an espresso machine capable of reaching at least 9 bars of pressure as this releases the fats to give the characteristic foamy layer on top, called the crema. Espresso is served as a 1 ounce shot in a cup called a demitasse (French for half cup). It is the base coffee used for loads of other coffee drink options.
Take two shots of espresso and that’s it! A doppio is a double shot of espresso that is extracted using more ground coffee beans and a larger portafilter basket. It is served as a 2-ounce shot.
The americano was developed to suit the American palate as the rich Italian espresso was considered too intense. It’s a single or double-shot topped up with hot water to give a rich and delicious cup of coffee that can be enjoyed black or milk and sugar added.
For coffee lovers that want to enjoy their espresso drink a bit longer, the Lungo is an espresso brewed with more hot water than the single or double shot options. The typical size of an espresso Lungo is between 3-5 ounces.
Italian for ‘restricted’ a. ristretto is a short espresso shot. Rather than extracting the coffee over 25-30 seconds, the ristretto is extracted over 15-20 seconds using a finer grind and less water. This gives a thick, concentrated shot that’s not for the faint-hearted.
Espresso Plus Milk
The cortado is simply an espresso shot served with equal parts steamed milk to help reduce the acidity. There’s no milk foam added so it’s a very smooth drink. It can be served as a single or double-shot espresso.
A coffee shop classic, the caffe latte translates as coffee with milk. This drink is typically one-third espresso topped up with two-thirds steamed milk and topped with a layer of milk foam. It’s a rich and creamy drink and coffee shops like Starbucks often add various sweeteners, spices, and even whipped cream to give a huge range of seasonal favorites like the Pumpkin Spiced Latte. Be careful if you are in Italy as ordering a ‘latte’ will likely result in you getting handed a glass of hot or cold milk.
A similar drink sometimes seen on coffee shop menus is the chai latte. This does not contain coffee but is a spiced tea drink, stewed in milk.
Cafe Au Lait
French for ‘coffee and milk’ is essentially a latte served in a bowl instead of a glass. It’s typically found on the menu in European coffee shops and doesn’t always use espresso as the base. Sometimes it’s made from french press coffee instead. Other countries have their own version of this like ‘cafe con leche’ in Spain.
The cappuccino is a coffee house favorite that’s gained a huge amount of popularity over the years. It’s made using a shot of espresso topped with equal parts steamed milk and milk froth. It’s a bubbly and foamy drink and the coffee flavor typically comes through stronger than with a latte due to the airy texture. Most baristas will top a cappuccino with cocoa powder or sometimes a pinch of cinnamon.
Similar to a latte, the flat white is made from a base of espresso topped up with steamed milk. It has a lower volume of milk compared to a latte so the coffee flavor comes through a bit stronger. It isn’t finished with milk foam so it’s just the steamed milk microfoam that gives it the thick texture.
Macchiato roughly translates to ‘stained’ or ‘marked’ coffee. It’s an espresso stained with a dollop of milk or milk foam. It’s mostly hot coffee with just a dash of milk so is a much more intense drink than a latte or cappuccino.
Espresso Con Panna
Decadent and rich, Espresso con Panna is a shot of espresso topped with whipped cream. It can be made with a double or single shot of espresso and is sometimes referred to as Cafe Viennois.
Iced coffee is simply hot-brewed coffee served over ice. It can be brewed in any manner you like but is often very strong so the ice doesn’t dilute the flavor too much.
Cold Brew Coffee
Cold-brew is a brewing method where the coffee grounds steep in cold water for 12 or more hours. This slow extraction process gives a sweet flavored coffee that’s low in acidity. Cold-brew coffee can be served over ice or warmed up and enjoyed hot.
Greek frappe coffee is an iced drink made from instant coffee, water, milk, and sugar. It’s typically foamy on top.
A Starbucks creation, the Frappuccino is an extremely sweet, blended iced coffee. Some variations don’t even contain coffee, just a sweet creme base. It’s heavy in syrup, sweet sauces, and whipped cream.
A classic coffee maker, the drip coffee machine makes coffee by pumping hot water up to a filter basket where it combines with ground coffee. The coffee passes through a filter and into the carafe which often sits on a warming plate ready to serve. These machines are one of the easiest ways to brew large volumes of coffee and you’ll often find ‘drip coffee‘ or ‘filter coffee’ on the menu at a cheap price.
A Turkish coffee pot is a copper pot with a heavy base that contains finely ground coffee and water. It is boiled repeatedly in a very precise manner to give a bold and intense brew.
This is a very straightforward brew method where coarsely ground coffee (set your grinder to the coarsest setting) is stewed in hot water for 4 minutes before a mesh filter is pressed through the liquid to separate the grounds from the coffee. French press coffee is thick and dark in flavor with a rich mouthfeel.
Similar to a drip machine, pour-over coffee features a funnel-shaped basket that contains a paper or mesh filter. Ground coffee is added and then hot water is poured over this. The coffee seeps down into a jug or cup underneath. Pour-over coffee is smooth and light and subtle coffee flavors are enhanced by this brew method.
Also known as a stove-top espresso maker the Moka pot works by using steam pressure to brew coffee on a stove. The water goes in the lower chamber and the coffee sits in a basket on top. When the water boils it’s forced up through the coffee grounds to collect in the upper chamber. It’s an intense and dark brew, similar to an espresso but doesn’t have the thick crema on top.
Your grandmother likely had one of these coffee makers and they’re still popular today especially in workplaces and meeting rooms. Percolators make a lot of coffee without much input by repeatedly boiling water through the coffee grounds. They can make good strong coffee but are also prone to producing over-extracted, bitter flavors if not used properly.
There are loads of different ways to make a mocha but essentially it’s coffee combined with chocolate. It can be hot cocoa made with warm milk and a shot of espresso added or a cafe latte with chocolate syrup or dark chocolate melted into it. There’s not a single correct way to brew a mocha, so long as it contains coffee and chocolate then it passes for a mocha.
A delicious dessert, affogato is a shot of espresso served with vanilla ice cream. When ordered in a restaurant it’s usually served as a shot of coffee beside a bowl of ice cream so you can combine the two and enjoy it before all the ice cream melts!
Some affogato recipes will use different flavors of ice cream or add syrups or even a shot of alcohol.
Alcohol and Coffee
Black coffee mixed with sugar and a shot of Irish whiskey then topped with heavy cream, gently poured over a spoon to ensure it floats on the surface. Irish coffee is served in a tall glass so you can enjoy the layers of coffee and cream and watch as they combine.
Italian for coffee corrected, this drink is a shot of espresso served with alcohol. Typically this would be grappa, brandy, or sambuca.
There are hundreds of combinations of different types of alcohol mixed with coffee. Often they are layered like Irish coffee and topped with heavy cream but combinations of coffee and alcohol form all manner of hot and cold cocktails that are too numerous to list here.
A keto fad, bulletproof coffee is a combination of black coffee, grass-fed cows butter, and MCT oil. The theory is that the fats fuel your brain and body and the caffeine gets you buzzed for the day. It can be over 500 calories per serving so is designed to be enjoyed instead of breakfast.
Cha Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Coffee)
This drink is made from very dark roast, Vietnamese coffee beans brewed with a Vietnamese metal filter (Phin) to give a very strong brew. This is combined with condensed milk to give a rich, sweet brew. It can be served over ice or warmed up.
A variation on this recipe includes egg yolks whipped into the condensed milk to give thick peaks. This is known as Vietnamese Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung).
You’re now well on your way to becoming a java expert. Impress your friends by ordering an obscure coffee concoction next time you visit your favorite coffee shop. If you know of any more coffee names that aren’t included on this list, let us know in the comments below!