The Complete Guide to Types of Coffee: From Beans to Roasts and Drinks 

From Arabica and Espresso to the Latte and Iced Coffee, this guide provides the lowdown on the major types of coffee beans, roasts, and drinks.

I spent 4 days going down a magical research rabbit hole full of 40+ articles, videos, and podcasts. This rabbit hole took me to Europe, the Americas, Southeast Asia—and it was a blast.

Why spend so much time and energy in said rabbit hole?

To ensure this guide is a worthy representation of its majestic beans, roasts, and drinks of course!

We are going to look at the types of coffee that make the coffee world go ‘round.

Ready to explore? Brew yourself a cup and let’s dive in!

Types of Coffee Beans 

Coffea Arabica

1. Arabica

Arabica coffee beans make up 60% of all coffee consumed around the world. They are smaller and more oval than Robusta. 

Farmed primarily in South and Central America, Arabica beans are best enjoyed in hot coffee drinks. When they’re brewed in cold coffee, Arabica beans tend to lose much of their natural flavors.

  • Caffeine level: High
  • Flavor profile: Rich, full-bodied, slightly sweet and acidic

2. Robusta

Coffea Canephora, known as “Robusta”

Robusta coffee has about double the caffeine as Arabica and is less disease-prone during the growing phase.

Robusta is the Rubiaceae plant family

Cheaper to produce than Arabica because the plant is hardier, Robusta coffee beans are the second most consumed type of coffee bean in the world.

The beans are more circular vs. oval and the taste is more acidic and bitter than Arabica beans.

  • Caffeine level: Highest
  • Flavor profile: Earthy, heavier, slightly bitter

3. Liberica

Liberica is grown almost exclusively in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Liberica is a rare coffee that’s sometimes added to coffee blends for more complexity. 

The coffee cherry is bigger and irregularly shaped in comparison to Arabica and Robusta beans. 

  • Caffeine level: Medium-low
  • Flavor profile: Smoky, woody, nutty

4. Excelsa

Excelsa is actually part of the Liberica family. Both beans are rare, but Excelsa is rarest and most expensive. Why? Because it’s the hardest and most labor-intensive to grow.

Excelsa is an arboreal tree instead of a shrub, so it extends vertically and can reach up to 50 feet high. Its leaves need pruning often, too, further increasing production costs.

The difficulty with Excelsa coffee bean growth hinders its market spread and adoption. But the unique flavor can create a bewitching coffee experience.

  • Caffeine level: Low
  • Flavor profile: Strong, tart, and berry-like, with deeper chocolate and cream notes when roasted longer

Types of Coffee Roasts 

The process of coffee roasting is critical to the flavors that end up in your cup.

Roasting coffee is an art and a science. Just one more minute of time in the roaster can completely change the flavor, aroma, and texture of a roast batch.

There are four main roasts, which the temperature and length of roast time determine.

1. Light

Lightly roasted coffee beans have been in the roaster for the least amount of time. The beans come out lightest in color and retain the most amount of natural aroma and flavor.

  • Caffeine level: Highest
  • Surface oil level: None
  • Roast time: 7-8 minutes
  • Roast temperature: 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit

2. Medium

Medium roast means the coffee beans roast until the second crack in the beans starts to appear.

Medium-roasted coffee beans tend to result in more balanced brews. The flavors are a degree fuller than light roasts.

  • Caffeine level: High
  • Surface oil level: Some
  • Roast time: 10-12 minutes
  • Roast temperature: 400-430 degrees Fahrenheit

3. Medium-Dark

For a medium-dark roast, the heat gets turned up. The beans begin developing a deeper, spicier taste.

The coffee beans develop a thicker, oilier body, and smoother texture.

  • Caffeine level: Medium
  • Surface oil level: Higher
  • Roast time: 12-15 minutes
  • Roast temperature: 435-450 degrees Fahrenheit

4. Dark

Dark-roasted beans are in the roaster for the longest in the highest temperatures. The process lowers the amount of caffeine while increasing the surface oils on the beans.

Dark-roasted coffee beans look almost black, have a bitter taste, and can smell burnt.

  • Caffeine level: Lowest
  • Surface oil level: Highest
  • Roast time: 15-20 minutes
  • Roast temperature: 460-480 degrees Fahrenheit

Types of Black Coffee Drinks 

1. Espresso

Espresso is an ultra-concentrated form of coffee. It’s made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans.

The coffee beans are not different for espresso vs. drip coffee. Rather, the extraction process is what’s different.

You create Espresso through highly pressurized brewing (best done with an espresso machine).

Espresso is an essential foundation for most of the other types of coffee drinks we all know and love!

  • Ratio: 1 espresso shot
  • Recommended cup: 2-4 oz. espresso cup

2. Doppio (or Double Shot)

It’s probably no surprise that “doppio” means “double” in Italian. Simply two rather than one, doppios are double the fun of a single espresso shot!

  • Ratio: 2 espresso shots
  • Recommended cup: 3-4 oz. espresso cup

3. Americano

An Americano is a single shot of espresso diluted with a few ounces of hot water. 

During World War II, drip-coffee-loving Americans stationed in Italy found espresso to be too strong.

The American solution was to add hot water to espresso to mimic drip-brewed java—and presto! The Americano was born. Less intense, but still highly caffeinated.

  • Ratio: 1 espresso shot + 3 oz. of hot water
  • Recommended cup: 6 oz. glass coffee cup

4. Black 

Black coffee is exactly how it sounds: Plain brewed java. When you make black coffee at home, it’s usually via a drip coffee maker or single-cup brewer.

It can also be batch brewed, but this method is more common at cafe chains.

Everyone takes their black coffee a bit differently, whether you enjoy sugar, cream, or both. 

Personally, I like black coffee without the extras. It is easier to appreciate the notes of the roast you are sipping.

  • Ratio: 8 oz. drip coffee
  • Recommended cup: 8-10 oz. coffee mug

5. Caffè Corretto

The Caffe Corretto is Italy’s beloved coffee cocktail, which is often served after dinner. It’s made with grappa, a type of brandy-like alcohol made from grapes. 

Italians created the drink during the 1930s when coffee was expensive. In fact, ground coffee beans were usually supplemented with orzo or chicory to keep costs down.

Funny enough, Corretto means “to correct” in Italian. The drink’s name means the alcohol has corrected the coffee’s bitter taste!

  • Ratio: 1 single espresso shot + 1 grappa shot
  • Recommended cup: 2-4 oz. espresso cup

Pro Tip: The grappa should be room temperature for your Caffe Corretto, never cold. Otherwise, it can break up your espresso’s crema. 

6. Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee is another type of coffee cocktail, featuring brewed coffee and Irish whiskey.

Some recipes call for you to whisk chilled cream and sugar with the coffee-whiskey mixture.

Others suggest adding Bailey’s Irish Cream instead. You’ll have to try both to see which you prefer! 

  • Ratio: ⅓ Irish whiskey, ⅓ Bailey’s Irish Cream + ⅓ brewed drip coffee 
  • Recommended cup: 8-10 oz. Irish coffee glass

7. Lungo

A Lungo, or “long shot”, is a shot of espresso pulled with twice the amount of water. This dilutes the coffee’s acidity, so it tastes milder, yet still bitter. 

Here in North America, the Lungo is often confused with the Americano—but there is no water added to the Lungo after you pull its espresso.

  • Ratio: 1:3 espresso to water vs. traditional 1:2 espresso pulls
  • Recommended cup: 4 oz. espresso cup

8. Red Eye

Named for the overnight flight that leaves you desperate for caffeine the next morning, the Red Eye is a shot of espresso in a cup of brewed coffee. 

  • Ratio: 1 espresso shot + 6-8 oz. of drip coffee
  • Recommended cup: 8-10 oz. coffee mug

9. Ristretto

A Ristretto, or “short shot”, is the opposite of a Lungo. It’s made by pulling an espresso shot with less water than your typical 1:2 espresso-to-water ratio. 

The espresso is stronger, sweeter, and more concentrated—even while the volume is a bit lower since you are using less water.

  • Ratio: 1:1 espresso to water vs. traditional 1:2 espresso pulls
  • Recommended cup: 2 oz. espresso cup

Types of Milk Coffee Drinks 

1. Breve

A Breve (meaning “short” in Italian) is essentially a latte made with half-and-half milk.

However, if you order a “half and half” Breve Latte, you’ll probably get half heavy cream and half whole milk—not all half and half. 

You can also make any espresso-based drink “breve” since it’ll mean substituting milk for half and half.

Breve drinks are quite heavy and deeply creamy with an indulgent, velvety texture.

  • Ratio: 1:14 single espresso shot to steamed half and half
  • Recommended cup: 10-12 oz. coffee mug

2. Cafe Au Lait

Hailing from France, the Cafe Au Lait is a refreshing combination of French Press-brewed coffee and steamed milk.

  • Ratio: 1:1 coffee brewed in a French Press + steamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 8 oz. coffee mug

3. Cappuccino

Cappuccinos are the most popular milk coffee drink in the world!

A cappuccino is typically a single shot of espresso with steamed milk and foam on top. It’s made with more foam than a latte.

  • Ratio: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foam                                              
  • Recommended cup: 5-6 oz. ceramic cup

4. Con Panna

Con Panna is short for Espresso Con Panna, which means “espresso with cream”.

It’s made with a single or double shot of espresso and a generous dollop of fresh Chantilly cream.

  • Ratio: 1:1 single espresso shot to fresh whipped cream
  • Recommended cup: 2-4 oz. espresso cup

5. Cortado

The Cortado (sometimes also called “Piccolo”) is a single shot of espresso combined with foamed milk.

With origins in Spain, it’s a lovely way to enjoy espresso with more pronunciation than a latte, but less acidity than a straight espresso shot.

  • Ratio: 1:4 single espresso shot to steamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 3-4 oz. glass cup

6. Latte

Lattes are creamy, caffeinated sips of heaven (and one of my favorites!).

The drink has an espresso base, but what distinguishes it from other types of coffee drinks is the large ratio of steamed milk to espresso. 

Classic lattes have a dollop of milk foam on top, although some drinkers prefer a bit of whipped cream instead. It is common in the US to add syrup flavoring like vanilla to the drink as well.

  • Ratio: 1:14 single espresso shot to steamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 10-12 oz. coffee mug

7. Galão

The Galão is a Portuguese creation. Sometimes called a mix between the Cappuccino and Latte, its texture is foamier than steamed milk (typical of a latte). 

  • Ratio: 1:3 single espresso shot to foamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 8 oz. glass mug

8. Flat White 

The Flat White originated in Australia and is similar to the Cortado—except it’s made with a double shot of espresso instead of a single and more milk. That means a similar drinking experience with more caffeine.

  • Ratio: 1:4 double espresso shot to foamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 5 oz. espresso cup

9. Macchiato

A Macchiato is an espresso with a small amount of steamed milk. “Macchiato” means “to mark” in Italian. Essentially you are ‘marking’ the espresso with milk. 

For a deeper espresso macchiato, ask for a 1:1 ratio. This essentially gives you a Macchiato with less milk for a stronger flavor.

  • Ratio: 1:2 single espresso shot to foamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 2-4 oz. espresso cup

10. Mocha

A Mocha is basically a latte with chocolate. You can make it with white, milk, dark chocolate, powders, or syrups.

When I was a barista, we used to whisk cocoa powder right into just-pulled espresso before adding steamed milk. Tastes like hot chocolate with a caffeine kick. Delicious!

  • Ratio: 1 espresso shot, ⅓ chocolate + ⅓ steamed milk
  • Recommended cup: 10-12 oz. coffee mug

Types of Iced Coffee 

1. Affogato

Ready for this? Espresso on top of ice cream. Yep. Does that sound like perfection or what?

Well, if you agree, then you might want to make or order an Affogato the next time you’re jonesing for an after-dinner dessert with a kick.

  • Ratio: 1 espresso shot + 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • Recommended cup: 6-8 oz. dessert bowl

2. Cold Brew

You can make Cold Brew by soaking coffee beans in ice-cold water for 12 or more hours.

Remember: The longer you steep it, the stronger the end brew will be.

  • Ratio: 12 oz. cold brew coffee
  • Recommended cup: 16 oz. glass tumbler or Mason jar

3. Espresso Tonic 

An Espresso Tonic might seem like a strange combination, but it’s super refreshing.

The tonic’s carbonation combined with the bitter, fruity notes in espresso over ice is a fun hot weather treat. Try adding a wedge of orange, lime, or lemon for an added dimension. 

  • Ratio: 1:2 espresso or cold brew coffee to tonic water. So, if you have a double shot of espresso, you’d add it to 4 oz. of tonic. 
  • Recommended cup: 6-8 oz. short glass 

Pro Tip: You can also try swapping espresso for cold brew coffee, which creates a lighter beverage that tends to be colder and less intense in flavor. But no crema!

4. Frappe (or Frappuccino) 

With roots in Greece, a Frappe is a cold, blended coffee drink. Made popular by Starbucks, you make Frappes (or Frappuccinos) by blending espresso, milk, sugar, and ice together.

Add a flavored syrup like chocolate or vanilla, if you like. Top your Frappe with whipped cream and enjoy!

  • Ratio*: 1 espresso shot, ¾ cup of whole milk, 8 oz. of ice, sweeteners to taste
  • Recommended cup: 12 oz. glass

*Ratios for Frappes can vary widely depending on your preferred caffeine level and size

5. Nitro Cold Brew

Nitro coffee is like ‘cold brew on tap’. It’s a type of cold-brewed coffee made with nitrogen, so it has a foamy head like draft beer and is even poured from a special nitro tap in coffee houses! 

Beyond the cool factor, nitrogen adds slight carbonation to cold brew for an intriguing mouth feel.

You’ll need a whipped cream dispenser or mini keg if you want to make nitro cold brew at home.

  • Ratio: 8 oz. nitro brewed coffee
  • Recommended cup: 8-10 oz. glass

6. Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is simply brewed black coffee over ice. Since ice waters down the coffee, you’ll want to brew your black coffee at double strength or with half the normal water.

Then, pour it over a tumbler or Mason jar full of ice cubes. Many people prefer iced coffee with creamer since it can have a bitter taste.

  • Ratio: 12 oz. iced coffee
  • Recommended cup: 16 oz. glass tumbler or Mason jar

7. Iced Espresso

Iced Espresso is exactly what it sounds like: A single shot of espresso pulled directly onto ice.

  • Ratio: 1:3 single espresso shot to ice cubes
  • Recommended cup: 4-6 oz. glass cup

8. Shakerato 

Better known in Europe, a Shakerato is a double-shot of Iced Espresso that’s then shaken with a teaspoon of sugar, martini-style.

  • Ratio: 1:2 double espresso shot to ice
  • Recommended cup: 4-6 oz. martini glass

9. Cappuccino Freddo

The Cappuccino Freddo is essentially a cold, blended Cappuccino. It’s very popular in Greece in the summertime!

To create a Cappuccino Freddo, first shake a double shot of espresso with ice. Then top it with foamed, cold milk.

  • Ratio: 1:2 double shot of espresso to cold frothed milk
  • Recommended cup: 6-8 oz. glass

10. Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee’s bold, deep flavor and high caffeine levels is the stuff of legends.

Intense and revitalizing, you can find them in your local Vietnamese cafes.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee’s unique flavor profile is because it’s made with:

  1. Robusta coffee beans
  2. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  3. A Phin filter
  • Ratio: ⅓ medium-grind Robusta coffee beans, ⅓ sweetened condensed milk, ⅓ ice
  • Recommended cup: 16 oz. glass tumbler or Mason jar

Final Thoughts

With so many types of coffee drinks, it’s a wonder they all come from a few types of coffee beans and roasts, isn’t it?

So, what’s next?

Now it’s time to discover ways to make coffee with the most popular brewing methods.

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