What is mocha? In short, it’s a chocolate-flavored coffee drink. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While many coffee lovers believe that the word “mocha” comes from the Italian language — like its counterparts “latte” and “cafe” — it has very different origins. In fact, no one really knows who invented the first mocha or exactly how it got its name.
With that said, most coffee drinkers can agree that mochas are delicious. So, what exactly makes these beverages different from a regular cup of joe?
What Is Mocha?
A mocha is a drink made with espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate. Or, in other words, a mocha is a latte with chocolate added (the name is actually shortened from mocha latte).
Just like lattes, mochas can be modified with all kinds of different flavors. For example, your local coffee shop might offer both a peppermint latte and a peppermint mocha during the winter holidays.
Remember: If mocha is in the name, the drink contains some type of chocolate!
Where did the modern drink get its name?
The origin of the word “mocha” is actually quite complicated.
The first known instance of this word about coffee was derived from the Yemen city of Al Moka. It was (and sometimes still is) also spelled moka, mocca, or mokha.
But back then, in the late 1700s, mocha didn’t refer to a mixture of espresso and melted chocolate.
Instead, it was the name for a specific type of coffee beans from central Yemen and traded through Al Moka.
History gets even fuzzier when tracing the jump from mocha meaning a type of coffee bean, to a chocolate beverage.
The most common belief is that “mocha” was chosen as the drink’s name because the original coffee beans of Yemen reportedly had a chocolate-like flavor. This may have inspired the creators of today’s mocha to adopt the name for their own purpose.
Everything You Need for the Perfect Mocha
Coffee shops certainly aren’t cheap! The good news is that making a mocha at home isn’t much more difficult than brewing your own coffee.
However, for a true mocha experience, you’re going to need more than your everyday coffee machine.
Here’s what we recommend having on hand if you want to make this delicious chocolate beverage in your own kitchen.
By far, the most expensive part of making an authentic mocha is investing in an espresso maker.
Espresso is coffee made using extremely pressurized hot water. It is much more concentrated (and has a much stronger flavor) than “regular” coffee.
If espresso is your go-to drink, then you might already own a full-size espresso maker.
But if you only plan to make espresso for mochas and other flavored coffee drinks, you don’t need a high-tech machine. A stovetop moka pot will do the trick at a much cheaper price.
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The milk and chocolate will cover up the difference in taste — you likely won’t even notice!
The nice thing about an electronic espresso machine is that most models also have a built-in milk steamer.
However, if you’re going the DIY route, there are plenty of shortcuts to creating your own steamed milk without a fancy machine.
You can use a handheld milk steamer and frother. Or you can heat your milk of choice in a saucepan (or even the microwave).
There are many different ways to make a mocha, including the type of chocolate you use.
Along with choosing from milk, dark, or white chocolate (or a combination), you can also select the form you’d like your mocha flavoring to take.
Coffee shops typically use chocolate syrup in their drinks because it offers the perfect balance of flavor and convenience.
Another excellent technique you can try at home is to melt your favorite chocolate bar.
You can even use powdered cocoa to make an at-home mocha, though the flavor won’t be as rich as a mocha made with syrup or bar chocolate. We recommend selecting a powder specifically formulated for beverages.
Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Mocha at Home
By making your own mochas, you can fine-tune the process to your exact preferences.
Start your mocha off with your favorite brand of espresso beans. Or mix in extra syrups like peppermint or caramel for an ultra-sweet twist on the classic mocha flavor.
You can even customize your at-home coffee experience with decaf espresso or dairy-free milk. The options are practically endless!
No matter what kind of personal touches you plan to incorporate into your coffee-making routine, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow.
1. Prep the chocolate
First things first, you can’t have a mocha without some chocolate. Without this step, you’re just making a latte!
If you’re using solid bar chocolate for your mocha recipe, make sure to place the piece in your mug before adding espresso or milk.
It’s also best to drizzle chocolate syrup into your mug first for even distribution. But you can always add it later if you forget.
2. Brew the espresso
Once your chocolate of choice is ready to go, it’s time to make some coffee.
Mochas feature espresso, though you can use regular brewed coffee in a pinch. Freshly ground beans will give your finished drink an elevated aroma and flavor profile but aren’t a must-have.
Generally, a mocha is made with one or two espresso shots. You can make your finished beverage more or less strong by adjusting the strength of your espresso shots.
You can also pull extra shots for a larger drink size. Remember to adjust the amount of chocolate and milk as well!
3. Steam the milk
If making an extremely basic mocha is your goal, then steamed milk isn’t 100-percent necessary. But it’s a great way to elevate your at-home coffee experience.
Steaming milk doesn’t just heat it. It also draws air bubbles into the liquid, making it creamier and slightly foamy.
Once heated, slowly pour the milk over your chocolate and espresso mixture. You can take this opportunity to practice your latte art skills if you like.
If any foam remains after pouring the milk, use a spoon to carefully layer the foam on top of your drink.
You can enjoy your mocha as-is. Or you can customize your drink even further.
Whipped cream is a great addition to any coffee drink but pairs especially well with the sweet flavor of mocha.
For even more chocolate, dust cocoa powder or chocolate shavings over the top of your mug. Or replace this garnish with candy cane pieces or peppermint leaves for a seasonal pick-me-up!
Can I make a mocha with regular coffee?
You don’t technically need to use espresso to make a homemade mocha. This is great news for anyone who doesn’t have a personal espresso machine at the ready.
While regular brewed coffee and espresso do have different flavor profiles, most people won’t notice the chocolate’s presence. You may, however, notice that the coffee flavor is not as strong when making a mocha without espresso.
Another thing to consider is that normal coffee has much less caffeine per ounce than espresso — 16 mg versus 63 mg. So don’t expect your espresso-less mocha to pack as much of a punch.
How do I make an iced mocha?
Iced coffee is incredibly popular, especially during the hot summer months. If chocolate is your flavor of choice, then an iced mocha is the perfect addition to any sunny day.
Make cold brew using your preferred method. You can also use your favorite brand of pre-made cold brew coffee that is unflavored.
Chocolate syrup works best for making iced mochas, but you can also melt down a chocolate bar before adding your cold ingredients.
There’s also no need to steam your milk — frothing is optional.
Mix everything together with some ice (use frozen coffee cubes if you want to prevent dilution), and enjoy!
Can mochas be made dairy-free?
Yes! Opt for a dairy-free mocha syrup, chocolate bar, or cocoa powder for flavoring. There are plenty of options out there, including Wildly Organic and the mocha syrup used at Starbucks coffee shops.
Finish things off with your favorite milk alternative for a delicious, creamy beverage without any of the dairy.
Curl Up With a Cup of Chocolatey Goodness
Whether you’ve never tried one or frequently order this chocolatey beverage, it’s never too late to ask questions like “What is mocha?” or “How do I make this drink at home?”
The mocha is an excellent drink for those new to coffee. It’s also a sweet alternative to a plain cup of joe when you need a little something extra for your morning pick-me-up.
Plus, you can customize a classic mocha with all kinds of different flavors and add-ons.
While the history of the mocha is foggy, one thing is clear:
You’ll have a hard time finding a coffee-based drink that’s as creamy, rich, and chocolatey as this one!
Have you ever made your own mocha at home? Which flavor add-ons are your favorite (seasonal or otherwise)? Let us know in the comments below!