Coffees are complex! There are different types of beans, drinks, roasts, varietals, regions, and a seemingly infinite amount of sub-classifications. It can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned coffee aficionados. 

Whether you are trying to make sense of the menu at your local cafe, or just curious about the difference between roast types, this guide is for you. 

We'll take a deep dive into all the different types of coffee and provide explanations for each.

Types of Coffee Beans

While there are over a hundred different types of coffee plants, there are four main types of coffee beans that are commercially produced: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. 

Arabica and Robusta beans are the most popular, making up well over 90% of the market. While Liberica and Excelsa account for just a tiny percentage of global sales.

Arabica

Arabica coffee is famed for its rich, smooth flavor and characteristic aroma. In addition to being the first type of coffee to have been cultivated, it's the most commonly grown type of coffee, with reports indicating that over 60% of the world's coffee production are Arabica beans. 

It is typically harvested from plants grown at high altitudes in volcanic soils with plenty of rain. 

There are so many varieties of Arabica that you could spend a lifetime tasting them. Some of the more common ones are: Typica, Bourbon, Caturra, and Pacamara. 

They're also usually more expensive to produce than robusta, which in turn means they are more costly to consumers. The cost is partially due to crop yields being lower for Arabica beans than other beans types.

Robusta

The 2nd most common type of coffee beans are Robusta, which account for roughly 35% to 40% of the total global production. 

Robusta beans have higher crop yields and are less susceptible to disease than Arabica, which makes them cheaper to produce. The same qualities that make them good for farming also result in a bean with more astringent & bitter notes.

Those two factors combine to give the perception that robusta beans are somehow inferior to arabica. Many low quality coffee blends do use robusta beans, but that is no reason to assume that all robustas are bad! 

There are many delightful robusta coffees including some arabica/robusta blends that result in very unique tasting experiences. 

Liberica & Excelsa

The final two bean types are liberica and excelsa. They each account for such a small percentage of the total output of commercial coffee beans that you may go your whole life without experiencing them.

Types of Coffee Roasts

Once beans are harvested and processed they are then raw green coffee beans. It is at that point they are sent to coffee roasters to be transformed into the brown beans we all know as coffee. 

Coffee roasts are most commonly categorized into four distinct major categories: light roast, medium roast, medium-dark roast, and dark roast.

Light Roasts

If you're looking for a delicate coffee with natural flavors, a light roast is the perfect choice. Beans that are roasted at this level will be pale brown with no sign of oil. They'll have a decent amount of acidity, and usually a lighter body.

Medium Roasts

Medium roasts are the most common of the 4 and provide a nice balance of acidity, sweetness, and rounded bodies. They should be a medium brown color with very little or no oil present on the bean.

Medium-Dark Roasts

Medium-dark roast beans are coffee that has been roasted to a slightly darker than medium, which commonly results in heavier bodies, and a smooth sweetness.

Dark Roasts

Growing in popularity day-by-day, dark roasts have a distinct bitterness, with deep sweetness on the tongue, and very little acidity.

See Also: Different Types of Coffee Roasts

Types of Coffee Brewing Methods 

Now that we understand the type of beans and how they are roasted, let's take a look at how the beans become drinkable coffee via brewing. 

New advances in technology continue to allow for new and exciting ways of brewing coffee, but the four most common are pour over, drip, french press, and cold brew. 

Pour Over

The traditional method of making coffee is by using a filter-lined cone shaped dripper and  slowly hand pouring hot water over coffee grounds. The brewed coffee slowly drips into a carafe, allowing the delicate flavors to meld together.

Drip Method

The most common method in households across America, this method is a similar process as pour-over but rather than slowly hand pouring water, a machine is used to "drip" the water for a hands-off process. 

Coffee enthusiasts praise drip coffee for its consistency and reliability, but investing in a high-quality drip machine, and knowing the correct ratios and grind sizes to use are the most important factors in making sure your cup tastes great.

Cold Brew 

Not to be confused with Iced Coffee, which is just regular coffee poured over ice, cold brew is a method of brewing in which coffee grounds are left to steep in room temperature water for long periods of time, usually overnight. It results in a very unique and rich texture that some drinkers fall in love with.

French Press

Dating back to the 1850's, this is one of the most common methods used in Europe and has grown in popularity worldwide. 

In this method, coffee grounds are immersed in hot water and then strained (aka pressed) through a fine mesh strainer. The result is a cup of coffee where the natural oils really play a prominent role in the tasting experience. 

See Also: Coffee Brewing Methods

Now that our beans are roasted and brewed, it's time to make our favorite hot coffee drinks!

Black Coffee

The classic cup of coffee in a cafe, coffee shop, or at home. Freshly roasted black coffee in a mug on a cool crisp morning is hard to beat. *Not listed is coffee with cream or sugar, we consider them variations of black. 

Red Eye Coffee

This is black coffee kicked up a notch with the addition of a shot of espresso. If you need a fast hit of caffeine, this is the way. We sell them in our cafes by the name of "Shot In The Dark". 

Café au Lait

Popular in New Orleans and delicious alongside a surgery beignet, this drink is ⅔ drip coffee and ⅓ steamed milk.

Espresso

Espresso is an Italian brewing method in which finely ground coffee is compacted into a filter and brewed under high pressure conditions. The result is a concentrated shot (usually 2oz) of deep, rich, dark, coffee goodness. All of the remaining hot drinks on the list use espresso as a base. 

Macchiato

Espresso topped with steamed milk, usually as a 3 oz drink, with a ratio of 2 parts espresso to 1 part milk. 

Cortado

Espresso topped with steam milk, usually as a 4oz drink, with an exact 1 to 1 ratio of espresso to milk. 

Cappuccino

Espresso topped with steamed milk, but now the ratio shifts to 1 part espresso to 2 parts milk. This is usually served as a 6 oz drink. 

Flat White

Popularized in Australia, it is 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk, with a focus on steamed milk with no foam (aka wet-textured milk). 

Latte

Even further down the coffee to milk ratio is a Latte, which is 1 part espresso to 5 (or more) parts steamed milk. Many latte drinkers will add an extra shot of espresso to theirs, which skews the ratios a bit. You can find lattes in much larger sizes than the previously listed espresso drinks.

Cuban Style

Cuban style isn't one specific drink, but is a spin on all the previously mentioned espresso drinks. Cuban style blends caramelize raw sugar with the espresso before combining with steamed milk. Thus you can have a Cuban style Cortado, Cappuccino, or Latte. 

Americano

The last on our list of hot coffee drinks is the Americano, which was popularized by American soldiers during World War II. The legend is that the soldiers couldn't handle the strong European espressos so they added water to them. Turns out, they are quite delicious! We serve them in our cafe with a 1 to 5 espresso to water ratio, and serve them both hot and cold. 

Types of Cold Coffee Drinks

No type of coffee drink has grown in popularity in recent years more than cold coffee drinks, and for good reason...they are delicious!

Iced Coffee

Some of the best things in life are the simplest and we'd put Iced Coffee on that list. Simply pour any regularly brewed hot coffee over ice and you have a whole new treat! 

Iced Latte

As the name suggests, this is a typical Latte made with espresso but served over ice and substitutes regular milk for steamed milk. 

Nitro Cold Brew

This starts with the regular cold brew process but then the coffee is put into a pressurized keg and infused with nitrogen. When you order a cold brew in our cafe, this is how it's served. 

Types of Coffee Cocktails

Last up on the list are coffee cocktails! 

Bartenders have been pairing coffee with booze for as long as both have existed, and frankly there's no limit to the number of ways to pair the two. 

Here are 3 of our favorites. 

Irish Coffee

This timeless classic combines coffee with a pour of Irish whiskey, blended with sugar, and topped with cream. Perfect on a holiday morning or alongside weekend brunch. 

Espresso Martini

The perfect cocktail to kick off a lively night on the town, this drink combines vodka, espresso, coffee liqueur, and simple syrup. Shake or stir it, either way it's a crowd pleaser. 

White Russian

Not a coffee drink per se, but it uses coffee flavored liqueur, milk, and vodka. They are dangerously delicious and go down smooth. 

October 07, 2022