Coffee Culture in the United States and Europe

Joe. Java. Mud. Perk. Drip. There are so many names for this delicious heavenly morsel that is the coffee bean. But, the way that it’s enjoyed varies greatly from location to location. Let’s take a closer look at coffee culture (yes, it’s a culture) in the United States and in Europe.

the beloved American coffee to-go

When I first went to Europe as an adult, I was immediately struck with how different the coffee culture was there compared to what I was used to. At home, I was pretty obsessed with walking around with a latte in a to-go cup. Suddenly in Europe, I was introduced to the espresso shot that was enjoyed on a stool at the bar, at which point you’d go on your merry way, sans cup.

I was in love.

Coffee In the United States

The most popular form of coffee in the United States is filtered.

It was in 1972 that Mr. Coffee released the first automatic drip machine, and coffee was officially a staple in the American household.

Coffee in America is about convenience, accessibility, and speed. You will typically find Americans drinking coffee at home or grabbing a cup quickly before heading into the office to begin their workday. Although the craft coffee culture has very much taken off in America (thanks Starbucks), even those craft cocktails are often taken to go.

You will find variances in preferences based on locations.

For example, in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, light roasted coffees brewed with pour-over methods is preferred. The majority of coffee in these places is consumed by young to middle-aged Americans who have more experience with 3rd wave coffee culture and tend to look for more nuanced flavor notes.

In Rural America, filter coffee is generally made with a darker roast and a more traditional flavor of classic dinner coffee. 

Coffee In Europe

Europe is not considered to be a “coffee-to-go” culture, as they consider their coffee consumption to be more of a sit-down experience (or a shot of espresso at the bar!). Decaffeinated coffee is pretty much unheard of and drip coffee is not a common commodity.

Coffee beans were Introduced to Europe in the early 17th century, but didn’t actually catch on much with the people at that point. Espresso didn’t actually become part of the story until 1901 with the invention of the first espresso machine, thanks to a man named Luigi Bezzera who presented it to the masses in 1906 at a Milan fair.

The rest was delicious, caffeinated history.

I was in Paris with a local and she ordered espressos for both of us at a bar. The bartender looked at me and said “an Americano?”. I responded “an espresso”. His response? “But, Americano style?” No, I assured him. An espresso. I get it. Many Americans who go to Europe think very differently of an espresso.

Americano style is espresso but with hot water, which creates a water-down version of the espresso that is similar to the filtered off that is commonly had in America.

the remains of my espresso at La Fregate in Paris 🙂

Of course you’ll find the coffee preferences differ from country to country, and from region to region. For example, in Portugal, a bica is common (a strong, bitter espresso). In Germany, filtered coffee (especially in a lighter blend) is popular. And in Greece, the frappe is king.

In Southern Europe, you will notice that they tend to eat larger meals and don’t drink a lot of coffee, so they prefer much smaller, more intense flavor hot beverages like espresso, macchiato, cortado or ristretto.

Those in Central Europe tend to consume more milk-based beverages like cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites. In Eastern Europe, they have their own versions of milk-based beverages that contain cream or condensed milk.

In places like Scandinavia, espresso is less popular and their filter coffee culture is more similar to America.

While Americans tend to drink coffee in the morning, Europeans drink their espresso drink anytime throughout the day. vs a coffee au lait, which is espresso with a splash of frothed milk (in Spain, called a cortado).