Sure, we all know what a cup of coffee is and how to order it. But what about the other options on the menu? With all the different types of coffee beans and drinks, it can be confusing. Rather than play it safe and never try one of these awesome drinks, or instead be adventurous and then end up with something that you don’t like, use this guide to be informed and satisfied with whatever you’re drinking.
Starting with the Bean
The flavor of coffee or espresso starts with how the beans are roasted. The hotter the bean is roasted, the less acidic/tart and the more bitter the bean will be. Medium roasts are generally a good balance between flavors, and also provide the fullest body. To determine a bean’s type of roast (without asking), look at the color of the bean: the darker the bean, the hotter the roast.
A Quick Note about Decaf… Decaf coffee is made from raw coffee beans. Caffeine is extracted by soaking the beans in water and a solvent.
The Brewing Process: Coffee vs. Espresso
Both espresso and coffee are made by brewing coffee beans in very hot water. However, espresso is significantly more concentrated than coffee and is generally served in a single 1.5-ounce serving. It takes about 30 seconds to make, thanks to super high pressure and finer ground coffee beans. Coffee, on the other hand, takes longer to brew (anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes) and is rarely served in anything less than 8 ounces. Despite common belief, espresso is not higher in caffeine than coffee.
Beans aside, the flavor, color and body of espresso or coffee depend on the concentration of coffee grounds to water and how much of the bean is extracted into the water. The perfect cup of coffee or shot of espresso requires spot-on water temperature, impeccable attention to grinding the beans, and precise brewing time. Talk to any true barista, and they’ll tell you it’s not that easy.
The Final Product: Deciphering that Long List of Drinks on the Menu
The base of most drinks is either espresso or coffee. Drinks vary based on the ratio of foam, milk, espresso and/or coffee. See the graphic I created for all you need to know.
Ultimately, finding the coffee drink that works for you requires a bit of exploration. Want something that’s slightly filling? Go for a latte. Looking for something small that gets the job done quickly? Macchiato. Staying a while and want to savor your drink for a good hour? Get a cappuccino. The foam insulates the drink, keeping it warm. In fact, get that to stay. Getting it in a porcelain cup keeps the drink warm for a longer time.