Alongside water and tea, coffee is the most popular drink worldwide, with roughly two billion cups of coffee being consumed every single day.
From enjoying its taste to appreciating its smell, texture and caffeine content, many people start the day with a cup of coffee for a pick-me-up or choose a coffee when catching up with friends at a café.
If you haven’t tried coffee before, or aren’t used to anything beyond at-home instant coffee, you may be unsure where to start when it comes to ordering and drinking coffee out and about.
Here’s some information that can help you on this journey.
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What are the Most Popular Coffee Beverages?
Coffee can be made in a number of different ways, resulting in an array of beverages that, while holding coffee as the central ingredient, can look and taste significantly different from one another.
Here are some of the most popular coffees to try. This will help you determine which best suits your tastes.
Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that is served as a shot.
It contains only two ingredients - finely ground coffee and water. This is a drink that is commonly ordered rather than made at home, due to the specific equipment required to make it.
However, there are a number of coffee enthusiasts who will invest in the relevant equipment to enjoy espressos as and when they please.
Espresso tends to be dark brown in color and will have a white to brown foam - known as the “crema” - floating on top. You can choose to remove or drink the crema, according to your personal preference.
The espresso itself will taste strong and bold, serving as the perfect energy boost.
>> Read how to make espresso at home
A Caffé Americano - more commonly referred to simply as “an Americano” - is another coffee you’ll often hear people ordering.
Put simply, it is an espresso topped with hot water to make a cupful of coffee, rather than a shot. It is usually made in one of two ways - the hot water being poured over the espresso or the espresso being poured into the hot water.
We believe that many people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two in a blind taste test, but some claim that one method or the other will better preserve the espresso’s flavor, body and the crema produced.
If you enjoy warm, milky drinks, a latte may be the right coffee for you.
The latte starts with an espresso base.
However, rather than pouring water over the espresso like you might when creating an Americano, a barista will combine the espresso with steamed milk to create a creamy, smooth coffee that has a light flavor.
The latte is topped with a thin layer of milk foam in which certain baristas will create patterns, shapes or images.
If you are vegan, lactose intolerant or simply don’t like cow’s milk, many coffee shops also offer a range of plant milks, which can be used to create a latte too.
>> Read how to make a latte at home
A cappuccino is very similar to a latte, using the same core ingredients - an espresso, steamed milk and milk foam.
However, the key difference lies in the ratio of these different ingredients.
While a latte contains more steamed milk and only a layer of milk foam, a cappuccino contains equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. Another difference lies in the combination of the ingredients.
Your barista will mix the espresso and steamed milk together, while a cappuccino offers the ingredients in layers. The cappuccino will taste velvety, milky and sweet (from the lactose found naturally in milk).
Like a latte, you can also have a cappuccino with plant-based milk instead of cow milk.
A Caffé Mocha, also known as a “mocha” or even a “mochaccino”, is a delicious combination of coffee, milk and chocolate.
Properly made, a mocha is carefully layered. Your barista will likely use two shots of espresso, mix chocolate into the coffee until it’s melted and fully combined, and then add twice as much steamed or hot milk.
This is a coffee that can be customized, with different types of chocolate being used to create different flavors and textures.
Some baristas will have different preferences, but a general rule of thumb is that coffees with strong nut flavors pair well with milk chocolate and coffees with floral overtones work better with white chocolate, while dark-roasted coffees are a good match for dark chocolate.
The flat white has soared in popularity in recent years. Not long ago, this was more of a specialist coffee, but nowadays, it will appear on most coffee shop menus.
Like many of the drinks highlighted above, the flat white pairs an espresso with steamed milk and milk foam. However, what distinguishes it from the latte and the cappuccino is, again, the ratio of each of these ingredients.
The flat white combines the espresso with a small amount of milk - less than both the latte and cappuccino - and only has a thin layer of microfoam.
This is a great option for those who want the strong taste of coffee paired with the creaminess and mouthfeel of steamed milk.
Coffee doesn’t have to be served hot.
During the summer months, or when you’re simply looking for a cooler beverage, a cold brew could tick your boxes. Cold brew coffee is typically made by steeping coffee in water for between 8 and 24 hours, at room temperature or in a cold temperature.
This is a slow process and you’ll find that cold brewed coffee tastes different to coffee that has been brewed using heat.
Cold brew tends to be smooth and sweet, as it lacks the acidity and bitterness found in hot brewed coffee.
>> Read our full review of the best cold brew makers
Many people mix up cold brew coffee and iced coffee. As mentioned above, cold brew coffee goes through a different brewing process to other forms of coffee.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, simply adds regularly brewed coffee to ice cubes, cooling the temperature.
While cold brews and iced coffees may look the same, you will notice differences in the flavors that they provide.
The frappé is another form of iced coffee. It contains an espresso and milk that is then shaken, blended or beaten to produce a foam packed drink.
You can customize your frappé in a number of ways, with many people opting for whipped cream toppings, syrup drizzles and even additions such as sweets or chocolate.
It’s important to be aware that frappés don’t necessarily need to contain coffee. You can find frappés that simply contain milk and a variety of syrups or toppings.
If you want a coffee frappé, you’ll need to specify that you want a shot of espresso in it.
Making Your Own
Once you have a taste for coffee, and know your own personal preferences, you may wish to start brewing your own coffee at home.
This will give you access to your favorite drinks at home, without having to head out or pay service charges at cafés or coffeehouses.
The equipment you will need will vary depending on what type of coffee you want to make and your budget, but there are countless guides and resources out there that will help you to choose the options that are best for you.
Taking your first steps into the world of drinking coffee can be daunting, but hopefully, our guide to the most popular types of coffee should help you to get started out in the right direction.