A Beginner's Guide to the Different Types of Coffee

If you've ever wondered what a Dalgona is or find it difficult to tell the difference between a Latte, Macchiato and a Ristretto, this is the place for you to get your questions answered.

By Lifestyle Guide

June 16 2020

If you've ever wondered what a Dalgona is or find it difficult to tell the difference between a Latte, Macchiato and a Ristretto, this is the place for you to get your questions answered.

Understanding the different types of coffee will not only help you navigate the coffee menu with confidence when you're at a cafe but also allow you to appreciate coffee better as you go about finding the perfect brew for yourself. In this beginner's guide, we'll give you an introduction to all the different types of coffee from the espresso to the Mochaccino.

The Different Types of Coffee Drinks:


The foundation of all coffee drinks, the Black Coffee is essentially ground coffee beans steeped in hot water. It is one of the purest coffee experience you can have with its powerful and bitter taste that not everyone would be accustomed to. Most people who are health conscious yet love their coffee would take the Black for their caffeine kick as it does not contain any sugar, cream or milk. A 12oz brewed black coffee has about 120 mg of caffeine (10mg per ounce), depending on the type of coffee beans used.


Espresso is strong black coffee with one main difference in its brewing style - it is made by forcing and pressurizing a small amount of very hot water through finely-ground, compacted coffee for 20 to 30 seconds to produce a concentrated drink. As the caffeine is highly concentrated, the espresso has a more substantial effect and can be more rapidly assimilated into your body compared to other types of coffee. Served in shots, a 2oz double espresso or Doppio has about 80 mg of caffeine (40mg per ounce), depending on the type of coffee beans used. 

Cafe Latte 

A beginner coffee drink well-liked by many, the Cafe Latte is simply made with a shot of espresso and steamed milk. The steamed milk reduces the acidity and bitterness of the espresso in the beverage, and it is also usually sweetened with a flavour shot of anything from chocolate flakes to pumpkin spice. 

Cafe Au Lait (a close twin to the Cafe Latte)

Perfect for the coffee minimalist who would appreciate a little more flavour, the Cafe Au Lait is very similar to the Cafe Latte in that both are made with a combination of espresso and hot (usually steamed) milk. The difference is that the Cafe Au Lai is paired with milk in a 50/50 ratio while in a Cafe Latte, the ratio is usually two parts milk and one part coffee. The Cafe Au Lait is also traditionally served in a white mug while the Cafe Latte is served in a tall glass.


An Italian term for American coffee thought to have originated from US soldiers in Italy during the 2nd World War, the Americano is essentially a small shot of espresso as the base turned into a large cup of coffee with the addition of more hot water. By making it more diluted and less concentrated, the coffee drink then becomes more palatable to those who are unable to handle the strong bitter aftertaste of the espresso. 

Long Black

The Long Black is similar to the Americano but made in an opposite way by pouring an Espresso (or Ristretto) into a cup of hot water. The difference this makes is that the Long Black retains the crema of the coffee (that signature tan-colour foam on top of a freshly-pulled espresso), is less voluminous, and more strongly flavoured than the Americano. Basically, water first and espresso second makes a Long Black while the other way round makes an Americano. 


Similar to a latte and as one of the most popular coffee drinks, the Cappuccino is made with a shot of espresso forming the base, followed by a short of steamed milk and a thick layer of frothy, foamy milk. There is also usually a topping of chocolate shavings or cinnamon powder on top for extra indulgence. It makes small wonder then that the Cappuccino is a typical breakfast coffee in Italy.


The Ristretto, which means "restricted" in Italian, is a regular espresso but brewed with half the amount of water. This results in a smaller and more concentrated coffee drink but with a bolder, sweeter and more intense flavour. 


Pandering to all the chocolate lovers out there, the Mocha is a combination of chocolate, espresso and steamed milk. With the addition of chocolate syrup or powder, this coffee drink has a rich, creamy and chocolatey flavour that contrasts nicely with the acidity of the espresso. If you are just entering the world of coffee, the Mocha would be a lovely starting point.  

Macchiato (also known as a Piccolo Latte)

The Macchiato is similar to a Cappuccino, but with a dollop of foamed milk that mellows the espresso's bitter taste. Macchiato, which means "mark" or "stain' in Italian, is named in reference to the mark made on the surface of the espresso with the pouring of foamed milk. It is usually more potent than a Cappuccino but also smaller and traditionally served in an espresso-sized cup. 

Flat White

Originating from New Zealand and Australia, the Flat White is made with steamed milk poured over a shot of espresso - essentially a stripped-down Cappuccino without the foam or powder on top. 


For moments of special indulgence, the Affogato is where coffee and ice-cream come together in a fun twist. Made with a shot of espresso and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, you can choose the Affogato when you want to have your caffeine fix and sugar rush at the same time. 

Red Eye

Coined after midnight flights where you are fatigued the next morning with red eyes, the Red Eye is a full cup of hot brewed coffee with an espresso shot mixed in that would give you that extra caffeine kick when you most need it. Caffeine: 250-400mg of caffeine in one cup 

Black Eye

Simply put, if the Red Eye isn't enough to keep you awake, consider the Black Eye coffee that would feel like a punch in the face. Most popular among students, the Black Eye coffee is highly intense with two espresso shots providing that much-needed caffeine kick - and almost guaranteed to wake you up.

Green Eye (also known as Dead Eye or Purple Eye)

The Green Eye is a hardcore coffee and the ultimate evolution of the Red and Black Eye with a triple shot of espresso that would almost certainly result in a mad rush of caffeine pumping through your veins. Take the Green Eye only in times of emergencies when you severely need that extra boost, kick and jump all in one. 


Meaning "short" in Italian, the Cafe Breve is an American variation of the latte and consists of 1/4 espresso, 1/2 steamed milk and 1/2 milk foam. Compared to the latte, it has a richer taste and a greater volume of foam. Most coffee lovers considered the Cafe Breve sweet enough without the need to add more sugars or sweeteners. 


Hailing from Spain, the smooth Cortado coffee drink is brewed with an equal balance of espresso and steamed milk. It is similar to the Macchiato in that both are made with espresso and milk, have an intense taste, and they're both classic European recipes. However, the difference between them is the ratio of milk to coffee and the type of milk used. The Italian Macchiato uses foamy, frothy milk (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) while the Spanish Cortdao uses steamed milk (same portion as the espresso) which gives it a smoother taste and appearance. 


A rising star in the coffee world, the Dalgona coffee became an internet sensation during the COVID-19 lockdown when coffee lovers stuck at home started experimenting with new coffee recipes. It's made by stirring equal portions of instant coffee, sugar and hot water together into a creamy froth before adding it to either hot or cold milk. Dalgona Coffee was coined when South Korean actor Jung Il-Woo found that the new coffee taste was similar to that of dalgona, a type of Korean honeycomb toffee.

Vienna Coffee

A Vienna Coffee is made with two shots of espresso and infused with cream as a substitute for milk and sugar, hence melding the intense flavours of the espresso with a smooth creaminess. It is also sometimes topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles for added sweetness. 

Turkish Coffee

Known for its powerful taste (yes, even more potent than the espresso), the Turkish coffee is prepared by boiling very finely powdered roast coffee beans a few times in a cezve (a Turkish metal pot). Sugar is sometimes added as well depending on the intended sweetness level. 

The more foam on top of the coffee, the better it is considered to be.

Vietnamese Coffee

One main difference that sets Vietnamese coffee apart from other coffees is its use of the Robusta coffee bean instead of the usual Arabica coffee bean that results in a much stronger and distinctive taste. Vietnamese coffee is almost always drip coffee and can be served hot or cold with sweetened milk. 

Vietnamese Egg Coffee is another variant where beaten egg yolks are added to the coffee together with sugar and milk. The final concoction creates a unique contrast between the thick and dark Vietnamese coffee and light, airy foam of egg yolk and condensed milk.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee is a special cocktail where black coffee comes together with Irish whisky and sugar - with a thick dollop of whipped cream at the top. While it's not likely that you'll get drunk from this coffee, it will most likely improve your mood and give your body and mind a strong boost. 

Ipoh White Coffee

A very popular coffee drink in Malaysia and Singapore, Ipoh White Coffee is made by roasting coffee beans with palm oil margarine and served with condensed milk. The term "white coffee" does not refer to the colour of the coffee or coffee beans but is instead a reference to how the drink is brewed - often with added milk or creamer that results in a light beige colour.