How to Make the Best Mocha—According to the Pros

It's the Most Underrated Coffee Drink

mocha from storyville coffee


Some coffee connoisseurs may scoff at mocha. While it's true that they're often too sweet and made with run-of-the-mill chocolate syrup, a balanced mocha is an underrated coffee drink that can truly be sublime. Here, a few of our favorite coffee roasters and chocolate makers share how you can create a professional quality mocha at home.

Start With the Best Chocolate

You need to start with quality ingredients to have a quality drink, so choosing the right chocolate is key. Bean-to-bar chocolate maker Vesta Chocolate in Montclair, New Jersey uses a 66 percent dark chocolate made with organic beans from Dominican Republic for its drink. “We chose Dominican Republic chocolate because it is very well balanced,” explains co-founder, pastry chef, and CEO Julia Choi Rodriguez. “It is well rounded with pleasant brightness that melds very well with coffee. For instance, our chocolate made with Guatemalan beans has naturally higher cacao butter content, which makes it harder to mix into drinks. It makes a great standalone chocolate bar, but its bold notes don't necessarily pair very well with other elements.”

Choose the Right Roast

One Line Coffee in Columbus, Ohio is known for their lineup of seasonal single-origin coffee. These espressos tend to be made with lighter roasts to highlight more delicate floral notes and aromas in the coffee beans. “Chocolate is such a strong flavor, so mixing chocolate in with those espressos tends to bury the espressos,” explains managing partner Dave Forman. Instead, he recommends using their house espresso, a fully traceable and transparent blend of three beans that has a little more development and touch of roast to stand up to the sweetness of chocolate and addition of milk. At One Line, they make their own vegan chocolate sauce with 100 percent single-origin Askinosie cocoa powder.

Match Flavor Profiles

The easiest and most effective way to pair chocolate and coffee is to match flavor descriptions. Look for coffee that has flavor notes of chocolate and vice versa. Vesta Chocolate uses BKG Coffee Roasters medium roast Brazil Black Diamond espresso, which has a creamy profile of dark cocoa and walnut. “It's a match made in heaven with our chocolate,” Choi Rodriguez says. “The espresso has great structure and body with sophisticated brightness to lift up the flavors. It is one coffee we found that could match the strength of our bean-to-bar chocolate.”

Storyville Coffee in Seattle uses their signature blend Prologue, which features hints of chocolate, caramel, and dark berry in their mocha, pairing perfectly with Theo Chocolate pure 70 percent dark chocolate, which also has deep berry flavors. “Matching the descriptions will help to ensure your espresso and chocolate blend seamlessly together for truly balanced flavors,” says director of menu Anna Joe Pedersen.

iced mocha by vesta chocolate

Vesta Chocolate

Go With a Ganache

Vesta Chocolate makes a water-based ganache with their chocolate to easily mix with coffee. “We've tried powdered chocolate, but it didn't have the same velvety, creamy texture as when we use ganache,” Choi Rodriguez says. If you're starting with hot chocolate powder, add just enough hot water to cover the chocolate, then mix to create a smooth, thick ganache before combining it with milk and coffee. “This method optimizes the creamy texture that everyone loves in a good mocha.” You can also get a super creamy vegan mocha if you use a plant-based milk and make a vegan chocolate ganache.

Add Some Salt

The housemade ganache at Felix Roasting Co. isn't vegan, but it sure is good.  “We use a complex blend of Valrhona Guanaja 70 percent chocolate, cream, a special dark caramel with Tahitian vanilla and an Alderwood smoked sea salt,” says beverage director Reagan Petrehn. “Vanilla and salt make everything better. We start by making a ganache that is just sweet enough to be enjoyed on its own, so it's adding mouthfeel and flavor rather than just sweetness. We use 50 grams of our ganache in a mocha which is an insane amount, but that's what gives it its full-flavored and creamy profile.”

Pedersen also adds a pinch of salt to her housemade chocolate sauce at Storyville Coffee. “The pinch of salt is especially important as it balances the chocolate, allowing you to enjoy a larger spectrum of its natural flavor notes,” she says.

Shake It Like a Cocktail

Baristas at One Line Coffee shake iced mochas in a cocktail shaker to cool down a freshly pulled shot of espresso without shocking it and bringing out bitter components. “We've always used hot espresso in our iced beverages,” Forman says. “Instead of pulling the shot directly over ice, we pour it into a shot glass, then pour that into cold milk with our housemade chocolate syrup, then shake it on ice before pouring it back in the glass.” This method also decreases the amount of melt in the ice so you don't get a watered down drink and mixes up the flavors perfectly.