Most of us are creatures of habit and routine, and that can be comforting and helps us to avoid having to make fresh decisions every time that we carry out an everyday action. However, it can also mean that we get stuck in a rut, and the familiar can start to feel a little bit stale and boring.
This can all too easily happen to us in our choice of food and drink. Despite usually having a range of excellent options to choose from, we can tend to pick the same things day in, day out, including ordering the same brew each morning in your favourite artisan coffee shop.
There are so many types on the menu board that it can be easier to stick with what you know. If you want to try something different but are not quite sure what might suit you best, here is a guide to the various different coffee preparation methods and how they affect the strength, flavour and texture of the drink.
The espresso is the bedrock on which many other styles of coffee are based. It’s made by forcing a small amount of nearly boiling water through ground coffee beans, and gives a very intense and concentrated flavour.
Because of the higher caffeine content, it’s served in smaller quantities, although the variety of bean and roast method also affects the intensity and flavour. The length of the espresso shot can be reduced, standard, or long, depending on the desired strength.
The measurement does not refer to the amount of liquid used, but how finely the beans are ground, with a finer ground used for a reduced length and a coarser ground used for a long.
An americano is simply a shot of espresso with added hot water. THere is some debate about whether the hot water is poured first and the espresso shot added to it, or vice versa, and methods vary depending on preference. An americano can be served half and half, or a third espresso and two thirds water.
Some coffee shops will serve an americano with milk, but traditionally it’s served black. It’s an ideal choice for when you want a strong and robust flavoured brew to get you going in the morning.
It is thought the name americano originates from WWII, when American soldiers posted in Italy found the traditional espresso too strong for their taste, and started to make their own version with added hot water.
The latte is a favourite choice for those who really relish the combination of intense espresso and smooth steamed milk. It provides a more subtle flavour that makes it accessible for those who are not regular coffee drinkers, so it’s a good choice if you are new to the whole experience.
A latte is traditionally made from one or two shots of espresso, steamed milk and topped with a layer of frothy milk. This allows baristas to get creative with the presentation of the drink, and you may find that the foamed milk is shaped into a swirl or other pattern, sometimes known as ‘latte art.’
A cappuccino is similar to a latte, but it’s made with equal parts steamed and foamed milk for a stronger flavour. It’s traditionally served with a dusting of chocolate or cinnamon on top, although you can request that this step is skipped if you prefer. If you don’t consume dairy products, most cafés will offer alternatives such as oat or coconut milk.
The flat white
The flat white is a relatively new method of preparing coffee, but it’s already become a firm favourite with aficionados. It’s made with micro-foamed coffee,which is steamed milk infused with air to give an extra smooth taste and texture.
The microfoam is added to one or two shots of espresso, and the coffee is served in a smaller cup than the latte to give a stronger taste. The amount of caffeine in each drink is about the same, but a latte or cappuccino has a higher ratio of milk to coffee.
Another more recent invention, the cortado is another smaller sized coffee, although it should not be confused with a flat white. It’s simply equal parts espresso and steamed milk, creating a pleasing bold flavour with no frothy texture. Perfect for when you want a strong and straightforward pick-me-up.
Cortado is in fact a Spanish word that translates as “to cut.” This refers to the process of mixing the espresso with milk to reduce the acidity of the drink, and as you might expect, it’s a very common way of serving coffee in Spain and Portugal.
A macchiato is an espresso with a thin layer of milk foam on top, and can be served with a double or single shot of espresso or an extra layer of steamed milk depending on personal preference. It’s basically a stronger cortado with less milk and the taste is more bitter.
A mocha is an indulgent sweet coffee to savour when you have a relaxed moment or when you are having a good old catch up with your friends. The name comes from a high quality type of Arabica coffee bean that is grown in Mocha, Yemen, although it can also be a reference to the chocolate flavour or both the bean and the drink.
A mocha can be made simply by mixing hot chocolate and espresso, but a barista will generally prepare the drink with chocolate syrup, steamed milk, and a layer of whipped cream with chocolate sprinkles on top. The chocolate flavour can be milk or dark depending on personal preference.
The bitter taste of the espresso is beautifully balanced out by the sweetness of the chocolate to create a luxurious velvety drink with a creamy texture. A real treat of a beverage that is a firm favourite for lazy Sunday mornings or simply whenever you want a change from your usual weekday morning choice.