Coffee culture is at its peak, and whilst we love sitting back in a coffee shop with a great tasting blend, in all honesty we can be overwhelmed by the extensive range of different coffees offered on the menu. Sometimes we don’t know where to start, and often we stick to one we know we like, not daring to try something different unless we know what to expect. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we aim to provide a quick introduction to a few of the most popular types of coffee.
The basis for many other coffee drinks, the espresso is as pure and simple as it gets. Essentially, a shot of espresso is a thick, strong and small coffee made by using pressure to force a small amount of near-boiling water through finely ground coffee beans. An espresso has the strongest concentration of caffeine in comparison with other coffees. This is what you’ll find the French and Italians sipping at roadside cafés, andcan be especially handy if you need a quick shot of caffeine ahead of a long day or an important meeting.
Americano/ Long Black
An Americano (or a ‘long black’, depending on where you are in the world) is simply a single or double shot of espresso topped up with hot water. This is the perfect drink if you want to keep it strong and simple, but take a little longer reading your newspaper or watching the world go by as you sip at it.
Again, the principal component of a latte is a shot of espresso, but in this instance it is topped up with steamed milk, as opposed to hot water. Around two thirds of a latte should consist of milk which has been steamed to a smooth, silky texture with a thin layer of foam on top. The best way to achieve this is to use a commercial coffee machine, an investment we’re convinced is worth making.
The key difference between a latte and a cappuccino is that the milk is more light and airy in a cappuccino. Rather than having a thin layer of foam on the top of the coffee, the entirety of the milk is steamed to this texture. This means that the layers of espresso and milk don’t merge as thoroughly as they do in a latte, so the coffee flavour is a little more distinct.
Unlike the latte and cappuccino, the flat white has its origins in Australasia, although whether this was actually Australia or New Zealand is up for debate! The flat white is usually smaller in volume than other coffees, with the idea being that the espresso should be the highest concentration of the drink as a whole, so a double shot is normally used. The milk is steamed and topped with microfoam, meaning that the top layer of milk is infused with air to create tiny bubbles, which are too small to see but create the required texture for a flat white.
Whilst some of these differences might seem subtle, these slight variations can make for different flavours and textures, and giving each one a try is the best way forward to finding out what you like best before settling on a favourite. It may be that you like different coffees in different situations, so experiment to discover what suits you when. Whichever you decide is the drink for you, enjoy the flavour and energy boost it gives you, whether you’re running late to a meeting or taking your time to catch up with a friend. Long live coffee culture.