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Best coffee drinks for any situation

The most popular coffee types aren’t black, white, with sugar or without. They are the best coffee drinks, with particular brewing methods, exact ingredients and important coffee to milk ratios.

Consumers now want the perfect coffee to drink on the go, or the coffee that will give them that all-important caffeine hit. So in celebration of International Coffee Day, we’re taking a closer look at the world’s best coffees and what makes them special.

The best coffee drinks are:

  • Espresso
  • Flat White
  • Frappuccino
  • Turkish coffee
  • Cappuccino
  • Americano
  • Latte
  • Red Eye coffee

Now let’s take a closer look at them...


What is espresso?

Espresso is not a single type of coffee or drink, but a method of brewing coffee - drank as a standalone beverage but also used as the base for many other coffee drinks.

The preferred method of making coffee in many European countries, espresso originated in Italy, and is thought to have become popular around the turn of the 20th century.

Espresso begins with a finely ground (finer than that used for American filter coffee and other methods that rely on gravity) dark roast coffee, which then has nearly boiling water forcibly filtered through it under high pressure. The resulting liquid is espresso. This is generally done by a machine, though some people consider the coffee from a pot such as a Moka pot to be very close to espresso.

Espresso is served in “shots” of about 30ml and served in a tiny utensil called a demitasse cup.

What does espresso taste like?

Because espresso is so compact and concentrated it tastes very strong and bitter, and has a thicker consistency than coffee brewed by other methods.

Best for...

An after-meal beverage. Espresso contains less caffeine than other coffees (that don’t use espresso as a base), and its shorter brewing time makes it more digestible than other coffees too.

Top tip!

Don’t grind the beans for your espresso until you need them. Espresso is concentrated so it requires the coffee to taste fresh and ground coffee goes stale faster.

Flat White

What is a flat white?

A flat white is a coffee beverage with an espresso base (coffee brewed in the espresso method) and the addition of “microfoam” milk. Microfoam milk has been steamed and made frothy, with small bubbles.

It is similar to a latte, and contains 2 shots of espresso (such as Tucano espresso or an even darker roast) topped in a free-pouring motion with a very fine layer of microfoam milk, which is where the “flat” in the name comes from. This microfoam layer should be between 1mm and 2mm thick, making the drink stronger, smaller in volume and less frothy than a latte.

It’s difficult to pinpoint an origin for the flat white, but the earliest recordings come from Australia in the 1980s.

This drink, unlike a latte, is not commonly served in a long glass but in a medium-sized ceramic cup.

What does a flat white taste like?

A flat white is a combination of thick strong espresso and velvety milk. There is no addition of foam, so the coffee flavour is more pronounced than in other coffees with milk, and it has a glossier, more liquid consistency.
In a flat white the coffee is dominant and the milk supporting, rather than the other way around.

Best for...

Drinking on the go. Flat whites are all liquid, and so will cool slower than coffees with foam. They are also more compact and concentrated than lattes, without being a short drink.

Top tip!

Allow a flat white to stand a little before serving. This will allow the milk to thicken and add texture to the drink.

What is coffee?

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, made from roasted coffee beans.

Coffee beans come in 2 varieties - arabica and robusta (used to make different coffees) and are found in the cherry-like fruits of the coffee plant.

Coffee the drink acts as a stimulant, and is naturally dark-coloured and bitter and acidic in taste.


What is a Frappuccino?

A Frappuccino is a type of iced drink produced by the coffee chain Starbucks, and commonly associated with iced coffee (though not all Frappuccinos actually contain coffee). It’s name is a mix of the words “frappe” (an American term for ice cream milkshake) and “cappuccino” (the Italian coffee drink).

Frappuccinos were developed by an Eastern Massachusetts coffee shop chain called Coffee Connection, which was later bought by Starbucks, who now own the rights to the drink.

The base ingredient is not coffee itself, but a coffee roast syrup, which prevents the ice and liquid of the beverage from separating and maintains its thick, creamy consistency. Other ingredients are then added such as espresso shots, milk, flavoured syrups, spices, flavourings and cream - usually topped with whipped cream.

Frappuccinos are served in a tall glass, as a milkshake might be.

Is Frappuccino just iced coffee?

In a word, no. A Frappuccino is a type of drink trademarked by Starbucks and made using a mixture of special ingredients such as syrup, cream, spices, milk and Starbucks iced coffee. Iced coffee can be as simple as coffee poured over ice.

What does a Frappuccino taste like?

Frappuccinos are sweet and very thick and creamy. The exact taste will depend on the individual ingredients used. Some Frappuccinos have a strong coffee flavour and others are fruity or chocolatey.

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Some popular varieties of the drink include Pumpkin Spice, Caffè Vanilla, Caramel and Apple Crisp Oatmilk.

Best for...

Milk lovers who want a hit of caffeine. Frappuccinos are particularly enticing to those with a sweet tooth, and can even be a type of dessert.

Top tip!

Creaminess is key to a homemade Frappuccino, so a milk frother is a must. In addition to helping thicken the drink itself, you can also use a milk frother to make the whipped cream that tops it.

Do this by whisking thick cream (which can also be used as an ingredient in itself) into stiff peaks for around half a minute.

Turkish Coffee

What is Turkish coffee?

Turkish coffee is a type of coffee made with very finely powdered grounds (finer than espresso grounds), which are left in the drink when served.

Made in a special pot called a cezve (sometimes known as an ibrik in places other than Turkey), powdery coffee grounds - most commonly from the arabica variety of coffee bean - that resemble flour are boiled with water (and sugar if desired) until the mixture begins to froth. It is then taken off the heat and served without filtering. Sometimes the boiling process is repeated to increase the frothiness of the drink.

Whilst any cup can be used for Turkish coffee, it is traditionally served in a handleless cup held between the fingertips. The drink first appeared in Istanbul in the 16th century, brought there by the Ottoman Governor of Yemen. Initially forbidden as a “drug” according to strict interpretations of the Quran, it was eventually accepted by the sultan owing to its popularity amongst the people.

What does Turkish coffee taste like?

Turkish coffee is strong, but not as strong as you might expect. It is generally served as a short drink rather than a long one and so is bold, with a slightly bitter taste unless it has been made with sugar. It’s texture is thicker than some coffees, but the grounds are not especially noticeable as they sink to the bottom of the cup.

Best for...

Leisurely drinking - particularly when the traditional cup is used. Turkish coffee can also be used in the art of fortune telling - much like with tea leaves, the mostly finished coffee can be turned over into the saucer and the patterns that form in the residual grounds can be read.

Top tip!

Never stir Turkish coffee once it has been poured into the cup. This will upset the grounds and prevent them sinking to the bottom, giving the drink a bitty and unpleasant texture.

Is coffee an allergen?

No, coffee is not one of the 14 major food allergens. However, coffee is often served with Milk, which is a major allergen.


What is a cappuccino?

A cappuccino is a popular coffee drink traditionally made of equal parts espresso coffee, milk and foam, though some people make it simply as a single shot of espresso topped with hot milk and then some milk foam.

Although typically associated with Italy, where it was mastered, the cappuccino’s origins go back to Viennese coffee houses of the 18th century and a beverage called “kapuziner” which was later taken to Italy and evolved into the modern cappuccino.

The most important aspect of the drink is its distinct layers (unlike a latte which is a mixed drink) - first of all a shot of espresso made from a dark roast bean is poured into the cup, then an even proportion of hot milk (ideally texturised with the steam wand of the espresso machine), and finally another equal layer of milk foam. A topping of grated chocolate or nutmeg is optional.

What does a cappuccino taste like?

A cappuccino is 2 parts milk to 1 part coffee so it is milkier than many coffees but the espresso taste should hold its own. The milk adds sweetness and creaminess to the strong, slightly bitter coffee.

Some people prefer a “dry” or even “bone dry” cappuccino, where some or all of the milk is swapped out for more foam, which gives a stronger coffee flavour and frothier texture.

Best for...

Drinking in the morning.

Italians don’t drink cappuccinos after noon, and with the high concentration of milk in the drink it's easy to see why - milk is nutritious and a great drink to have at breakfast time, but it can take quite a while to digest and so the earlier in the day consumed the better.

Top tip!

Cold milk is better for foaming than warm or room temperature milk, so use it directly from the fridge to make the top of your cappuccino.

Kopi tervalik is a famed coffee from Indonesia, known for the unusual way in which it is served. After being brewed, the liquid is poured into a glass and stirred and turned upside down on a plate then drunk through a straw.


What is a latte?

Also known as a Caffè latte (literally translated to coffee and milk), a latte is a hugely popular coffee drink made with the ingredients espresso and steamed milk.

Generally on the larger end of coffee drinks, lattes start with either 1 or 2 shots of espresso and are then topped with a layer of steamed milk (but unlike cappuccinos - no milk froth).

How big the layer of milk is can vary depending on the size of the cup - a large bowl type can be used but lattes are commonly served in long glass cups - but generally a latte is 1 third coffee to 2 thirds milk. The drink goes back centuries, and was first mentioned in English-speaking literature (under the term caffè e latte) by writer William Dean Howells in an essay called Italian Journeys in 1867.

In recent years lattes have gained prominence in the coffee industry, and the invention of “latte art”, in which baristas pour the steamed milk into the drink in a way which causes a design to form on the top of the coffee has made the drink especially attractive to social media users.

What does a latte taste like?

A latte is creamy and rich, with a hit of bitter coffee - though the exact flavour can change depending on the coffee beans used for the espresso, for example a dark roast will be bolder whilst Peruvian beans have more undertones of vanilla. What makes a latte distinctive is the milk - whole milk should be used to give the drink’s signature silky texture and slight sweetness.

Best for...

A failsafe choice. The latte is among the world’s most popular coffees and has a coffee to milk ratio palatable to nearly all coffee lovers - making it a must-have on any hot drink menu. Latte art also allows businesses to personalise their lattes.

Top tip!

When putting together your latte, pour the espresso into the cup or glass first and then add milk by pouring it directly into the centre of the coffee from a height of around 8cm. This will ensure the best immersion of the milk and improve the texture.

Is coffee vegan?

Yes, coffee is vegan unless served with cow (or sheep or goat’s) milk.


What is an Americano?

Literally translated as “American” in Italian, an Americano is an espresso coffee diluted with hot water (some people also consider a long filtered coffee an Americano).

The ratio of coffee to water varies from Americano to Americano and personal taste, but typically it is made with 1 or 2 shots of espresso with double the amount of hot water.

It can be made either by putting a (dark roast coffee bean) espresso shot in a cup and then topping with water, or by pouring the water out first and adding the espresso shot/s afterwards. Milk is optional and it can be served in any kind of cup or glass.

The Americano is rumoured to have come into being when American G.Is visited Italy during World War II and preferred to dilute their espresso with hot water to stop it tasting so strong.

What does Americano taste like?

An Americano has a strong, coffee flavour. The bitterness of its taste will depend on how much water has been used, as will the texture, which can range from thin and watery to thicker and similar to neat espresso.

Best for...

Those watching their calorie intake - an Americano has just 15 calories or fewer unless milk or sugar is added.

Top tip!

The perfect temperature for the water in an Americano is around 90-100 degrees celsius, similar to that of the espresso itself. A preheated cup will also enhance the flavour.

Café Bombon, or Bombón coffee is perfect for those with a sweet tooth - popularised in Valencia, Spain, it uses equal parts espresso coffee and sweetened condensed milk. When served in a glass it looks pretty cool too - as the 2 different coloured layers contrast then seep into each other.

Red Eye Coffee

What is red eye coffee?

Red eye coffee is a drink invented and popularised in America. Its base is drip coffee (coffee brewed by dripping hot water through coffee grounds in a filter - the most common way those in the US prepare their coffee), topped off with a shot or 2 of espresso.

Consequently it is one of the strongest and most caffeinated coffee drinks there is.

Red eye coffee is thought to take its name from “red eye” flights, which take place overnight and leave their passengers tired and with red eyes the next morning.

This coffee can be served in any kind of cup or mug and the addition of milk and/or sugar is optional.

What does red eye coffee taste like?

Red eye coffee is extremely strong and so is naturally acidic and bitter tasting. Those who dislike these elements of coffee’s taste may wish to change the flavour with milk or sugar.

Best for...

Tired people who need a hit of caffeine to wake them up.

Top tip!

Adding a small amount of baking soda (less than ¼ teaspoon per pot) can help dilute the harsh taste of strong coffee, and make it more easy to drink.

Where does coffee come from?

Coffee comes from the coffee plant, which grows in Central America, South America, Africa, The Middle East and Southeast Asia.

What these regions all have in common is that they are located on the globe between The Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn, an equatorial zone sometimes referred to as “the bean belt” because the conditions there are ideal for growing coffee.

Currently Brazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee, though Columbia, the second largest producer is arguably more famous for its coffee.

No wonder we're a nation of coffee lovers!

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