A lot of people who love their lattes and cappuccinos don’t know that the drinks are brewed from an espresso base.
Any serious cafe or barista must absolutely have espressos on the menu as other than making them available to people who just got out of bed and need a quick boost to their consciousness, espressos are needed to make some of the most common types of coffee-based beverages.
While anyone can put one and one together (like orange juice and espresso) and claim it to be a new drink, there are some that have proven to have universal appeal across different countries and cultures.
So much so that they can be found in cafes all over the world.
Here is an attempt to run down of all of them.
It goes without saying that the original espresso should be placed here at number 1.
It is after all, the very heart of cafes that prefer to serve a coffee crowd rather than sell out and promote everything else but the coffee.
The most passionate of coffee lovers will appreciate a tender loving espresso anytime of the day, even if it means turning into a zombie in bed.
The authentic espresso don’t come in a 2-in-1 stick of mixed powdery substance.
It is brewed with coffee ground dispensed by a proper grinder, and force-fed with highly pressurized hot water from an espresso machine, with the drink trickling out of a portafilter and into a tiny ceramic cup (demitasse) of 1 ounce.
Double espressos (doppio) are catered for the more hardcore coffee lovers. While an espresso with whipped cream on top becomes an espresso con panna
2) Cafe latte
I just call it a latte.
But there will always be the wise-guys who go to great lengths to correct anyone who call it a latte rather than cafe latte.
And these can become extended lectures if you don’t concede to their ideals.
The reasoning is that a latte is just milk. So the word cafe must be present before latte to describe an espresso with latte drink.
The main difference between a latte and other espresso-with-milk beverages is the quality of the milk after frothing.
In the barista realm, there is what we call wet foam and dry foam. Wet foam refers to microfoam in the milk, while dry form refers to macrofoam in the milk.
Lattes use wet foam.
They come with smaller and finer air bubbles making the milk resemble wet paint. This characteristic of the froth makes it excellent for milk art, thus the birth of the world of latte art.
Depending on where you are in the world the serving size of a latte can vary.
But anything serving above 6 ounce will severely dissipate the flavor and aroma of the espresso.
Making it more like a milk drink with coffee flavor, if you know what I mean.
So a serving size of 12 ounces, which is common in the US, definitely needs more than 1 shot of espresso to retain it’s coffee flavor in my opinion.
So keep this in mind next time you order a latte, or cafe latte, in extra large size. A barista could very well be just adding more milk to make up for the top space in the cup.
A flavored latte will be made the same way.
Some popular ones are
- Caramel latte
- Hazel nut latte
- Vanilla latte
- Irish cream latte
They are like lattes. Just that they include a pump or two of artificial flavoring.
Then there are iced lattes which I will not elaborate as I feel that coffee should be enjoyed hot.
The breve is exactly like a latte except that instead of milk, it is replaced with a mixture of milk and cream.
Perfect for those who love creamy drinks.
The real cappuccino consist of:
- One part espresso
- One part steamed milk
- One part thick delightful foam
If there is doubt if a hot beverage is a cappuccino, just grow a mustache or paste one above your lips and have a sip.
If there milk foam clinging on your mustache like a koala, the odds are that it’s a cappuccino.
Otherwise, it just a latte pretending to be a cappuccino.
When the serving size is the same as a latte, the cappuccino can be expected to have a stronger coffee aroma as the lesser milk would result in a lesser dissolving of the espresso.
Dry foam for cappuccinos are bigger, fuller, thicker. Making it tempting sometimes to suck it up like the yolk of a sunny-side-up.
They are sometimes topped with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
Europeans tend to prefer cappuccino to lattes.
5) Piccolo (cortado)
The piccolo is like a mini latte served in a smaller cup.
But don’t mistake is as just a latte in extra small size.
This is because a proper ounce of espresso is still used for the blend. This means that lesser milk is poured over the drink due to the smaller capacity in the smaller cup. Giving it a stronger coffee flavor compared to a regular latte.
The piccolo is usually identified by the sleeker cup it uses as cafes don’t serve them in the regular latte cups unless they have absolutely no idea what kind of sins they are committing.
A popular type of cup is a see-through glass with metal handles that is obviously smaller than a typical latte.
The gibraltar is a name coined by the owner of the Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco.
It’s basically a piccolo served in a 4.5 ounce glass tumbler.
I don’t know how these things became a trend.
But you need to know what people mean when they mention a gibraltar as it is becoming very popular.
Even cafes who don’t have gibraltars on the menu can serve their lattes gibraltar-style and have no idea of the history behind it.
7) Flat white
The flat white is a legitimate and unique coffee drink that deserves it’s own name.
It’s basically an espresso with hot or warm milk.
No foam. No latte art. And no mustache required.
It’s basically coffee with milk served in a ceramic cup. The difference is that the coffee comes from an espresso.
Maybe the reasoning behind it is that some patrons don’t like to leave evidence of a cappucinno on their lips.
I’ve actually had patrons who claim to be allergic to foam. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this.
Thus, they order flat whites.
Well… to each his own.
8) Americano (long black)
The origins of the world famous Americano is shrouded in mystery.
So much so that even Sherlock Holmes will have a problem cracking this case. But of course, he would be doing that with an Americano in hand.
Americanos are espressos added with an indefinite amount of hot water.
How much water is added depends on the cafe’s recipe cheat sheet or the flair of the barista.
Understandably, the more water is added to a shot of espresso, the more dilute the coffee godliness becomes.
For patriotic cafes outside of America, they call it the long black.
It is the easiest drink to make from the point of view of the barista. Yet good Americanos are the toughest to find for consumers.
It’s a puzzling paradox.
But since only hot water is dispensed into an espresso, the problem of taste is almost always down to the quality of the coffee beans.
This is actually a good method of sampling espressos.
Some people prefer iced coffee in the form of iced Americanos. I can never know how coffee can taste better cold.
When a double shot of espresso is used with double the amount of water, they don’t call it an upsized Americano, but it becomes a lungo.
The macchiato is basically an espresso with a little milk.
Because proper espressos are presented in a demitasse, the maximum amount of milk in a macchiato is the maximum space the demitasse cup allows.
It still packs a muscular punch of espresso.
Some people just like their coffees with a little taste of milk.
The mocha, sometimes referred to as cafe mocha or mochaccino, is basically a latte or cappuccino mixed with cocoa powder or chocolate syrup.
What happens is that cocoa powder mix is thoroughly blended with the espresso vis stirring immediately after the latter is dispensed from the machine.
Then milk is added just like a cappuccino or latte.
I personally don’t like to enjoy coffee in this manner. But there is a crowd who is crazy for it.
11) Red eye
The red eye is basically pouring a shot of espresso into a cup of brewed coffee.
In my opinion people consume it to prove a point like how people try out super spicy buffalo wings.
Is that everything?
Well I’ve stated from the start that you can mix an espresso with anything you like and call it whatever you like claiming a new beverage.
These are the types of espresso drinks that are commonly served in cafes, bars and restaurants.
Finally, there are some other types of coffee I didn’t include here as they are not brewed with standard espressos.
Some of them include the ristretto, pourovers, cafe noisette, cafe au lait, etc. I was also tempted to include the affogato but have to accept that it’s not really a drink.
If there’s anything I’ve left out, do let me know via Facebook or Instagram. And if I find it worthy, I might add it to this list.