Coffee Drinks Unveiled: A Beginner's Guide

Updated 8/17/2023 by: Christian Hall

Walking into a coffee shop might feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you're not familiar with the various coffee drinks on the menu. While some folks are well-versed in coffee terminology, many of us still wonder about the differences between a latte and a cappuccino.

The key thing to remember with coffee drinks is that the vast majority of them solely revolve around the balance of espresso, milk, temperature, and size. Let's delve into some of the most commonly ordered coffee drinks and explore where their differences lie:


Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

An espresso is a concentrated shot of pure coffee extracted by pressurizing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. Served in a small cup, it has a layer of crema on top. This layer is a sign of a well-pulled shot, a blend of coffee oils and gases. Espressos are meant to be consumed quickly and offer a strong and intense coffee flavor.


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The macchiato offers a slight twist on the classic espresso. It's made by adding dollop of frothed milk to a shot of espresso. This combination balances the bold coffee taste with a touch of milk's smoothness. These differ from latte macchiatos, which much more closely resemble lattes and include espresso topped with a large portion of steamed milk.


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The cortado brings us a shot of espresso with a generous amount of steamed milk. This mix creates a bolder flavor compared to a macchiato, with the milk softening the espresso's intensity. Originating from Spain, the cortado is served in a larger glass, making it a warmer and smoother choice.


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A cappuccino combines equal parts of espresso, steamed milk, and foam. The result is a balanced and creamy experience. Often, baristas create foam designs on the surface, showcasing their skills.


Photo by Taisiia Shestopal on Unsplash

With a higher milk-to-espresso ratio, the latte offers a milder coffee taste and a creamy texture. It's a go-to choice for those who prefer a less intense coffee flavor. The latte is also the largest of the coffee options we've coffered thus far, often coming in 12 or 16 oz sizes. 


Photo by Kitera Dent on Unsplash

The mocha combines espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate. Depending on the café, you might get a dose of melted chocolate or chocolate syrup. Some mochas are topped with whipped cream for added richness.

Finding the Drink for You

As you explore coffee options, these familiar drinks present a variety of flavors and experiences. From the straightforward essence of an espresso to the comforting taste of a mocha, each coffee drink offers a distinct way to enjoy coffee culture.

Whether you're a coffee expert or just trying it for the first time, Commonwealth Joe has something for you! With a wide range of beans roasted at our Maryland roastery and brewery, you're sure to find a coffee in CWJ's catalog that's right for you. Head over to our website to check out our coffee collection or try our Roaster's Choice subscription to sample our whole coffee offering.

Blog post assisted by ChatGPT

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