There are dozens of different types of coffee drinks available to order around the world. This means that I often find myself standing at the front of the coffee line not knowing what to order. I’ve even given the deer-in-headlights look to a few waiters in countries like France and Italy when they ask me what type of after-dinner coffee I’d like.
I don’t know what the appropriate thing is to order! Essentially, there are a multitude of different coffee drinks that you can order. They each can be made from different types of coffee, with varying levels of caffeine, strength, and additions, like milk or water.
To avoid the embarrassment of not knowing what to order, I’ve compiled a list of coffee drinks that I’ve tried around the world These are the best coffee drinks to order when visiting these countries, but you can also find them at home in ethnic restaurants or even on the Starbucks menu.
If you’re uncertain what coffee drink to order, or what each of the variations contains, you’ll find a detailed summary of coffee descriptions below that will help you tell the difference between the most popular coffee drinks, most of them originating from coffee-producing countries.
This list is for you if you don’t know the difference between a macchiato and a latte or when it is appropriate to order a cappuccino in Italy (see all the other Italian drinks we love).
Different Types of Coffee Drinks
We’ll start with the most popular drinks that you can find on almost any coffee shop menu around the world. This will give you a good base to order from, so you’ll always be prepared with an order when it’s your turn to order. These drinks can all be made at home with an espresso machine, if you’re thinking about getting one.
1. Espresso (or Double Espresso)
There’s no drink easier to make than an espresso. The coffee grounds are packed tightly into the filter and hot water is forced through the filter to create a very strong dark coffee, typically served in 1-2 ounce portions.
You’ll often hear people order a double espresso, which is just twice the amount (read: strength). If you really need a shot of caffeine, a double espresso will perk you right up.
Very popular around the world, the cappuccino is similar to a flat white, only the espresso is blended with extra milk before the milk foam is added. It is typically equally parts espresso, milk and milk foam.
The cappuccino originated in Italy and remains one of the most popular coffee drinks you can order in Italy. However, Italians only drink cappuccino (or any milky coffee) in the morning, and never after a meal.
A latte is similar to a cappuccino, but with more milk and only a thin layer of foam on the top. If you don’t like strong coffee, you’ll likely enjoy a latte.
In most coffee shops, there are dozens of flavored syrups you can add to a latte to give it a bit of flavor. Vanilla lattes and pumpkin spice lattes are two of the most popular version you can get in the United States. If you’re making these at home, we highly recommend this Creme Brulee latte too.
A mocha is essentially a cappuccino or coffee + milk drink with added chocolate, either in the form of cocoa or chocolate syrup. To me, they are the adult version of chocolate milk, only you don’t sound like a child ordering a mocha at a coffee bar.
To make a mocha at home:
- 1 shot of espresso
- 1 cup milk of your choice
- 3 tbsp chocolate syrup
- Whipped cream
- Chocolate shavings (optional)
An Americano is an espresso that has extra water added to it. Americans typically drink a larger cup of lower-strength coffee, while Europeans drink small amounts of high-strength coffee, like an espresso.
When you’re in Europe and want a coffee that resembles what you’re used to drinking at home, you can order an Americano. It’s not a typical filter-brewed coffee, but it’s close.
6. Cafe au Lait
This drink translates as coffee with milk. It’s a strong filtered or brewed coffee (not espresso), with warm milk added. This is the most popular way to order coffee in France and throughout Northern Europe.
It’s not to be confused with a cafe latte, which uses espresso rather than brewed coffee.There are many different ways to order a simple cafe au lait, depending on which country you’re in. For instance, it’s called a cafe con leche in Spain and milchkaffee in Germany.
In Switzerland, there is a popular variation called “café renversé”, which is made with milk as a base to which the coffee is added (the opposite of how it’s usually made).
» See all the other French drinks you must try.
7. Flat White
There’s some debate over where exactly the flat white was invented – was it Australia or New Zealand? While the row rages on, we’re just happy that someone had the foresight to create such a wonderful drink. It wasn’t until Starbucks started serving it that most of the world learned about it, but now it’s rightfully caught and you can order it just about anywhere.
There is only a small difference between a latte and a flat white. They are very similar drinks – steamed milk and espresso. The flat white is just slightly stronger than a latte. Usually a flat white comes in a smaller portion as well.
Learn how to make the perfect flat white.
A cortado originated in Spain. It’s a very similar drink to a flat white, but with a slight difference. It is pure espresso, but it is blended with steamed milk that is not textured or frothed in any way. The balance between the espresso and milk is 1:1, (about half espresso, half milk). While this is a typical way of drinking a small coffee throughout Spain, this drink has become more popular on coffee shop menus around the world.
In order to make a cortado, you need an espresso machine with a milk steamer. You’ll first brew the coffee, then heat the milk and pour it slowly over the top of the coffee. It doesn’t have a frothy top.
» See all the other fantastic Spanish drinks you must try.
The caffé macchiato originated in Italy as an espresso drink for the afternoon. It’s not a full on shot of espresso, nor is it a milky Cappuccino, which is only really acceptable to drink in the mornings. Instead it’s espresso with a touch of milk. The milk tempers the strength and acidity of the espresso slightly.
It varies from the cortado in that it’s not a 1:1 blend of coffee and milk. In fact, it’s just a splash of milk, usually in the form of a foamed top. It’s always (if authentic) served in a small espresso glass.
10. Caffe Crema
Cafe Crema became popular in Southern Switzerland and Northern Italy in the 1980s. It’s an espresso, made with an espresso machine, however the coffee used is more coarsely ground than it would be for a standard espresso and it’s not packed as tightly, so the water flows differently through the grounds as the coffee brews.
A Cafe Crema is served in a larger format than an espresso as well, usually around 6 oz. So while it’s not diluted like an Americano, it is a long brewed espresso, with a different strength than a shot of espresso. Despite the word crema being added, it doesn’t have any milk or cream in it.
11. Café Cubano
This espresso drink originated in Cuba. It is an espresso that is covered with a thick layer of sweet “cream”, which is formed by mixing the coffee with sugar until it foams. You then pour the espresso over the foam, which floats to the top and forms a sort of cap on the coffee.
A Cafe Cubano is pretty sweet, so if you don’t like your coffee sweetened, you might not appreciate this form. If you’re visiting Cuba, you absolutely must try it though. It’s part of the culture and it’s a great sweet treat.
12. Dalgona Coffee
You may have seen this whipped coffee craze showing up all over the internet in late 2019. Dalgona coffee originated in South Korea and became super popular on YouTube for how simple it is: just instant coffee, water and sugar is all it takes to make this creamy whipped topping.
However, Dalgona is very similar to other countries who have been making a whipped topping this way for a very long time (read: Cafe Cubano and Frappe). While it’s not really something totally new, it is mesmerizing to look at and delicious to drink.
To make it, you whip together the three ingredients in equal parts. Then scoop it on top of a glass of iced milk.
We created a unique Dalgona coffee cocktail, which you should obviously try right away.
13. Irish Coffee
This drink is often found on the bar menu, rather than the coffee shop menu. It’s considered a cocktail, though it’s still a coffee drink to me. In the winter, you might find yourself ordering an Irish coffee in the late morning or early evening as a warm pick me up.
Irish coffee consisting of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and demerara sugar, stirred together and topped with thick cream. You then drink the coffee through the cream. It’s sweet, rich and warming, all at the same time. To make one at home, you just need a good Irish whiskey, like Jameson’s, some demerara sugar (or brown sugar), a strong black coffee, and thick homemade whipped cream. Here’s a recipe for an Irish Coffee that we know you’ll love.
14. Turkish Coffee
This drink is made differently than most coffees. You prepare it by boiling water with really fine, medium roast coffee grounds in a wide-bottom copper pot, without a filter.
As the coffee warms over the stove, a thick foam starts to form, which will be transferred to cup. You can then add the desired amount of sugar to each cup of coffee before it’s served. In Turkey, that’s often a lot of sugar. You have to ask for it to be less sweet, if you don’t want it that way.
Turkish coffee is thicker and roastier than espresso. Once you’ve finished the cup (which is typically quite small), you’ll see a thick layer of coffee grounds left on the bottom.
15. Greek Coffee
Greek coffee is very similar to Turkish coffee, only the coffee grounds used are not quite as roasted. The resulting color of the coffee is lighter and has a less pronounced roasted flavor.
It is is boiled in a tall, narrow pot known as a briki, and served with the grounds in the bottom of the cup and the layer of thick foam on the top, called kaimaki.
Greek coffee is also served very sweet. You can ask for it served “metrios” if you only want a little bit of sugar. Variglykos is for full-strength sugar, which could immediately knock all your teeth out. Just saying.
Frappé coffee can also be found in Greece, as well as nearby countries like Cyprus. It’s one of the most popular cold coffee drinks in both countries and locals order it often. It’s the preferred afternoon drink.
It’s a foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee, water and sugar, served over ice in a tall glass. Sound familiar? It’s exactly the same ingredients as the Dalgona. It’s just made with more water, so it’s a tall foamy drink, rather than just a whipped topping. Here’s a recipe for a frappe that you can make at home.
17. Vietnamese Coffee
I fell in love with Vietnamese Coffee while visiting the country. It’s prepared with very fine ground coffee in a filter that sits above your cup and brews while you wait.
At the bottom of a clear, thick glass is a layer of condensed milk. The stainless steel Vietnamese filter sitting on top of the glass and you can watch the water drip slowly into the cup. It takes around 4 minutes for the brewing to complete, so don’t order this if you’re in a hurry.
We make Vietnamese coffee at home all the time now. You can pick up a filter on Amazon. It’s called a Phin. Then all you need is finely ground coffee (preferrably Vietnamese coffee beans).
18. Cafe de Olla
In Mexico, café de olla is made with ground coffee, cinnamon, and piloncillo (known as panela in other countries), which is an unrefined whole cane sugar.
The coffee is made in a traditional earthen clay pot. It’s a very sugary coffee (thanks to the cane sugar) with a delicious cinnamon flavor. It’s not meant to be served with milk. Its meant to be a strong sweet coffee.
This drink is dessert in a glass. It consists of either hot or cold espresso (a single or double shot) topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and maybe even whipped cream and sprinkles or chocolate sauce on top.
We order this in Italy at a gelato shop, where you can pick your gelato flavor. It’s the perfect afternoon snack.
20. Einspänner (aka Viennese Coffee)
The Einspänner coffee comes from Austria. It’s quite similar to a few of the other coffees on this list. It’s made with a strong espresso mixed with sugar as the base. Then it’s topped with a heavy whipped cream that’s been mixed with vanilla and sugar. It’s really quite the dessert in a glass.
See How It’s Made
We haven’t listed every type of coffee available, so we’re giving you a bit more help to decipher your coffee order with the infographic below.
If you’re a visual learner, you can find most of the drinks and their proper ratios on this awesome coffee infographic (Credit: Espresso Field Guide by the aptly named Jay Mug).
If you made it through that long list of the different types of coffee drinks, you can now consider yourself schooled on the proper terms for the coffee you want to order. You won’t have to stare blankly at the barista next time she asks for your order.
Of course, you may also want to do some practical research of your own, in which case you should pull up this list next time you’re at the coffee shop, and try something different.
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Laura is the founder and editor of the travel blogs Savored Sips and Savored Journeys. She is dedicated to sharing the best information about drinks found around the world.