Coffee types explained

Different people will invariably drink different types of coffee, and for different reasons. You probably know someone whose morning routine includes a tiny cup of espresso, drunk solely for caffeinating purposes. On the other hand, you may also know someone whose idea of a lovely morning is sitting down with a tall, foamy latte and thoroughly enjoying every sip of it. The point is, there are a lot of options to pick from when it comes to coffee! And if you want to know more about them, you’ve come to the right place.

Italian coffees

While coffee originated from Arabia, a lot of modern coffee and the culture surrounding it has been attributed to Italy, so it’s no surprise that some of the most popular coffees are Italian inventions! Let’s first have a look at the most well-known Italian coffees.


The premise seems simple; use high pressure to shoot hot water through ground coffee beans, and pour the resulting brew into a dainty little cup. However, espresso isn’t quite as simple as that, as any barista will tell you. A lot of people tend to regard espresso as a simple or even dull coffee order, but that doesn’t do it justice at all. Espresso is the purest and most refined coffee experience you are likely to have, and it is hands-down the best way to try different blends or single origins in order to discern the flavours and nuances of each.

Café Latte (or Café au lait)

A popular option for coffee drinkers – and good entry point for someone who isn’t a fan of the bitterness of coffee – a latte consists of espresso (one shot or several) with steamed milk poured over it; the milk is steamed to the point where it becomes quite foamy and frothy. If you ever travel to Italy and fancy a coffee, make sure that you order a cafe latte. The word ‘latte’ is Italian for milk, so simply asking for a latte may result in you being served a glass of milk.


A strong contender for most popular coffee order in the world, a cappuccino is a three-layered beverage; it’s like a cake! The first layer is espresso, followed by a shot of steamed milk, and then finished up with a layer of frothed, foamy milk. The drink is usually then topped with chocolate shavings or powder, making it another good starting point for those new to coffee. This, along with cafe lattes, are considered breakfast drinks in Italy, where only espressos and other black coffees are consumed past ten or so in the morning.

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Piccolo latte

Kind of like a latte, but without all the milk and much, much smaller. A piccolo latte is simply a shot of espresso with a small amount of foamed milk gently poured on top. It’s a good option if you’re feeling a bit full, or for those who want more coffee than milk but can’t stand the bitterness of straight espresso.


A Vienna is made by adding two shots of espresso together, and then topping them off with whipped cream; the cream acting as a substitute for both milk and sugar. It’s meant to be a sharp juxtaposition between the strong, bitter flavours of espresso and the smooth and luxe flavour of cream. We can’t tell if it sounds incredible or horrific. Maybe both?


Forget what we said earlier about lattes and cappuccinos being good entry points for people who don’t drink coffee; this is THE entry point. The mocha is essentially a latte with chocolate powder or syrup added, making it chocolatey and a little thicker, but still with an underlying coffee taste. Living in the grey area between the babycino and the latte, we recommend this for your friend who doesn’t like coffee that much but wants to give it a go regardless.


The affogato is the peak of sugary-sweet, only-kinda-coffee creations. It’s simply espresso poured over ice cream or gelato, and it sounds absolutely delicious.

Australian coffees

So that’s the best of coffee from Italy. Now let’s look a little closer to home. Believe it or not, Australia has actually made a handful of seriously valuable contributions to the modern coffee pantheon! While the two beverages we’re about to talk about are a bit contentious in terms of their origins (New Zealand claims to have invented both), we’ll just overlook that for now, okay?

Flat white

Favoured amongst soccer mums and dads alike, the flat white is made using the milk from the bottom of the jug, which tends to be less frothy and more silky. This milk is poured over a shot of espresso and handed to the nearest tired parent on a Saturday morning at the footy ground.

  • While we’re on the subject of flat whites, here’s an important thing to note. A lot of people are fond of espousing the view that flat whites and lattes are identical beverages; some baristas don’t even know the difference, making them in exactly the same way! But here’s the difference. As we’ve mentioned, lattes are frothy and foamy, whereas flat whites are silky and flowing. While they use the same espresso-milk ratio, the way the milk is treated in each beverage is vastly different. The more you know.

Long black

Hot water is poured into a cup, and is then followed by two shots of espresso, resulting in one of the stronger coffees available to man. Long back is the drink of choice for tortured writers, the hungover, and the generally black of heart.

Other coffees

The majority of popular coffee comes from Italy, a small handful come from Australia, and these are… the rest. They are slightly less common perhaps, but still fiercely deserving of a spot on this list.


The inverse of a long black, an Americano is made using one shot of espresso rather than two, and with more hot water than a long black would typically use. This results in a waterier coffee, but a lot of people must be into it because it’s rather popular in, you guessed it, America. American soldiers would supposedly make their coffees like this to make them last longer, and the style was (apparently) adopted by American baristas after the war.

Irish coffee

Not what you want to be ordering at 9am on a work morning. Irish coffee is a cocktail-style drink made using whiskey and cream, so if you’re offered one by a stranger you might be better off passing on their offer lest you end up dancing on the coffee shop counter! We don’t recommend trying to make this at home – cheap scotch plus instant coffee is a recipe for sadness rather than a delicious cocktail.

We hope you learnt something from this list; maybe you’ll even try something new and exciting at your local cafe! Although that being said, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with your tried-and-true coffee order if it’s what you love!

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