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Coffee 101: a guide to knowing your macchiato from your mocha

Imagine this: you’re at a café and you’re craving a cuppa coffee. You know you want a strong brew. You know you want some milk, but not too much. But what exactly is that called? A latte? A cappuccino? Or something different altogether?

Knowing exactly what to order can be tricky sometimes, especially when you’re in a store that has an overflow of options. What exactly is the difference between a latte and a flat white? Should you try something new? How do you show off to your Italian friends (who love absolutely love this stuff) or to the Australians (who consider themselves at the centre of a bit of a coffee capital)?

With plenty of coffee types, there’s no end to the ways we can order our coffee, each coming with distinctive tastes and aromas. Beyond these, it’s also about the milk and water proportions, which essentially impact taste — and yes, name — of the beverage you’re sipping. Whether you’re mood of the day is to sip a high-caffeinated espresso or you want to indulge in a temptingly creamy latte, we’ve curated a coffee guide for all newbies and coffee enthusiasts. Perfect your coffee order once and for all and thank us later, caffeine aficionados.

[Featured and Hero image credit: Unsplash/Nathan Dumlao]

Image Credit: High Rise Coffee Roasters


The espresso, also known as a Short Black, is the purest coffee experience you can get. Espressos are intense, full-flavoured, and relatively bitter in taste.
To master a shot of espresso, timing is essential. To make one shot, shoot boiling water under hot pressure while brewing finely ground coffee at 7-9 grams per shot. This process itself is called “pulling a shot”. To get a good brew, the hot water needs to pass through a span of 25-30 seconds. The “cream” which is a froth of reddish-brown colour forms air bubbles producing a unique aroma and that’s a sign that you’ve got said perfect shot.
Whilst an espresso is enjoyed by some on its own, it is also the foundation for the majority of other coffees to go on this list. Consider the espresso as the king.
Why order this?
If you need a quick hit, it’s definitely the most intense and effective.

Image Credit: Starbucks


The Americano is a favourite morning drink amongst caffeine lovers. “Caffe Americano” is basically an espresso that’s been diluted with hot water. It’s strong and bitter just like an espresso, but with a higher content of water and no milky texture. Sometimes, in the U.S., it could also be known as filter coffee, simply due to its brewing method which is using a filter machine or drip coffee.  

How to make it?
A shot of espresso
Add water to dilute the espresso shot 

  • Why order this?
    Get your black coffee in non-shot form. It’s a great alternative for when you want to drink a larger cup of caffeine that’s still somewhat strong.
Image Credit: White Horse Coffee

Long Black 

A Long Black is often confused with an Americano because it looks very similar. Commonly found in Australia and New Zealand, the Long Black is rather made by pouring two shots of espresso (or ristretto) over hot water (the process here is the key). This way the beverage retains the cream and is less voluminous, giving it a strong flavour. 

How to make it?
Fill your mug with water
Add an espresso shot

Why order this?
If you like Americanos, but you need something stronger.  

Image Credit: Coffee Gear Spy


Ristretto is extremely bitter and thick. The Ristretto is made from a short shot of espresso with finely ground coffee beans and half the amount of water. The result? The ‘restricted’ shot contains more of a concentrated flavour with the comfort of a certain sweetness you wouldn’t find in an espresso.

How to make it?
A shot of espresso
Half the amount of water

Why order this?
If you enjoy intense coffee but don’t like espressos, go for this one.  

Image Credit: Starbucks

Espresso Macchiato 

Consider this the espresso’s edgy sibling. A Macchiato is an espresso with a dollop of foamed milk right on top. Do not confuse it with a latte macchiato though. Macchiato here is more of a milder side to an espresso, and you can go for either short macchiatos or long macchiatos. It’s not as strong as your espresso shot but it’s surely more intense than your cappuccino. Macchiatos are often referred to as “stained”, because it’s like there’s a ‘stain’ of milk on your espresso.

Image Credit: Nespresso

Latte Macchiato  

The emphasis for this coffee is the milk. A latte macchiato is milk stained by a shot of espresso, where the coffee has more milk than a latte and less than an espresso.  A short macchiato might be bitter, but it’s less intense than an espresso shot. A long macchiato contains a double shot of espresso that makes it strong and bitter in taste.  

How to make it?
Short Macchiato:
A shot of espresso
A dollop of milk and foam 

Long macchiato:
Two shots of espresso
A dollop of steamed milk and foam  

Why order this?
If you want an espresso, but desire something slightly moderated or subdued by a pinch of milk.  

Image Credit: Starbucks

Flat White 

The Flat White is another popular breakfast drink to kick-start your day. Flat whites are very similar to cappuccinos but lack the flavour of chocolate that a cappuccino usually brings to the table. It is rather a dairy-heavy beverage with a strong taste of coffee that is made with a thin layer of microfoam. The drink is very popular in Australia and New Zealand, and interestingly, both often claim to have invented this creamy beverage.  

How is it made?
A single shot of espresso
Steamed Milk  

Why order this?
You simply love milk with a pinch of tasteful coffee.

Image Credit: Starbuck


Mocha, also known as Mochaccino, is where coffee meets chocolate. It’s a latte with added chocolate, mellowing down the bitterness of an espresso shot. It’s also topped with chocolate powder to give it a little zest. The best part? It blends in seamlessly with marshmallows to satisfy your sweet cravings. 

How is it made?
A single shot of Espresso
Steamed Milk
Milk foam
Chocolate powder  

Why order this?
You want to drink hot chocolate but also need a little caffeine in your system.

Image Credit: Starbucks


The cappuccino steals the show when it comes to the one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world. This three-layered drink contains a shot of espresso, a shot of steamed milk, and then comes a layer of frothy milk. Cappuccinos are often decked with chocolate too. With a creamy texture and a higher caffeine content than a latte, this is an easy-going option for coffee lovers.  

How is it made? 

  • Double Shot of espresso 
  • Steamed milk and foamed milk  

Why order this?  

If you prefer a caffeine-heavy beverage with milky texture. 

Image credit: Starbucks


The latte is the mildest one out of all the espresso-based drinks. A latte has less milk than a cappuccino, and tends to sway more towards a sweeter side. Newbies can easily order a latte if they are just getting into the caffeine routine. You can also add flavours like vanilla, chocolate, or even hazelnut to customise it the way you like.  

How is it made?
One shot of espresso
Steamed milk
Top with milk-foam
Add flavour  

Why order this?  

If you love your milk more than your coffee. 


Got kids? Get them a babyccino. This cute sip is made up of warm milk with cocoa powder or cinnamon without any (actual) coffee.  

What is it made of?
Milk Foam
Cocoa or cinnamon powder 

Why order this? 
Make your baby a part of your coffee club.   

Image Credit: Uniquely Thai

Cafe Boran

Bangkokians, looking for some Thai flavour for your cuppa? Cafe Boran is an ancient coffee that is not only rich in flavour, but deliciously sweet. The beverage is often made with dark roasted robusta, brown sugar, corn, brown rice, sesame, soybeans, salt, butter, and even tamarind seeds. Unlike espressos that require espresso machines, ground coffee is placed in a ‘sock filter’ and drained in boiling water. Afterward, you can add some sweetened condensed milk or sugar as you like.
Why order this?
You can’t be a true Bangkokian if you haven’t sipped this one.

Coffee 101: a guide to knowing your macchiato from your mocha

Alisha is a passionate dancer and is always creating her own choreographies. She is a fan of rom-com novels, a coffee-drinker who loves tea, and is always on-the-go for her midnight chocolate cravings. She hopes to tick-off her never-ending bucket list one day by hosting her own travel show.


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