The Different Kinds of Coffee Explained

The Different Kinds of Coffee - Tin Cup Coffee Nashville TN

Coffee is very much a culture. It’s been around for hundreds of years and has been represented differently throughout our culture. The high-level of caffeine meant people no longer required a sip of ale to give them energy at the start of their day. It gained speed in the early 1900s and has entered its third-wave focusing on luxury coffee houses. New drinks have popped up over time making it a bit challenging to get your order right. As Nashville’s best coffee shop, we wanted to break down the most common coffees and terminology.

What is Espresso?

Let’s start by asking “what is espresso?” It’s the foundation of the beverages we’re about to discuss. Understanding what the espresso consists of will help you decide which type of coffee best suits your taste.

Espresso is measured in “shots” and is made from finely ground coffee beans. The type of coffee bean doesn’t matter as much as they how they are ground and brewed. The water needs to be around 192-198 degrees Fahrenheit and brewed for 22-28 seconds. The grounds need to be fine enough that they yield 45 mL of liquid after brewing.

The espresso is described as the purest form of coffee drinking. You can modify the strength by choosing light or dark roasts.

Different Types of Coffee


How it’s made: A shot of espresso plus hot water for diluting.  

Ordering an Americano
Maybe one of the most popular beverages drunk at breakfast, the Americano’s history dates back to the World War. American soldiers tried to preserve their coffee storage by adding water to espresso shots. It’s a bit bitter as traditionally you take it without milk, sugar, or flavorings.


How it’s made: espresso plus steamed milk at a 1:3 ratio. Foam is minimal.

Ordering a Latte
While the Americano has water to dilute the espresso the latte utilizes milk. It might be the second most popular coffee drink and is sometimes referred to as cafe au lait. You can choose this kind if you want something mild in taste. It’s not uncommon to add sugar or flavored syrups.


How it’s made: Two shots of espresso plus steamed and foamed milk.

Ordering a Cappuccino
Lattes and cappuccinos are similar in many ways. Both drinks have espresso and milk. The most significant difference is a cappuccino has two shots of espresso and more foam than a latte. Wanting a stronger drink should lead you towards a cappuccino. In Italy, the beverage is traditionally served after meals as a dessert.

Flat White

How it’s made: shot of espresso and steamed milk.

Ordering a Flat White
We can already hear you asking, “isn’t this the same as a latte?” Not necessarily. A flat white has zero foam and is made from milk or heavy cream to reduce those odds. The name flat white is from New Zealand and Australia where the drink is served at breakfast.


How it’s made: espresso plus chocolate powder, steamed milk, and foam.

Ordering a Mocha
A sweet tooth will respect the mocha as it is one of the most dessert-like drinks on our list. Sometimes they are called mochaccinos, but you can call them mocha for short. Anyone new to coffee drinking might like to start with a mocha because it’s more or less a hybrid of coffee and hot chocolate.


How it’s made: espresso and foamed milk.

Ordering a Macchiato
Here is another example of a drink that sounds similar to one already found in our list. Macchiato is very similar to a cappuccino but stronger in flavor. It’s served in an espresso sized cup which means there is less foamed milk. It’s an excellent option for someone who wants to reduce the acidity level in an espresso.

Coffee Drink Glossary

Now that we’ve broken down the different types of the most popular coffees there are a few terms you might hear or get asked while ordering.

  • Black Coffee – coffee served without anything additional like milk, sugar, or flavored syrup.
  • Filtered/Drip Coffee – a type of brewing method where the coffee is in a paper filter and the water passes through slowly dripping into a cup.
  • French Press – a brewer. You pour in the grounds and water than plunge it after letting it steep.
  • Percolate – another brewer usually made on the stove where the water is cycled through to achieve the desired strength.
  • Cold Brew Coffee – The use of cold water to brew the coffee. The acidity level in a cold brew is much lower.
  • Iced Coffee – Made from the hot brew method and served with ice.
  • Irish Coffee– When whiskey and cream are added to coffee. Sometimes it’s served with sugar.

Nashville Coffee House

Take your new-found knowledge to the Tin Cup. We try to address coffee making that is both approachable and crafted. Our baristas are highly-skilled at producing the best cup and can share their knowledge with anyone who is looking to expand their palette. Instead of making it challenging to order a drink to your liking, you can express your interests to our baristas who can make recommendations.