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

While coffee is a universal love, there are differences from country to country.

When I first went to Europe as an adult, I immediately noticed how different the coffee culture was compared to what I was used to. At home, I obsessed over walking around with a latte in a to-go cup. In Europe, I discovered the espresso shot, which people enjoyed while sitting on a stool at the bar, and then went on their way without a cup.

I was in love.

Let’s dig in.

Coffee In the United States

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

Coffee Shops In San Diego

Coffee Shops in Sacramento

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 quick cup before heading into the office.

You will find variances in preferences based on location.

For example, people in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago tend to prefer light roasted coffees brewed with pour-over methods. Young to middle-aged Americans in these cities, familiar with 3rd wave coffee culture, often seek out more nuanced flavor notes.

In rural America, people generally make filter coffee with a darker roast, favoring the traditional flavor of classic diner coffee.

Coffee In Europe

Europe is not considered to be a “coffee-to-go” culture. 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 common everywhere.

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. This is 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 with hot water. It 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 that 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, 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. Eastern Europe has its 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 anytime throughout the day vs a coffee au lait, which is espresso with a splash of frothed milk (in Spain, called a cortado).

Whether you’re enjoying a cappuccino in a Paris café or grabbing a latte to go in New York City, coffee culture is different everywhere. Each cup has its own story, shaped by local traditions and preferences. Maybe on your next trip, you’ll be inspired to try a new coffee style.