Do you wake up every day and instantly make yourself a cup of espresso? Do you have your favorite beans already ground so you can brew a quick latte before heading to work?
If you already know your absolute favorite coffee drink, congratulations! You’re a step ahead of most people. The fact is, a lot of coffee drinkers simply drink what they know and don’t realize that there are endless other options out there to explore.
Coffee is a complicated business.
There are lots of different coffee beans, roasts, drinks, and brewing methods. There are Americanos vs. drip coffee and cold-brewed vs. iced. And that makes it hard for many people to figure out precisely what type of coffee drink is right for them.
Today we’re going to try to help you navigate the complicated world of coffee. We can’t cover every single drink and brewing method in one post, but we are going to break down some of the most popular beverages so you can find your go-to.
With So Many Coffees to Choose From, How Do You Find the Right One?
There’s cold-brewed black coffee. There are shots of espresso. There’s regular brewed coffee. There’s coffee made with a French press. There’s the long black, the cappuccino, and the macchiato. There’s drip coffee, pour-over coffee, and Turkish coffee.
We could go on and on, but you probably get the point.
The variance between cold-brewed coffee and iced coffee is enough to get some coffee drinkers’ heads spinning. Add to that the option to drink it straight, add sugar, or add milk or non-dairy milk, and it’s easy to see why so many people find themselves in a coffee conundrum.
But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. One of the biggest differences between most coffee drinks is in the amount of water, milk, or foam that you add.
Here are some of our favorite drinks compared to other similar beverages to guide you on which is which. By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll probably want to run to your local coffee shop and taste one of each!
Ever wondered what a Vienna roast is? Check out our article: French, Italian, and Vienna Roast Levels Explained.
Americano vs. Coffee
The Americano (also called a Café Americano) traces its roots back to World War II. American soldiers in Italy weren’t too fond of the strong espresso that most Italians drink. Thus, Italian coffee shops started making them the Americano.
The Americano is nothing more than espresso watered down with hot water. It doesn’t have any milk in it unless you specifically ask for your barista to add milk, and it’s easy to make. You can brew it with an espresso machine, with a French press, an Aeropress, or even a Moka pot on the stove.
So how does the Americano compare to regular coffee?
Regular coffee is brewed by filtering hot water over coffee grinds. The water and the ground coffee combine during the process. You can use an automatic drip coffee maker, make it through a French press, create pour-over coffee, or brew with various other methods.
The Americano is simply diluted espresso. Made from ground espresso beans with hot water poured on top.
The two look almost identical and have a similar taste, and both contain a generous caffeine dose to give you that needed jolt of energy. If you like your coffee strong, you can intensify an Americano by adding a double shot of espresso instead of one.
The next time you walk into your favorite local coffee shop, instead of ordering a regular cup of coffee, try an Americano instead.
Prefer to make your own? Learn How to Make a Delicious Americano at Home.
Americano vs. Latte
Okay, so now you know that an Americano is an espresso diluted with water. You officially know more than the average coffee drinker out there!
But how does the Americano compare with the latte?
The latte is the go-to for people who like espresso and Americanos but prefer some steamed milk. A typical latte combines one part espresso with two parts steamed milk, finished off with a thin layer of foam on top.
An easy way to make a latte at home is to brew your espresso, heat your milk, and pour the milk over the coffee in your cup. Finish it off by whisking the milk to give it that perfectly frothy texture.
If you’re looking for a way to drink espresso without the high amount of caffeine, the latte is a great option. The steamed milk accounts for two-thirds of your cup, thus cutting back on the amount of espresso and cutting back the level of caffeine.
Don’t want to bother steaming and whisking milk at home?
The next time you’re in the mood for a sweeter espresso, ask your barista to whip you up a latte!
Latte vs. Coffee
Do you brew coffee at home every morning?
If so, a cup of drip coffee is likely your daily go-to. It’s the drink of choice for most Americans, simply because it’s so easy to make.
But if you take your coffee with milk or cream, there’s a good chance you’ll love a latte. You can make a latte at home by merely steaming your own milk and pulling a shot of espresso. Although, that’s more work than many people are willing to do, especially when they’re trying to rush off to work.
Head to your local coffee shop today or tomorrow and order yourself a latte. There’s a really good chance it could become your drink of choice.
Café au Lait vs. Cappuccino
Don’t know the difference between a café au lait and a cappuccino?
One is espresso-based, and one is coffee-based, but what also separates the two are the amount of milk and the amount of foam.
A café au lait consists of half a cup of brewed coffee and half a cup of warmed milk. The milk thins out the coffee making it less strong and gives it a creamier texture. Sometimes, you’ll get a little bit of foam on top.
A cappuccino is essentially the opposite, at least in terms of foam. A cup of cappuccino starts out with a shot of espresso, then a little bit of milk and a lot of foam join the party — the less milk, the stronger the taste.
It’s easier to make a café au lait at home because it’s easy to warm some milk on the stove. Making your own cappuccino can be a bit trickier. You’ll need to pull those shots of espresso, steam your milk, and whip your milk to create the necessary foam.
Mocha vs. Macchiato
If you love the taste of chocolate and have never had a café mocha, you could be missing out on your favorite coffee drink.
A café mocha has about the same amount of espresso and milk as a latte, but there’s one key difference: a mocha also includes chocolate.
Start with a cup of hot brewed coffee, add approximately two tablespoons of milk, and stir in some cocoa powder. It’s the chocolatiest coffee drink you can find.
On the other hand, the macchiato doesn’t include any chocolate or cocoa powder (sorry, chocolate fans). The macchiato is simply a combination of espresso and steamed milk, and that’s it!
To make a macchiato at home, brew one shot of espresso and steam some cold milk to create the foam. Pour your freshly brewed espresso into your cup, then use a spoon to add the foam to the top. It’s easiest to do if you have an espresso machine, but you can do it in a variety of other ways.
And … just to make matters more confusing …
There’s a third option to add into the mix here: the latte macchiato. (Hey, we warned you, there are nearly endless varieties!)
The latte macchiato is similar to the macchiato, but it includes three key parts: espresso, steamed milk, and foam.
Cold Brewed vs. Iced
Some people cannot even think about getting their day started without a piping hot cup of coffee. But we know quite a few coffee drinkers who prefer their favorite brew cold.
And whenever we talk about cold coffee, there’s one question that always arises:
What coffee is better? Cold-brewed or iced?
Which is “better” is a matter of opinion and depends on what you prefer. What’s important to know is that there are significant differences in how to prepare each one.
Iced coffee starts out as hot coffee. It’s simply poured over ice. You can drink an iced black coffee, an iced macchiato, an iced cappuccino, or an iced mocha. Whatever type of coffee drink you prefer, you can pretty much pour it over ice for a more refreshing option (which we absolutely love on a hot day).
Cold-brewed coffee is something entirely different.
Cold brew coffee is coffee brewed cold, not hot. Also, you can't make it in a matter of minutes in the morning — it requires about twelve hours to complete.
To make cold-brewed coffee at home, you need to steep coarsely ground coffee in cold water. Let it steep overnight, in the refrigerator, for approximately twelve hours. Coffee infuses itself into cold water quite slowly. But with the extended amount of time it takes to steep, it results in a robust and concentrated brew.
The cold brewing method also eliminates some of the bitter and sour taste you get with other brewing methods. The end result is a bit sweeter than coffee brewed through traditional hot methods.
We like our cold-brewed coffee black and unsweetened, but you can certainly add milk, sugar, or both, depending on what you prefer.
Light roasts are delicious as iced coffee, check out: When and How to Drink Light Roast Coffee to learn more!
There’s Only One Way to Find Your Favorite
There’s only one real way to find your absolute favorite go-to cup of coffee, and that’s to do a whole lot of sampling and taste testing.
The coffee shop culture in America is quite different from that of France, Italy, or Denmark. But there is one thing that makes the American coffee culture a fantastic one: the variety of beans, roasts, brewing methods, and drinks you can try.
Walk into any independent coffee shop in a major U.S. city, and you’re likely to find an extensive menu to choose from. So the next time you pass by your favorite local coffee bar, pop in and order a drink you’ve never had before. The only way you’ll be able to find your favorite is to try all the various options at least once.
Prefer to make your coffee at home?
Regardless of your preferred brewing method, be sure to invest in good beans. Working with inferior beans (or old beans that aren’t fresh) won’t do you any justice and could turn you off to your potential new favorite drink.
There are dozens of different coffee drinks to choose from. Each one can taste completely different depending on the type of beans, the roast, and what you add to it.
The method also matters. Drip coffee makers, espresso machines, pour-overs, and presses all create different strengths and consistencies. Meaning there are plenty of ways to customize a coffee drink to suit your particular palate and flavor preferences.
If you’re local to the Sonoma County area, pop on into Taylor Lane and let our baristas help you find your go-to coffee drink!
Ready to start experimenting with some new coffee drinks at home?