Is it a coffee? Is it hot chocolate? No! It’s a mocha!
Mochas are sometimes seen as the gateway drink for those seeking to get into real coffee drinking, yet they’re also a fantastic coffee choice in their own right. The combination of sweet, rich chocolate, creamy textured milk and the full coffee flavour makes for an experience unlike any other caffeinated beverage.
So, what exactly is a mocha coffee?
Mochas, sometimes also known as a mocha latte or cafe Mocha, is an extremely popular hot drink found in coffee shops across the world. It generally consists of some variation of steamed milk, espresso and chocolate flavouring - either in the form of cocoa powder or premade syrup.
It is not to be confused with a mochaccino which although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. In a mochaccino, the hot chocolate milk is merely frothed into a cappuccino-like state, rather than simply being textured like a latte or flat white.
Mocha coffee - a brief history
Before the 20th century, mocha referred to coffee that came from Yemeni, the port for which was called Mokha and was an early powerhouse for the coffee industry. This coffee was known to be rather chocolatey in flavour, which became mixed up with the hot chocolate drinking fad of the time. Hot chocolate was drunk in UK hot chocolate shops and coffee was drunk in UK coffee shops in the 16th/17th century and both were known for the political and philosophical culture that grew there, a precursor to the modern-day coffee culture.
But back to the origins of mocha. Popular belief is that the chocolatey tones of the Mokha coffee and the mixture of chocolate/coffee houses uses was the reason for Mokha coffee becoming the modern-day mocha coffee of chocolate and coffee combined.
The earliest known use of the word mocha to describe such a pairing was found in a 1920s recipe book - a chilled mocha recipe which refers to the mixing of milk, coffee and chocolate - so the modern interpretation took hold fairly quickly.
The actual source of the modern mocha makeup is probably a modern take on the Bicerin, a traditional hot drink found in Turin that visibly layers chocolate, milk and coffee in a prettily designed glass.
Moka vs Mocha vs Mokka
To confuse matters further, other things in the coffee world have similar-sounding names. Any coffee that came through the port of Mokha was once called Mokha coffee, rather than just those grown nearby, which is now the case. It is relatively rare and prized amongst coffee fans, so there are imitations that also, falsely, use the name.
Then there is Mokka coffee, which is the German name for all Turkish coffee, or Maui Mokka Coffee, which is a highly prized variety grown in Hawaii.
And finally, there is the brewing method of the mighty Moka pot. Once, Moka pots were the standard way of brewing coffee at home, yet they fell out of favour once instant coffee was developed. They have seen a revival in recent years, thanks to the rise of the third-wave coffee movement and the emphasis on single-origin beans and experimentation with brewing methods.
What does mocha taste like?
Unsurprisingly, mochas taste largely of chocolate. There is a reason for it being referred to as a hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. However, the sweetness is tempered by the bitter flavours of the coffee, leading to a punchier taste than simply hot chocolate alone.
How much caffeine in a mocha coffee?
As with any handmade caffeinated beverage, it depends on the raw materials (The strength of the coffee beans used - both from the blend and variety, as well as the roasting level) and brewing methods used. A standard coffee shop mocha will usually contain two shots of espresso, with one extra shot added each time you go up a size.
But this is by no means a rule and will vary from shop to shop: there are just too many variables involved to give a definitive answer.
How to make a mocha at home
Of all the popular coffee shop beverages, mocha coffee is one of the easiest to make at home. Pretty much; if you can make a hot chocolate and a coffee, you can make a mocha.
The result relies on what methods you have for making it.
To create a classic mocha, you will need an espresso machine with a milk steaming wand. However, you can create a wonderful imitation simply by heating chocolate powder and milk in a saucepan and adding a shot of your preferred brewed coffee.
Using an espresso machine:
Pro tip: Espresso degrades from the moment it is pulled, so save that till after you have stretched your milk.
- Place your chosen milk in a milk jug with your chocolate powder or syrup.
- If using a powder, give it a little stir with a spoon - trust us, you can skip this step but the air from the steam wand will most likely blow the powder up into your face, not really a good look.
- Place the steam wand under the surface of the milk, making sure that it is not touching the top or the sides of the job.
- Turn on the steam wand and tip the jug slightly.
- You may want to move the jug in a small circular motion, to keep the milk moving and ensure that the chocolate is thoroughly mixed in with the milk.
- If you want a frothier mocha, or if you are using milk that needs a bit more help to stretch -such as some vegan milks- then pull the jug down gently so that the tip of the wand is just touching the surface of the milk. It will make a noise like tearing paper. Hold it there for a few seconds before plunging it back into the milk gently. (If you have done it right, the milk may already have expanded to cover the top of the wand anyway.)
- Keep an eye on the temperature of the milk. With most kinds of milk for hot coffee drinks, you don’t want to go above 155℉, but you should stop just before that, as the milk will continue heating for a while after you remove the wand.
- Once you have removed the milk, turned off the wand and cleaned it down (always, always purge your wands after making chocolate or chai powdered milk, it will clog and break your machine if not done straight away. Not to mention the hygiene implications), uniformly swirl the jug to mix the larger bubbles with the more watery ones below.
- If you have any overly large bubbles, gently but firmly bang the jug down on a countertop to burst them, before swirling again to mix these in. It is this motion that will give you smooth latte-type milk - albeit chocolate-flavoured.
- Now you pull your espresso. 2 shots are standard and it is up to you which you put into your glass or mug first - milk or espresso - just make sure that you keep your milk swirling throughout the process so that you don’t lose any of the beautiful texture.
- Optional extra - top with chocolate sprinkles (or a dusting of the hot chocolate powder, this is what most coffee shops do) or whipped cream if you’re feeling fancy.
Without an espresso machine:
Want to make a Mocha coffee at home but don’t have an espresso machine? No worries, there are still ways to recreate your cafe favourite at home.
Basically, you will need some form of short, strong coffee. This can be brewed however you like. We prefer the Aeropress for this as it makes amazingly good substitutes for espresso.
Then you will need to heat your chocolate powder/syrup and milk.
If you’ve ever made hot chocolate at home, then you’ll already be a pro at this, just add your coffee and you’re good to go.
Not experienced in the fine art of homemade hot chocolate? You have two options:
- Heat milk in a saucepan with the powder mixed in.
- Heat milk and chocolate powder together in a microwave.
Both ways are simple but require your full attention: heated milk goes from cool to overflowing in the blink of an eye, so err on the side of caution with time, and add incrementally.
How to make an iced mocha at home
Iced mochas are one of those drinks that look a lot harder to make than it is.
Let us show you how to make an iced mocha at home.
A blender or microwave or water-tight container.
Chocolate powder or syrup.
Coffee - preferably an espresso shot, but any short, strong brew will do.
How to make an iced mocha.
- The hardest part of making an iced mocha is getting the chocolate incorporated into the milk. Chocolate powder is notoriously hard to mix into cold milk, but there are a few ways around this. Choose one of the below methods:
- Heat your milk and chocolate in the microwave for a few seconds to make the milk not too cold. Mix in the chocolate with a hand whisk or spoon. Heat again if needed. If the milk gets too warm, you can always add in cold milk when it comes to making the iced mocha. The key here is simply to get the milk to a slightly warmer temperature so that the chocolate powder can dissolve.
- Use a steam wand to quickly blast the chocolate powder into the milk. This will literally take 5 seconds - remember you are using it to mix the two, not to heat the milk.
- Pop both the milk and chocolate powder into a blender and whizz until mixed. The longer you blend it, the thicker it will get. Add ice for a frappe-like consistency.
- Put the milk and chocolate powder into an airtight container, such as a jam jar or lidded bottle. Shake like crazy until it is blended. It may seem archaic, but it certainly works!
- Once you have your chocolate milk mix you are ready to start building your iced mocha!
- Brew your preferred coffee method and place it in a glass. Mochas usually contain two espresso shots, but go for just one if you want a milder drink.
- Fill the cup with ice.
- Pour over the chocolate milk.
- Top with whipped cream if you’re feeling really luxurious.
Looking for more recipes on how to recreate your favourite coffee shop favourites at home? We’ve got you covered - simply search our blog for more insights and pro tips. And when it comes to creating your beverages, you can always rely on The Coffee Bean Shop for the very best fresh coffee beans in the UK.