Top 8 Most Popular Milk-Based Coffee Drinks

Top 8 Most Popular Milk-Based Coffee Drinks

Now a rather addictive and unstoppable force, coffee was once a little-known delicacy incorporated into religious ceremonies. This rich and tasty liquid flowing and exported all over the world has now been transformed into abundant menus, brimming over with mouth-watering milk-based coffee drinks made using commercial coffee machines.  

Statistics tell us that more than 20 billion pounds in weight of coffee is produced every year across the globe – that equates to around $55 billion! With over 2 billion cups being bought and drunk every day, of course the coffee menu is so diverse and tasty.  

From coffee houses spreading across the Middle East and Ottoman Empire in the 17th century to fast food chains and local businesses producing artisan cups of coffee, the industry has boomed. This means that the focus is very much on having the right equipment to deliver customers with the best quality milk-based coffee drinks. 

Find out why people love milk-based coffees so much.

The history of milk coffee 

Coffee has come a long way from its origins in 15th century Arabia when it was enjoyed black and strong. But, who decided to add milk to it? Well, coffee’s popularity started in Europe when the Dutch imported live coffee plants in Europe in 1616 who then started growing them in a greenhouse in the Amsterdam Botanical Garden. Their popularity grew so much that the Dutch ambassador, Nieuhoff, added milk to his coffee after hearing of the Qing Dynasty of China adding milk to their tea. 

There are lots of different variations of the story, some people say that one of the monks actually drank a bitter black coffee and added frothy cream on top to change the flavour. At the same time, back in Europe, heating and using milk in coffee became widely accepted and desired ever since Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki began selling it in his café in Vienna, 1684. From what he had learnt from the Turkish, Kulczycki boiled coffee grounds and then waited for them to settle, but no one liked this. So, he thought about filtering the grounds, and this created what we now know as ‘filter coffee’. Then, to sweeten the experience, he considered adding honey and milk and his popularity flew.  

The milk coffee revolution today 

It’s fair to say that over the past forty years, there’s been a revolution in the coffee industry and cultural engagement.  While at home, people added milk to their coffee and coffee with milk was available in restaurants, the start of “novelty” coffee drinks were in the 1980’s. The Latte, created in the USA, immediately gained a cult following as did the Café au Lait across Europe. 

It wasn’t just a case of adding milk to coffee. There was much more to creating fabulous flavour and texture. Much of that was in preparing the frothiness, but commercial milk steamers weren’t available yet, and the work was done by hand with a steam wand.  This remains the same today but we can rely on milk frothing technology to make the process quicker and tastier. 

Today, when you Google the top coffee drinks, there’s a common theme. The types that consistently make the top ten include the Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Americano and Flat White, followed by Espresso. In the hospitality industry, to get these drinks perfected quickly, commercial milk frother machines are essential, especially as frothing by hand is labour-intensive. 

Read about how a commercial milk can benefit your business!

The 8 most popular milk coffee drinks 

It’s worth mentioning that milk-based drinks are more profitable for coffee shops, hotels and restaurants because they have higher margins, but what are the most popular milk-based coffee drinks? 

  1. Caffè Latte: noted as the largest of the milk-based coffees globally, a latte is a comfort coffee. It’s simple, it’s smooth, and everyone loves it – even people who wouldn’t usually drink coffee. Why? Well, the low concentration of espresso blends well with the sweet flavours from your milk of choice and any syrup you can add. Typically made with 1–2 ounces of coffee and 8–12 ounces of milk, lattes will not blow your head off, but they’ll give you that’ll boost you need during the day.  
  • Iced Latte: Like a latte but made with ice. 
  1. Café au Lait: simply translated from French as ‘coffee with milk’. It’s a one to one mix of a strongly brewed drip coffee, not an espresso shot, topped up with hot milk. Across Europe, the terms ‘café au lait’ and ‘latte’ are rather interchangeable, so don’t be surprised if you get given one or the other.  
  1. Cappuccino: unlike other coffees like an espresso for example meaning ‘pressed-out’ in Italian, the word cappuccino comes from the Capuchin friars in the 1600’s for the name of the drink that’s still so popular today. The Capuchin friars were responsible for “Cappuccino” due to their robes resembling a coffee drink with frothy milk on top. Traditionally, cappuccinos were 5-6 ounce drinks with 1–2 ounces of espresso and 3–4 ounces of steamed milk and micro foam.  
  1. Caffè Mocha: a variant of a latte, a mocha is made the same as a latte with added chocolate powder to the espresso shot. Why ‘mocha’ though? Well, the rich and ‘chocolatey’ beans originated from the Yemeni port city of Al Moka. In the 17th century, Europeans became obsessed with the particular flavouring notes of this bean and so the name stuck, although the drink itself has had a little Italian influence and cream added to it.  
  • Iced Mocha: Like a Mocha but made with ice.  
  1. Macchiato: now, if you ask for this drink, be ready to explain what you would like. Perhaps a shot of espresso topped with a couple of spoons of creamy milk froth? If you’re ever in doubt, order an espresso macchiato and that’s what you’ll get.  
  1. Flat White: now, would you have guessed that a flat white originates from Australia? Someone once asked for a cappuccino sized drink but without the foam and extra milk instead. 
  1. Cortado: this milk-based coffee comes from the word ‘cut’, where the milk is used to cut through the intensity of the espresso shot. Therefore, it’s served as a 1:1 milk to coffee ratio with very little foam.  
  1. Piccolo: be honest, have you ever heard of this milk-based coffee? Well, simply it’s a single shot of espresso traditionally poured into a 90ml glass topped with wet, steamed, milk. Originating from Sydney about ten years ago, you can find this coffee across much of the world today.  

Of course, there are many more, but this list should help identify the most popular milk based coffee options all around the world and their origins.  

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