What Is A Mocha? (Coffee and Chocolate: A Perfect Pair)

Coffee is my favorite thing in the world. From the bold espresso, you find in Italy to the delicate taste of pour-over, there’s no kind of coffee that I won’t try!

As much as I love the intense taste of black coffee sometimes you need a little sweetness in life. This is where the mocha wins out. It takes the delicious coffee taste and compliments it with the wonderful sweet treat that is a mocha.

The very basic definition of a mocha is an espresso base, topped with steamed milk and chocolate sauce or cocoa powder mixed in. It’s the lovechild of a latte and a hot chocolate and satisfies all those sweet cravings.

The Caffe Mocha is the perfect way to ease newbies into the world of all things coffee as the sweetness of the chocolate helps balance out any bitter flavors found in the coffee. Still not sure if it’s for you?

Here’s everything you need to know about a Mocha and how to make one from the comfort of your own home.

A Delicious Caffe Mocha

The Origins of the Mocha

Those who have a keen interest in geography may be familiar with the city Mocha in Yemen. Mocha is a port city that sits on the red sea coast of Yemen. It was a central hub for coffee trade from the 15th century to the early 18th century. Mocha beans is the name given to the distinctive arabica coffee that was shipped out from the city and is still famous worldwide for its delicious flavor. The beans are said to have a chocolate flavor and make a truly delicious cup of coffee.

The mocha coffee that we’re familiar with in the west has less to do with the beans and a lot more to do with the ingredients. It’s basically a combination of hot chocolate and coffee and makes an extremely decadent drink.

What Defines a Mocha?

A Caffe Mocha Sitting in front of roses

The Mocha coffee drink, Caffe Mocha, also known as a mochaccino varies a lot depending on who you speak to. However, when you order a mocha in a coffee shop it usually follows this typical pattern.

Similar to a latte, a mocha usually starts with a shot of espresso. Combine this with chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, steamed milk, and top with whipped cream. It’s not out of place to finish this beverage with chocolate shavings or a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

The Caffe Mocha is usually enjoyed hot but can also be served cold in the form of an iced mocha for a cooling, summer treat.

The Coffee Base

The base of a mocha has to be very strong coffee so that it holds its flavor against the rich chocolate. This is where an espresso machine comes in very useful. Espresso is an extremely rich and concentrated type of coffee that’s brewed under high pressure. It’s used as a base for specialty coffee drinks like cappuccino, macchiato, and Caffe lattes.

Espresso shots make the perfect base for a mocha latte but there are other forms of coffee that also work well. A strong brewed French press or a Moka pot works very well. The best coffee beans to use are dark roast as these beans are packed full of bold single-note flavors that compliment the chocolate perfectly.

The Chocolate

Some smashed up chocolate lumps

You can actually use any form of chocolate you like to make a mocha. Typically milk or dark chocolate is used but white chocolate is also an option at some coffee shops. The type of chocolate used is also quite variable. Sometimes cocoa powder or hot chocolate powder is added to hot milk and this is mixed with strong coffee.

Another method that coffeehouses like Starbucks love is to add chocolate syrup or chocolate sauce to the espresso drink.

Finally, you can actually melt whole pieces of chocolate or chocolate shavings into hot milk and add this to the coffee.

Make It Vegan

For those who opt for a vegan diet or if you’re dairy-free you can still enjoy this coffee drink with some modifications. Swap out the milk chocolate for a vegan chocolate option. You can switch the steamed milk for soy, almond, oat, coconut milk, or any kind of milk you enjoy best.

I’d recommend choosing a barista-blend non-dairy milk as these options withstand heat better and can also be steamed to create a lovely milk foam topping for the mocha.

White Chocolate Mocha

Starbucks has developed the ultimate sweet fix that goes by the name of white chocolate mocha. This is very similar to their regular mocha but uses white chocolate sauce instead of their bittersweet mocha sauce. Seasonally they release a toasted white chocolate mocha that is topped with festive sprinkles to really get you into the holiday mood.

A mocha from above with a shallow depth of field

How To Make a Mocha at Home

There are loads of ways you can produce this tasty treat at home no matter what skills or equipment you have to hand. Here are two methods to suit all abilities.

The Easy Method

This method requires no specialist equipment and the total time to make it is under 10 minutes.

Start by choosing your coffee base. This method uses instant coffee due as you don’t need any special equipment to brew it. You want roughly a third of the drink to be a strong coffee base.

Choose your favorite instant coffee and add a heaped teaspoon of coffee powder to a mug. Top up the mug with hot water to a third of the way full. Use water that’s boiled and cooled for a minute so as not to burn the coffee.

Heat up some milk in either a mug in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s steaming but not bubbling. Add some hot chocolate powder to the milk and whisk it to combine. You can use a spoon to stir it in if you don’t have a whisk to hand.

Combine the coffee and chocolate drink together and feel free to top with whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles, or cocoa powder.

The Budding Barista

This method is for coffee lovers who enjoy brewing fresh coffee or just generally getting creative in the kitchen. Your mocha can be tailored to your exact taste preferences so once you get the hang of this coffee beverage you can tweak it in any way best suits you.

The Coffee

Coffee bubbling up through a Bialetti Moka Express

The very best way to brew coffee for your mocha at home is to use the Italian classic coffee brewer, the Moka pot. These little devices are inexpensive to buy and make a bold and rich, espresso-like cup of coffee.

You want to use a dark roast coffee bean ground to a medium-fine grind. Fill the brew chamber basket with freshly ground coffee, the exact amount will depend on the size of your Moka pot. Gently level out the surface of the coffee with a spoon or your finger but don’t tamp it down.

Fill the lower chamber of the pot with cold, filtered water and assemble the device. Place the pot on a stove over medium heat and keep the lid open. When you start to see steam coming through the spout close the lid. The coffee will spurt into the top portion of the coffee pot and as soon as this happens, remove the Moka pot from the heat source.

This brewing method gives you a bold, concentrated shot of coffee that’s perfect for a Mocha. You can use other coffee brew methods if you don’t have a Moka pot but just be sure to brew the coffee very concentrated.

The Milk

The next ingredient to consider is steamed milk. If you have a steam wand to hand then this is the best way to get that thick microfoam texture and froth to top it. If you don’t have a steam wand then a milk frother jug or wand is the perfect alternative.

Another easy to get your milk frothy is to use a french press to manually pump air into the milk. Fill the jug halfway with warm milk and vigorously pump the press up and down for around a minute.

A final option is to add cold milk to a jar, fix the lid in place, and shake the jar for 45s to a minute. This creates a frothy texture to the milk which holds better if you microwave the milk to warm it after shaking it.

The Chocolate Sauce

You can buy chocolate sauce in jars at grocery stores or on Amazon, but it’s also easy and cheap to make it at home. The homemade sauce has the added benefit of you being able to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste preferences.

The prep time through to total time for this recipe is around 10 minutes.

You’ll need 2/3 cup of water, 2/3 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.

Add everything except the vanilla to a saucepan and place it over medium heat. Simmer and stir the sauce until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Turn the ring to low heat and simmer the sauce for 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract once it has cooled a little. Stir in.

You can store the sauce in the fridge for up to 2 weeks in a sealed jar or airtight container. The chocolate sauce will thicken as it cools and is perfect for making mochas or even used as a dessert sauce over ice cream.

Assembling Your Caffe Mocha

A lovely chocolatey mocha coffee

You want to add your coffee to milk at roughly a 1:4 ratio so for every 50ml of coffee used add 200ml steamed milk.

Start with the coffee in a pre-heated mug (add hot water to the mug beforehand and then discard this when you’re ready to layer your mocha).

Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot chocolate sauce to the coffee.

If you’re keen to add marshmallows then pop them in now!

Top the drink with steamed milk and layer milk foam on top.

You can always finish it off with whipped cream, sprinkles, or chocolate shavings for a real treat.

Final Thoughts

A mocha is a devilish treat that’s perfect for coffee newbies and long-time coffee lovers alike. It’s rich, it’s sweet, and it’s damn delicious. It’s surprisingly easy to make this drink at home, no matter what equipment you have to hand. So sit back, put your feet up and enjoy this delicious sweet treat, there’s no bad time to have a Mocha!


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