The Different Types of Coffee Drinks Explained

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Excited about your new espresso machine but not sure where to start? If you've ever been to a coffee shop, you've probably seen all sorts of Italian-sounding drinks on the menu. But what exactly are they? And what's the difference between them? Today, we're going to help you out by explaining some of the most common types of coffee drinks out there. 

Different types of espresso-based drinks explained

To understand the more intricate specialty drinks and variations, you've got to get familiar with the basics. Once you try these espresso-based drinks, you'll develop a greater awareness and appreciation of coffee. When talking about these types of coffee drinks, there is typically a coffee bean-to-water ratio that classifies each as its own unique coffee experience.


Let's start with the foundation. Espresso is used as a base for almost all coffee drinks and can be remixed in infinite ways to create a tiny shot or a big, frothy milk latte of your dreams. To gain a better idea of the recipes and how they’re prepared, we suggest reading our guide to espresso!

Espresso is a staple of the coffee world, made with a bean-to-water ratio of 1:2 to 1:3. The result is a syrupy, chocolaty, intense shot of coffee. If you want something quick and energizing, espresso is a great choice.


Next up is the ristretto, also known as an espresso prepared with a 1:1 to 1:1.5 ratio. This means that for 1g of coffee, you get 1g of espresso, resulting in a much more concentrated shot of espresso. If you want a strong, bold flavor, then a ristretto is your drink! Since it is best complemented by dark roasts, it has become increasingly less common as roasters started favouring lighter roasts in recent years.


Contrary to popular belief, the alongé or lungo isn't just an espresso that you leave flowing longer or with added water. The alongé has a specific recipe of a 1:3 to 1:4 ratio. This results in a less intense flavor and texture but gains a ton of clarity. If you want to taste the terroir of the coffee, this is the one to go for. 


The americano is probably the most popular espresso-based drink. It's an espresso with added hot water, and it comes in ratios of 1:4 to 1:8. It has great clarity while still retaining some of the rich flavor from the espresso. Interestingly, the name is derived from the most common American-style drip coffee. It earned its name when Americans would order regular drip coffee at Italian cafés, where they only had an espresso machine, and thus served espresso with added hot water to resemble the drip coffee they were used to.


The affogato is not an espresso-based drink per see, but it does require a shot of espresso. An affogato is one scoop of your favorite ice cream (or sorbet!) topped with a hot and freshly brewed shot of espresso. It's an Italian classic, combining sweet and creamy with bold and intense—perfect for a summer afternoon or for a fancy dessert! 

Milk-based Drinks

Now let's talk about some of the most popular types of coffee drinks out there. Coffee drinkers have been mixing milk into their coffee for ages. These days, almond, oat, and soy are becoming popular alternatives, making these luscious drinks more accessible to people with all sorts of diets. While you've probably heard of the latte, there are several other classic milk-based coffee drinks to try and expand your coffee palette.


A macchiato is an espresso with just a little bit of steamed milk added to it. This gives the drink a slightly creamy texture without making it too heavy or sweet. If you want something simple and classic, a macchiato is always a good choice. This drink is also perfect for anyone who loves the flavour of espresso but prefers a touch of milk to cut the bitterness or acidity.


Ever wish you could have a tiny latte with a lot less milk? A cortado might be exactly what you're looking for. A cortado is an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk added to it. This creates a rich and creamy drink that has somewhat of a sweetness to it. If you like your coffee on the sweeter side, then a cortado might be right up your alley. But be warned: it's deceptively filling!

Flat White

A flat white is like a latte but has less steamed milk and more microfoam (expertly steamed milk with tiny bubbles). This drink is perfect for anyone who loves coffee but finds a latte too milky and sweet. The flat white still retains some of the sweetness from the milk but retains a lot of the coffee's natural flavors, resulting in a sweet and creamy experience. If you want something somewhere between a latte and a macchiato, then order yourself a flat white. 


The cappuccino is one of the most recognizable coffee drinks out there. It is an espresso with a generous amount of steamed milk and topped with velvety foam. A cappuccino is made with one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foam (the thickest kind of microfoam). This results in a drink that is very rich and creamy but still has plenty of caffeine to give you that afternoon pick-me-up that you need. Just be careful not to have too many, or you might end up wired!


Finally, we have the latte. A latte is an espresso with a lot of steamed milk and just a bit of foam. This results in a drink that is very creamy, smooth, and sweet, with a lot less caffeine per ounce. If you're looking for something to indulge in on a lazy afternoon, then a latte is a perfect choice. The creamy texture makes it incredibly comforting and soothing, almost like taking a sip from a warm blanket. Plus, with all the milk, you don't have to worry about it being too acidic or bitter. 

Coffee Drink FAQs

What are some espresso drinks?

Espresso drinks include espresso, ristretto, alongé, and americano. What differentiates them is the ratio of coffee beans to water during preparation.

Which espresso drink is the best?

The best espresso drink is a matter of individual preference. Some people enjoy the bold flavor of a double-shot espresso, while others prefer something sweeter, like a cappuccino or latte. Ultimately, it depends on your taste and which flavor profile you're looking for.

Is a cortado the same as a Flat White?

No, a cortado is not the same as a Flat White. A cortado is an espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk added to it, while a Flat White is an espresso with more steamed milk and foam than a latte. If you’re looking for something light and quick, go for the cortado, but if you want a heartier drink to savour, choose the flat white!

What is the difference between a latte and a cortado?

The main difference between a latte and a cortado is the amount of milk used. A latte has a lot more steamed milk than a cortado, resulting in a sweeter and creamier drink. Cortados have more of the espresso's natural flavor because they use less milk. So, if you're looking for something a bit more intense where you can still savour the flavour of the beans, a cortado might be the way to go.

What are the 4 types of coffee beans?

The four main types of coffee beans are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Arabica is the most popular and highest quality coffee, while Robusta is more bitter and has higher caffeine content. Liberica and Excelsa are rarer and have unique flavor profiles and are mostly used for creating blends.

How many types of brewed coffee are there?

The number of coffee styles is constantly growing. However, there are four most common popular methods for preparing coffee today: Drip coffee, espresso, pour-over, and cold brew. Each method uses different types of brewing equipment and produces a very different flavor profile.

For example, drip coffee uses a coarser grind than espresso, allowing for more of the natural flavors of the beans to shine through. Pour-over coffee uses a medium grind and is usually brewed with a paper filter, resulting in a smooth and clean cup. Cold brew requires the beans to be steeped for 12-24 hours, producing a coffee that is less acidic but still full of flavor.

Some other honorable mentions include French Press coffee, Moka Pot, percolated, and Siphon Coffee. 

Which type of coffee is best?

The best type of coffee depends on your individual taste and what you're looking for. If you like a strong, bold flavor, then espresso is a great choice. If you prefer something a bit milder, then try a latte or cappuccino. Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preference.

What is the common type of coffee?

The most common type of coffee is Arabica. Arabica has a mild and sweet flavor with low acidity, making it the most popular choice for both home and commercial brewing. It is also the most widely grown variety of coffee worldwide.

No matter which type of coffee or espresso drink you choose, remember to use high-quality beans from Cafe Fabrique to get the best flavor out of your espresso machine! Happy brewing!