Imagine this: you, craving caffeine as any typical student, walk into a coffee shop (or, depending on the time of year, stumble into the Library Café). Scanning the menu, you see many options – cappuccinos, espressos, mochas, lattes… why is choosing a coffee so hard when you don’t speak Italian and all you want is that caffeine kick? Coffee novice or expert, be it by an airport vending machine or in a quirky brewery, most of us have probably been in that situation at some point, and it isn’t pleasant. Therefore, we bring to you a comprehensive guide to the most common coffee drink types you may encounter to avoid awkwardness or just to spice up your daily coffee!

Note: we are aware that the descriptions of the coffee types below may not necessarily fit with the options available at typical coffee chains, since they usually add their own spin on things (or confuse the different coffee types with each other… I mean, really, are we surprised at Starbucks?)


The most classic type of coffee. A foundation to all other types of coffee, this is just a single shot of coffee in a small espresso cup, perfect for an instant energy boost (also works pretty well if you don’t like the flavour of coffee – we all know shots are easiest to drink…). Some say it helps with digestion, so you may find these being served after a meal. It’s also the cheapest on our list (usually).

  • Espresso Doppio

A variation of the espresso, all this means is a double coffee shot (instead of a single as in a classic espresso). Ideal for recuperating after all-nighters.


Similar to an espresso, a macchiato is perfect for those who just can’t swallow a shot of full black coffee (or just aren’t narcissists – some studies show that those who drink pure black coffee belong to this group). To balance out the harshness, a spoonful of steamed milk and foam is put on a single espresso shot. However, do not confuse this with some of the more milk-based drinks on our list – a macchiato is still served in a small espresso cup or glass, and the amount of milk is negligible.

  • Long Macchiato

A variation of the classic or ‘short’ macchiato, all this means is a double coffee shot. Basically, a macchiato version of an espresso doppio, but why use 3 words when you can use 2?


Yet another variant of the espresso for those who can’t handle its intensity. A cortado is essentially the term for a typical coffee with milk – an espresso shot is combined with a splash of warm milk (roughly the same quantity as the coffee, or a dash more) to reduce the bitterness and acidity of the pure alternative. Traditionally in Spain (from where it originates), a double shot of espresso is used and the cortado is served in a glass with a metal ring base and wire handle – fancy!


Not satisfied with the bitterness of your traditional espresso? Look no further. A ristretto is a more concentrated version of the espresso, as it contains the same amount of coffee but only half the amount of water. Truly a gold medal in the world of the narcissist, and an equivalent to 99% dark chocolate – purity at its finest. Again, find this served in a small espresso cup, or occasionally, an even smaller one.


In case an espresso or a ristretto does not satisfy your craving for a bitter taste, an Americano is the solution for you. These contain a single shot of espresso, yet filled to a full-size cup with hot water. With a slightly less bitter taste due to the dilution by water, yet significantly more volume, an Americano will last you much longer so that you can relish the bitter taste of coffee in peace. Fun fact: the name originates from American soldiers during WWII, who would make this coffee to make their coffee last longer.


The ‘hipster’ (does anyone even use that word anymore?) coffee of 2018. Although it has been around for much longer, the cold brew has gained extreme popularity in recent summers as the temperatures continued to rise and the sweet-coffee-haters took a stand against coffee chains only serving iced lattes. Similar to an Americano, yet with a higher coffee: water ratio, tasting slightly sweeter, and brewed on cold water. The taste, however, is quite different – during the brewing process, the flavour compounds extracted are actually not the same as those during a typical hot brew.


Now, where are all my basic white bitches at? To be completely honest, we don’t know why this drink has such a bad reputation. Consisting of an espresso shot with a larger amount of milk than coffee (typically 1:3 or 1:4) and a tiny bit of foam at the top in a glass, this is perfect for when you want coffee with a little sweetness and lots of volume to sip over an extended period of time (like that reeeally boring Monday morning lecture). Often features some photo-worthy designs made by swirling around the foam layer with the coffee beneath, also known as ‘latte art’.


Comparable to a latte, just with less milk, and a thick layer of milk foam on the top. A sensible middle ground between drinking your coffee black and boring and overly milky, this type of coffee is arguably the best to drink at any time of day and in any situation, because, of course, you don’t want to commit a coffee faux-pas and order a latte after your afternoon meal, do you? (Italians would argue that any kind of milk-containing coffee is forbidden after breakfast, but let’s have a more global viewpoint). An added bonus is that many outlets add some sprinkled chocolate powder on top for a yummy finish.


A relatively new addition to the popularised coffee market, a flat white is almost identical to a cappuccino but without the foam or sprinkled chocolate (boring!). For those of you watching your figure (or pretending to as you buy a chocolate chip cookie alongside your coffee), this slightly decreases the caloric content of a cappuccino. It also has a stronger taste of coffee and is the least sweet of all milk-based coffee drinks. A good all-rounder, originating in the lands down under, and our personal favourite.


Want caffeine, but really craving chocolate and can’t decide what hot drink to order? The mocha is the answer, as it is a hybrid of a cappuccino and hot chocolate, with the espresso shot and chocolate being mixed prior, and then topped off with steamed milk and milk foam. A delicious combination of flavours and particularly good to warm your stomach (and soul) on bleak winter days.


Yes, this drink is the epitome of most 15-year-old girls’ lives. Yes, it’s not even real coffee (or contains marginal amounts). Is it still a mouth-watering dose of sugar we like to indulge in from time to time? Yes, for a third time. Trademarked by Starbucks (with other coffee chains having alternatives named Frostinos or Frappe Crèmes), this consists of a coffee or crème base, blended with ice and a variety of syrups, sugar and/or other sweet ingredients and topped with whipped cream and a decoration of some sort. From classics like a caramel frappuccino, to limited edition favourites like a pumpkin spice frappuccino, this category encompasses all sugar-full blended coffee drinks (and to be honest, they don’t even all contain coffee). Diabetes in a cup - guaranteed.


For the finale, we’re getting real: this delectable coffee drink combines coffee, alcohol and sugar all in one. Less commonly found in coffee shops and more reserved for bars or restaurants, behind this name you can discover an ensemble of coffee, whiskey, cream and a small (although it’s a case of preference) amount of sugar. Don’t be fooled - although this seems like just an innocent coffee, it can really get you warm quite quickly (both literally and figuratively, if you know what I mean), so enjoy it over time. And make another one as soon as you’re done, of course.