Hey coffee lovers! Ready for a journey through the wonderful world of American coffee? We're exploring the top coffee drinks that make our mornings brighter and our days more flavorful.
These Are the Top 7 Espresso-based Drinks That Define American Coffee Culture
In the vast landscape of American coffee culture, a symphony of flavors and aromas captivates the senses. From bustling New York streets to chill West Coast beaches, coffee aficionados enjoy a diverse range of espresso elixirs. In this journey through the wonderful world of American coffee preferences, we unveil the seven most popular coffee drinks, each with its own unique blend of charm and character.
Settle in with your favorite espresso drink – mine is a luscious mocha latte - and let’s see where it ranks!
7. Flat White: The Coffee Wonder from Down Under
The flat white has emerged as a robust contender for America’s coffee crown. Born in Australia and New Zealand, this drink has firmly established itself in American coffee culture. It's like the rebel in the coffee family, with a higher ratio of espresso to microfoam, delivering a punchier flavor. If you’re craving the unapologetic embrace of rich espresso, with just a hint of creamy indulgence, this is your bold beverage bestie.
6. Macchiato: Markedly More Robust Espresso Drink
Most espresso drink originated in Italy, and the macchiato is no different. The word itself translates as “stained,” as in a shot of espresso stained with milk, or latte. In the pantheon of espresso drinks, macchiato has the least foam, followed by cappuccino, and then café latte. The macchiato's ability to deliver a nuanced coffee experience makes it a hidden gem for those who appreciate the beauty of subtlety. I firmly believe it only missed the top five because it’s overshadowed by it’s immensely popular creamier cousins.
5. Americano: Simple, Yet Elegant Espresso Shots
The humble Americano is like the black t-shirt of coffee – simple, but oh-so-stylish. Against a backdrop of lattes and mochas, it even sounds sophisticated when you order one. But the drink has very unsophisticated origins: American GIs in Italy during World War Two were unaccustomed to the strong espressos, so they watered them down. The result is a smooth and bold brew, which you can tweak by adjusting the water-to-espresso ratio. The Americano’s simplicity and accessibility for a wide range of tastes makes it the go-to for many.
4. Cafe Mocha: An Indulgent Coffee Treat
Some may argue that a Café Mocha is nothing more than a latte with hot cocoa mixed in. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s not far from the truth. But, as a stand-alone coffee order, it ranks at number four in our top five. A host of similar drinks have been gaining in popularity over the years, including fall’s ubiquitous Pumpkin Spice Latte. So far, though, nothing has dethroned mocha as the indulgent delight we love to love. According to Starbucks, this is the drink I order the most, but that’s only because Chestnut Praline is only available during the holiday season.
3. Cappuccino: A Frothy Symphony of Coffee and Cream
Moving up the ranks, the charming cappuccino lands at number three. This Italian-born creation has woven itself into the fabric of American coffee culture with its perfect balance of espresso and steamed milk, topped with a fluffy cloud of foam. Although it’s often served in a smaller cup, cappuccino is a big win for those who love the harmony of bold espresso and luscious milk – or milk alternative - foam. Again, cappuccino is midway between a macchiato and a latte in terms of milk content. Some people feel cheated when their cappuccino seems only half-full, which is due to the amount of light and airy foam. When there’s not a café in sight, this is the espresso drink I make myself most often.
2. Espresso: The Bold Coffee Foundation
The bold espresso finds itself in the number two position. Although, you could argue that it is America’s favorite, because every drink in this list starts with an espresso shot as the base for its caffeinated magic. It’s a robust coffee drink on its own, served as a single or double shot, called a Doppio, or as a Ristretto with all the coffee but half the water. Originating in Italy, this concentrated shot of coffee is the purest form of the bean's essence. Its intense coffee flavor makes it the ideal grab-and-go wake-up shot.
1. Latte: The Creamy Canvas of Coffee Flavor
The beloved latte sits atop the list of America’s favorite coffee drinks. What sets the latte apart is its luxurious and creamy texture, offering a milder coffee experience compared to the intense shots found in other drinks. Blending espresso with more steamed milk than you’d find in a cappuccino, then topping with a thin layer of foam, the latte has been called a hug in a mug. It’s something of a blank canvas, leading to flavors like lavender, vanilla and, of course, Pumpkin Spice. Baristas have also taken to adding a bit of heart-warming foam art to seal the deal as our favorite drink.
The Favorite Coffee Drink of the Future?
You might call cold brew coffee the Chilled Revolution. It has been sweeping through coffee shops and cafes for the past few years, picking up new converts almost daily. According to the National Coffee Association, the number of Americans who regularly enjoy cold brew coffee shot up 60% from 2019 to 2023!
Breaking away from the warmth of traditional coffee, a growing number of us are even brewing cold coffee at home. And why not? It’s as simple as steeping coffee in cold water over an extended period, typically 12-24 hours. The results are just what you want in your cup: a smooth, concentrated coffee with lower acidity. It’s becoming a staple in the modern coffee landscape, and will likely be among the top five favorites within the next few years.
To provide an accurate ranking, the majority of our data came from the National Coffee Association’s annual Atlas of American Coffee, released in September 2023. Additional data comes from industry reports and coffee shop surveys. The ranking reflects the collective preferences of coffee enthusiasts across the nation.
What’s Your Favorite Espresso Drink?
As I mentioned at the top, those luscious mocha lattes are my weak spot. Whenever our local coffee shop has a BOGO offer, I get two…all for me. But what about you? Did your go-to coffee drink make the list, or are you a fan of something else? “Also Rans” include Café au Lait, cortado, and the devilish café coretto. And we’ve recently learned of the RAF, creeping onto American shores from Russia. We’d love to hear what your favorite cuppa is!