How to Find the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Before working as a part-time barista, I had no idea what the difference between a ‘latte’, ‘cappacino’ or ‘americano’ was, let alone a ‘flat white’ or ‘macchiato’. After a few years, it became readily apparent to me that I’m not the only one. With the average price of a medium latte at Costa Coffee amounting to £2.45 – over half my hourly rate as a sixteen year old – a lot of people stick with what they know because it’s too much time and money to experiment. Today, however, I’m going to explain the different types of coffee, how each one should be made and which one is the perfect cup for you so you don’t have to.

For a caffeine-kick:

An espresso is a single or double shot of coffee that’s made by forcing steam through ground coffee beans. Even though, an espresso is easy to make, it’s often difficult to master. The taste shouldn’t be bitter, sour or watery; if it is it most likely hasn’t been extracted properly. Not to mention, both the consistency of coffee and the crema (foam) on top should be thick. An espresso is the perfect cup of coffee to pry your eyes open with, regardless of whether you’re starting your day or working through the night.

For a caffeine-kick with a twist:

A macchiato is a single or double shot of coffee with a dash of frothy steamed milk; it’s essentially a fancy espresso. Wait – how is crema different from frothy steamed milk you ask? Crema comes from the release of carbon dioxide when the espresso is extracted under pressure. Whereas, a dash of frothy milk will soften the coffee. Espresso’s are an aquired taste because they defintely have a strong kick and so a macchiato may be a good alternative.

For no-fuss coffee:

An americano is a drink of espresso coffee which has been diluted with hot water. The mark of a high quality americano isn’t too disimilar from an espresso. The shot of coffee should always be added on top of the hot water, not the other way around to ensure the crema is thick. Bear in mind, an americano is often considered the default coffee that you will be given if you ask for a ‘white’ or ‘black’ coffee not a latte etc. An americano is the ideal cup of coffee if you’re looking or something plain and simple.

For silky coffee:

My personal favourite is a latte which is a drink of espresso coffee and entirely hot steamed milk. The espresso can be added either first or last, however, if you’re trying to make a pattern it must be first. The milk should ideally be poured from a relatively high position and then gradually lowered. Afterwards, there should only be a small layer of froth (about the width of a two-pound coin). A latte is the perfect cup of coffee if you want something smooth and not too dense.

For frothy coffee:

A cappuccino is a drink of espresso coffee and milk that has been frothed with pressurised steam. The shot of coffee should go into the cup first, then the milk and ideally the froth will be poured in such a way that it will form a circle with a rim of coffee around the edge. The way in which the quality of a cappacino can be determined is by placing a spoon on top of the froth and if it sinks slowly the milk has been properly frothed. A cappacino is the ideal drink for a bit of fun because the froth creates a base for toppings such as chocolate sprinkles.

For the coffee connoisseur: 

To an extent, a flat white is a drink of espresso coffee and hot steamed milk. The first difference between a flat white and other cups of coffee is that it is always served in a small mug. Despite that, the amount of espresso remains the same, which means a flat white has a higher proportion of coffee. The art of a flat white, however, is all in the milk. The steamed milk (almost always full fat) used in a flat white is more accurately referred to as ‘microfoam’ and that essentially means it has a creamy texture and glossy finish. A flat white is an absolute must if you’re passionate about coffee.

P.S. Don’t forget your reusable coffee cup!

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