4 Types of Coffee Beans, 16 Types of Coffee Drinks

Are you wondering how many different types of coffee there are, and what sets each of them apart from the others?

If so, you have come to the right place, because in this article we are going to explore and seek to answer these questions at a reasonable level of detail. By the time you have read through to the end, you should have a solid base knowledge of the many different types of coffee and what makes each of them unique.

Before we really begin, it makes sense to define what we mean when we talk about different types of coffee, because different types of coffee could refer to one of two things – different types of coffee beans, and different types of coffee drinks. In this article, we are going to be talking about both.

Learning is often what inspires us to try new things – and with coffee drinks it is no different. Let us say, for example, that you a sworn-in cappuccino lover and always ask for a cappuccino in any coffee shop you walk into. Well, there is nothing wrong with knowing what you like – but you might discover that there are so many other great coffee drinks options out there, just waiting for you to try them.

Without further ado, let us begin.

4 types of coffee beans

When we talk about different types of coffee, the first thing we need to consider is coffee beans – because every coffee drink consists of at least two unnegotiable ingredients: Water and coffee beans.

New coffee drinks (Most of which are variations over the popular coffee recipes we already know and love, such as the latte or the cappuccino) are constantly being innovated and tweaked, but the different types of coffee beans remains a much more static part of the question.

Coffee beans are influenced by all sorts of different factors, including location, soil quality, weather conditions, shade and altitude, but they can still be divided into four primary types – Arabica, Robusta, Liberia and Excelsa.

Arabica

Arabica is the most popular and widespread type of coffee bean. Whenever you walk into a coffee shop and order anything from an esprespresso shot to a cappuccino, chances are the coffee drink you have ordered is going to be brewed on Arabica beans.

It is easy to undertand why Arabica beans are so widely spread and popular – first of all, there is the sweet yet complex taste profile, with notes of caramel, brown sugar and chocolate. Arabica coffee is easy to love, and it is suitable for drinking either straight as black coffee, or as the basis for milky coffee recipes as its smooth texture and flavor complement the milk incredibly well.

Another reason to love Arabica coffee beans is that their caffeine content is slightly less than that the other main contender, Robusta coffee beans. Some might not care much – and some undoubtedly prefer the more intense caffeine hit that Robusta coffee beans deliver -, but for those who have sensitive stomachs ore are prone to feeling jittery from caffeine have good reason to choose Arabica instead.

What’s more, Arabica coffee beans are the most commonly available type – you can find them at any supermarket all over the world, as well as online.

Arabica coffee beans and blends we recommend

If you are looking for some of the best 100% Arabica whole beans and blends to try, here are our recommendations.

Lavazza Gran Espresso Whole Bean, Illy Arabica Selection India Whole Bean, Kopi Luwak Arabica Coffee, Miscela d’Oro Ground Coffee, Caffe Vergnano 1882 Arabica 100% Espresso, Lavazza Qualita Ora, and Marlboro Hills Espresso Whole Bean.

Robusta

Robusta is the second-most popular coffee bean type, favoured for its often inexpensive price point, high caffeine content and flavor intensity.

Robusta is known to have a strong, intense coffee flavor, as well as a high caffeine content, which makes it suitable for both espresso and instant coffee blends.

The slightly bitter flavor of Robusta coffee beans might not be for everyone, which is why there are also many coffee blends out there mixing Arabica and Robusta, achieving a more balanced blend with notes of sweetness and bitterness coming together in a balanced mix.

On the other hand, if you like the pure, dark and somewhat bitter taste that Robusta beans provide, as well as the instant caffeine hit, there are many fine Robusta blends available.

Robusta + Arabica beans and blends we recommend

If you are looking for the best coffee bean blends combining Robusta and Arabica beans, there are plenty of options to choose from. Here are our best recommendations.

Segafredo Extra Strong Whole Bean, Lavazza Quality Rossa, Caffe Vergnano 1882 Espresso Crema and Lavazza Gran Reserva Whole Bean.

Liberica

Liberica coffee beans are rare and quite difficult to find – the chances of you being able to walk into your local supermarket and grab and bag of Liberica coffee beans from the shelf is relatively low. Your local health food or specialty coffee shop is your best bet.

Liberica coffee beans are visually easy to identify, thanks to their strange and irregular shape. They are known for their unusual flavor profile and aroma, which have hints of smokiness combined with citrus and floral notes.

Excelsa

Some consider Excelsa coffee beans to be part of the Liberia coffee family, but it is still worth mentioning them here as a separate coffee bean type because of their distinguishing features, which include a remarkably different taste.

If you thought Liberica coffee beans were hard to come by, wait until you have tried finding a bag of Excelsa coffee beans, particularly if you don’t live in a large city with plenty of specialty shops to contact.

Visually, Excelsa beans look rather similar to Liberica beans, thanks to their irregular shape, but taste-wise Excelsa beans are quite different. Excelsa beans are known for their fruity and berry-like flavors – some even say they have taste notes that are reminiscent of popcorn.

Every cup of coffee starts with ground coffee beans

Every cup of coffee ever brewed starts with the coffee beans, which is why the beans are such an important part of the equation when preparing or talking about coffee.

Any coffee drink can be brewed using any type of coffee beans, with results varying in flavor and texture depending on which beans you have used.

Overall, Arabica beans are great choice for almost any coffee drink you would like to brew, as its rich, dark, sweet notes makes it suitable both for drinking straight and for blending with milk. Robusta beans are also a great choice for milk-based coffee recipes, but perhaps not the best choice for black coffee, since there will be nothing to mellow the dark, bitter notes.

Liberica and Excelsa coffee beans are both wonderfully versatile options for just about any coffee recipe you can think of – although those smoky notes found in Liberica blends might not be everyone’s cup of, well, tea.

Brewing methods set the tone

How your coffee drink turns out isn’t only determined by the beans, it is also very much influenced by the brewing method used to extract flavor, aroma and caffeine from the beans.

In coffee brewing, the extraction process is the process of passing water through the ground coffee beans in order to extract their flavor and nutrients. There are many different ways of doing this. Simplest of all is the steeping method, which is similar to when you are brewing a cup of tea. Steeping is when you let coffee grounds steep in hot water until the coffee is ready. Filter coffee is an example of black coffee brewed by letting the coffee grounds steep.

Other brewing methods include pour-over brewing, which is usually done manually by pouring water in a circular motion into a filter filled with fresh coffee grounds.

Yet another way of brewing coffee is the type of pressure brewing that produces espresso. In most cases, espresso shots are crafted by espresso machines, but there are also those that are manual lever operated. Either way, hot water is pressed through the coffee grounds at high velocity, resulting in an intensely flavoured and aromatic coffee brew.

Introduce steamed milk for endless variation

Sometimes, the beans and the brewing method are enough, but with the addition of milk and other additives, such as flavored syrups, chocolate ganache, whipped cream and so forth, nearly endless coffee variations are possible.

Trying to sum up every Coffee drink in existence is beyond the scope of this article, so instead we will be focusing on some of the most popular types of coffee drinks.

16 types of coffee drinks

All right, now that we have coffered the different types of coffee beans – and gotten clear on what creates variety in coffee drinks – it is time for us to get into some of the most popular coffee drinks available.

No doubt you are already familiar with many of these, and no doubt you already have a long-term favourite. Still, we hope that this list will give you a few ideas for new coffee drinks to try, whether at home or the next time you find yourself in your favourite coffee shop contemplating the coffee shop menu.

Black

Black coffee, also called cafe noir, is the simplest coffee drink to make, as well as one of the most common. It is brewed by steeping coffee grounds in hot water.

A few examples of black coffee drinks include filter coffee, instant coffee and others that only involve steeping coffee grounds in water.

When it comes to black coffee, the quality of the coffee beans is extremely important, since there is no sugar, milk or other distractions to mask any unwanted notes of bitterness in the flavor profile. A cup of black coffee is very naked, if you will – it’s got nothing to cover it. This is why high-quality Arabica beans are often the default choice for black coffee drinks.

Espresso

Espresso is a short, intense coffee drink, made using an espresso machine. In fact, it being brewed using an espresso machine is what makes an espresso an espresso. You cannot brew espresso using your French press, or as a pour-over.

An espresso shot is made by adding approximately 20g of ground coffee to the espresso machine’s filter basket, clicking the filter into place, then pressing a button. Some espresso machines are operated by a manual lever, but the brewing method itself is still the same: Hot water is pressed through the filter at great velocity, resulting in optimal extraction of flavor and nutrients from the coffee grounds.

An espresso runs for 25-30 seconds, and is approximately 30 ml, or 1 ounce. It is typically served in a small cup, and has a delicate layer of oily crema on top. Crema is formed when tiny CO2 bubbles is released by the coffee during the brewing process.

Doppio

The doppio is also called a double espresso – and this is exactly what it is.

Ristretto

Ristretto is a short-pulled espresso shot, known for its intense and concentrated flavor.

A ristretto is only 22 ml, and it is pulled for just 18-25 seconds. The result is an intense flavor hit in a very small sip.

Ristretto is very similar to espresso, without being interchangeable. It isn’t only its size or the fact that the ristretto uses twice the amount of ground coffee that is used for a standard shot of espresso, it is also that the shorter brewing time cuts off the extraction before the ground coffee beans have released their full flavor profile and full caffeine content and acidity.

As a result, ristretto tastes stronger and simpler, but contains less caffeine than an espresso. A good ristretto comes with a thick layer of crema.

Lungo

Lungo is the inverse of the ristretto and could be considered a long-pulled espresso shot.

While the ristretto packs the same amount of ground coffee that would be used for two espresso shots into a 22 ml shot, the lungo uses half this amount of ground coffee for a 130-170 ml shot.

Lungo is pulled slower than a regular shot of espresso – ideal time is anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute, but as a rule of thumb, the forty second mark is a good place to aim for.

The result is a lightly flavoured, watery coffee drink with more bitter taste notes, thanks to the longer extraction time. Lungo tends to have very little crema.

Americano

At a glance, Americano might look indistinguishable from a cup of black coffee. However, the crucial difference is that black coffee is brewed by steeping the coffee grounds in hot water, while Americano consists of an espresso shot diluted with hot water.

The result is that Americano has a more silky texture and a rounder taste.

Latte

The latte, also called a coffee latte, is probably the milky coffee favourite, almost no matter where you are in the world.

Like all milky coffee recipes, the latte starts with either a single or a double shot of espresso, with a layer of steamed milk and finally another layer of finely textured milk foam.

The latte’s strength is that it combines the delicious coffee taste and caffeine content of the espresso with the rich and creamy deliciousness of steamed and frothed milk. The result is an imminently drinkable, subtly sweet coffee based drink.

It is not surprising that, because of the latte’s popularity, endless variations over the latte can be found in cafes everywhere you go – the piccolo latte and the latte macchiato are just a couple of examples.

Cortado

The Cortado is another milky coffee recipe combining the intense coffee flavor and caffeine hit of espresso with the savourily, mellowing qualities of steamed milk.

Unlike the latte, the Cortado combines espresso and steamed milk in equal proportion, and laves out the indulgent layer of milk foam on top.

Macchiato

Macchiato, sometimes called cafe macchiato or espresso macchiato, is another popular espresso-based drink using warm milk to balance out the acidity and intensity of the espresso. You might consider it the happy medium between a double espresso and a cappuccino.

Macchiato is as double espresso combined with a small amount of milk, which is often but not always foamed.

Cappuccino

Cappuccino is a long-standing coffee favourite, and much like the latte it has many variations, some involving cream or flavoured milk substitutes instead of milk. In any case, the cappuccino is a wonderfully indulgent coffee drink that is often served replete with elaborate latte art.

Cappuccino is very similar to latte, but it uses significantly greater frothed milk to steamed milk ratio.

Flat white

The Flat White is an Australian invention, but it has won huge popularity in many places around the world, including the UK.

Like most milky coffee recipes, the flat white starts out with a shot of espresso, followed by a small layer of steamed milk and a light layer of microfoam, which gives the flat white a smooth, velvety texture.

The Flat White is a great option for those who love milky coffees, but like the taste of espresso to come through stronger than it does in a latte.

Mocha

Mocha is the perfect coffee-based drink for chocolate lovers.

The Mocha is yet another espresso-based drink that also involves the mixing in of either chocolate ganache or chocolate flavored syrup, to which steamed milk and a layer of milk foam are added.

Affogato

Speaking of indulgent coffee recipes, have you tried an Affogato? The adffogato, sometimes referred to as an affogado al cafe, is an espresso-based drink that doesn’t involve milk, but ice cream.

You won’t see the Affogato on every coffee shop menu, but when you do it is well worth a try. Affogato consists of a shot of espresso or doppio, and a generous scoop of ice cream.

Irish coffee

Irish coffee is an unusual coffee drink that combines black coffee with Irish whiskey and sugar. It can be a delicious treat on a cold day, when you need a caffeinated drink that really warms you up from the inside out.

Irish coffee is made by stirring whiskey and sugar into a cup of hot coffee. If you like your caffeinated drinks extra indulgent, add some whipped cream and you’re good to go.

Cold brew

Another example of black coffee is cold brew coffee, which is essentially black coffee brewed cold.

Cold brew coffee has become increasingly popular over the past few years, thanks to its incredibly smooth and clean texture, as well as its strong and intense flavor.

Cold brewed coffee is made by steeping ground coffee beans in cold water for anywhere between 6 and 36 hours. Yes, the extraction process is slow, but the results are well worth it.

Cold brew can be enjoyed as it is, served with cold milk or cream, or as the basis for any other coffee recipe you would normally use a shot of espressos for.

Iced coffee

Iced coffee is more of an umbrella term covering many different iced coffee drinks rather than referring to one specific recipe.

Having said that, if you walk into a coffee shop and order iced coffee, typically what the barista is going to serve you is a glass of black coffee or Americo, with a dash of either cold milk, cream or sweetener added to it.

Iced coffee can really be as simple as that, but there are also many other, often more elaborate forms of iced coffee drinks out there, waiting to be tried.

There is Frappuccino, Nitro Cold Brew and Mazagran to name but a few. Frappuccino is perhaps best known from the Starbucks menu, and it is an espresso-based iced drink involving blended ice and whipped cream. The Nitro Cold brew combines black coffee with nitrogen bubbles and a combination of cream and sugar, and the lesser-known Mazagran iced coffee could be considered the Irish coffee of summer as it combines coffee, lemon, sugar and rum.

Types of coffee FAQ

What are the 4 types of coffee?

The many different types of coffee that exist can be boiled down to four types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa.

How many different types of coffee are there?

If we are talking about coffee beans, there are only four types of coffee – Arabica, Robusta, Liberian and Excelsa.

However, if take the many different coffee drinks that exist into account, from popular recipes such as espresso, latte and macchiato to obscure derivatives and new coffee drinks inventions, it is impossible to land on a precise number.

Which coffee type is best?

Arabica is the most popular coffee bean in existence, for two obvious reasons. Arabica beans are widely available, and the flavor profile of Arabica beans is round and mellow with hints of caramel and brown sugar. What’s not to love?

Are you ready to try a different type of coffee?

We humans tend to get stuck in our habits and routines – but why not switch things up next time you happen to be in a coffee shop that has something you haven’t tried before on the menu? You might very well uncover an undiscovered love for Ristretto, Cortado or Nitro Cold Brew.

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