What Is a Mocha? Origins, Versions, & How To Make It

Kirkland Gee
July 26, 2023

The mocha is undeniably one of the most popular coffee drinks on the planet. It combines the flavors of a beautiful espresso with a rich, sweet chocolate favor, making it a go-to for coffee lovers with a sweet tooth. The mocha's taste can range from sweet and creamy to rich and bitter, depending on exactly how it’s prepared, making it a flexible drink that can be customized to suit your preferences.

What is a Mocha?

A mocha is typically made with espresso, chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, and steamed milk, which creates a creamy and decadent flavor. In most modern contexts, you’ll find it made with some kind of sweetened chocolate syrup, Some variations of mocha include white chocolate, caramel, or peppermint, which adds a unique twist to the classic recipe.

The mocha is ordered hundreds of thousands of times, in its various forms, across Starbucks’, local coffee shops, and other restaurants all across the world. Any barista on the planet knows how to make one—and after reading this article, you will too!

History of the Caffe Mocha

If we go back far enough, the mocha's unique origins can be traced back to the coffee markets of Yemen in the 15th century.

The mocha, also known as a cafe mocha or mochaccino, originated in Yemen during the 15th century. The city of Mocha, located on the Red Sea coast, was an important trading center for coffee and became famous for its coffee beans with what many perceived to be a “chocolatey” flavor. If you buy coffee from Yemen today, you’ll still get these richer, more intense flavors, as opposed to the fruity, floral coffees we often find in specialty cafes.

Coffee traders from Mocha brought these beans to Europe, where they were roasted and brewed into a variety of coffee drinks. The modern mocha that we know today, however, was first popularized in the United States in the 1980s, when espresso-based drinks became increasingly popular.

What does a Mocha Taste Like?

Unsurprisingly, a mocha tastes like a cup of coffee with chocolate in it.

Types of Mochas

While traditionally served hot, you can order a mocha in lots of different ways. Some popular variations on the mocha include:

  • A hot mocha
  • A hot mocha with whipped cream
  • An iced mocha
  • A white mocha (made with white chocolate)
  • A dark chocolate mocha
  • A peppermint mocha
  • A frozen mocha
  • Sometimes, you’ll even see a mocha with sprinkles!

What’s the difference between a Mocha & a Latte?

A mocha is made very similarly to a latte—in fact, it’s basically just a latte with chocolate added. In some cafes, you’ll actually see a “mocha latte” on the menu instead of just mocha. Both drinks are traditionally made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, (finely textured, not like the froth and milk foam you’d find in a cappuccino).

Mocha Ingredients

There are only 3 essential ingredients to make a good mocha: espresso, chocolate of some kind, and milk. You can also add other flavors like peppermint, caramel, and others to spice things up, if you want to.

Or, if you want to up your presentation, try adding some chocolate shavings or marshmallows on top when serving.

Tools Needed to Make a Mocha at Home

There are a few different ways you can make a mocha at home. Ultimately, all you need is to be able to make:

  • A concentrated coffee (think espresso, but we can also do something similar with an Aeropress and a Fellow Prismo)
  • Steamed milk (which we can also create without a proper espresso machine)
  • A way to add chocolate flavor (either syrup or powder)

Recommended Coffee for a Mocha

The mocha is a lot different than other espresso drinks. When you’re drinking a mocha, you want to taste that sweet, milk chocolate flavor—you aren’t looking for something fruity.

In a case like this, we typically want to go a little darker. While I wouldn’t go for a full french roast here, something like the Dark as Dark blend from Blanchard’s can make a great pairing.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making a Mocha Coffee With An Espresso Machine

Once you’ve chosen your favorite espresso, we can get to work. 

  1. Weigh out between 16-18 grams of your chosen coffee (depending on your preferred espresso recipe)
  2. Grind it at a very-fine grind setting that works for your espresso maker into the portafilter (Optionally, you can use a WDT Tool to more evenly distribute the grounds
  3. Tamp the ground coffee into the portafilter with enough pressure the flatten the bed and leave no room for channeling
  4. Brew your espresso! For a mocha, you’ll probably want a traditional espresso ratio of 2:1 (32-36 grams of water out, depending on your initial dose) although, you could try a ristretto, instead
  5. To that shot of espresso, add your chocolate syrup or powder and let it start dissolving. Alternatively, you can also add chocolate directly to the milk before steaming.
  6. Whichever method you use, the amount of chocolate you add is totally up to you. For a 10 ounce beverage, we’d recommend starting with around 20 grams of chocolate syrup.
  7. Measure out 8 ounces of milk into a steaming pitcher and begin steaming
  8. When steaming, you want the get the temperature between 140-160℉. This will pull the most sweetness out of your drink without burning the half-and-half
  9. Combine your espresso, chocolate, and milk—and enjoy!

Variations of Mocha Recipes

The only difference between a mocha and a hot chocolate is the addition of a shot of espresso. If you want to get even more creative, here are a few suggestions on how to make your mocha an even more interesting espresso drink.

  • Add a shot of peppermint syrup in the wintertime
  • Try using a bar of dark chocolate and pulling your espresso shot over the chocolate, melting it right in the cup
  • Use a blend of white chocolate and milk chocolate for something almost sickeningly sweet
  • Add a little bit of cayenne pepper to the milk to create a “mexican hot chocolate” vibe.
  • Add a little caramel syrup to provide some added richness.
  • Top it with some whipped cream and cocoa powder

The mocha is a really fun drink to mess around with, and you should try lots of different things until you find the recipe you like best. That’s what makes coffee such a fun hobby!

Benefits of Drinking a Mocha

Mochas don’t contain anything special from the combination of ingredients, but both coffee and chocolate have some mild health benefits, such as:

  1. Antioxidants: Chocolate and coffee are both rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  2. Improved cognitive function: The caffeine in coffee can improve focus, alertness, and cognitive function, while the flavonoids in chocolate may improve blood flow to the brain.
  3. Energy boost: The caffeine in coffee provides a natural energy boost that can help improve physical performance and endurance.
  4. Improved mood: The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate can help boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It's worth noting that mocha often contains added sugar and calories compared to other drinks like the cappuccino or caffe latte, so it's important to enjoy it in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Additionally, some people may experience negative effects from caffeine, such as anxiety or sleep disturbances, so it's important to listen to your body and consume mocha in a way that works for you.

About Perfect Extraction

We are a small team of specialty coffee nerds dedicated to giving you the best information you can find on the internet about all things coffee.

Learn more >

[{"@type": "Thing", "name": "Caffè mocha", "sameAs": "https://google.com/search?&kgmid=/m/06jdrl"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Caffè mocha", "sameAs": "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffè_mocha"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Caffè mocha", "sameAs": "http://wikidata.org/wiki/Q739929"}]