Espresso, that small yet mighty cup of rich, creamy coffee is more than just a drink, it’s the foundation of the espresso-based drink family. While most of us know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte, there are a plethora of unique, delicious espresso-based drinks. From the flat white to the cafe medici, keep reading to learn about the composition of our espresso-based favorites.
Espresso + water
Coffee is 99% water. Skilfully mastering water manipulation during or post-brew can transform your regular espresso into a thick, rich drink or into a light, subtle cup. The drinks listed below play with the grounds-to-water ratio to create a host of satisfying, distinct espresso-based drinks.
Doppio, also known as a double espresso, is brewed with double the amount of coffee grounds (14 grams instead of 7 grams) and double the amount of water (60 millilitres instead of 30 millilitres) used to make a single espresso, typically yielding two liquid ounces of espresso. Essentially, this is two shots of espresso in a single glass.
Ristretto, also known as a short (or restricted in Italian), is an espresso made with 7 grams of coffee but only half the amount water (15 millilitres) used to brew a single espresso. The result is a darker, more concentrated espresso with higher levels of fast-extracting compounds that give this little drop of joy a sweet, rich flavor.
Lungo, also known as a long, is an espresso made with 7 grams of coffee and twice the amount of water (60 millilitres) as a single espresso. The result is a lighter, less concentrated, bitter, almost pungent espresso. If you enjoy a rich, bitter cup, lungos should be on your coffee shortlist!
Café Zorro is a single or double espresso added to a glass of hot water with a 1:1 espresso-to-water ratio. Zorros, while subtler and lighter in mouthfeel than a single espresso, preserve the rich, sweet notes you expect in a fine espresso. This is a wonderful option for those who enjoy the flavor and character of an espresso but prefer a cup with less strength.
Café Americano, also known as a long black, is made by adding hot water to a single or double espresso. Generally, Americanos are made with a 2:1 espresso-to-water ratio. The extra water dilutes the espresso, mellowing its strength and flavor. Americanos often have the flavor components of an espresso with the mouthfeel and texture of a drip coffee.
Espresso + dairy
Be it steamed milk, foamed milk, or cream, there are a number of ways to soften, thicken, and sweeten your espresso by adding a touch of dairy. Adding dairy to your coffee creates additional texture or mouthfeel and helps mask any lingering bitterness.
Café macchiato, which means stained coffee in Italian, is a single espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk. Macchiatos tend to be rich, dense, and creamy. Macchiatos are called noisettes in France.
Café cortado, also known as a Gibraltar, is an espresso cut with warm or steamed milk. The milk masks any bitterness in the espresso, creating an incredibly smooth, bitter-less cup. Generally, cortados are made with a 2:1 espresso-to-warm milk ratio.
Cappuccino, named for its similarity in color to habit of Capuchin Frairs, is made from equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. One of the challenges to creating a perfect cappucino is maintaining the distinct layers to preserve a rich espresso flavor. Common variations on the cappucino, are the wet cappucino, which as a thick layer of steamed milk and thin layer of foamed milk, and the dry cappucino, which has a thin layer of steamed milk and thick layer of foamed milk.
Caffè latte uses the same elements as a cappuccino but in different proportions, creating a much lighter, creamier drink with a more subtle coffee flavor. A latte is created with a shot of espresso topped with milk proportioned as follows: 3/4ths steamed milk, 1/4th foamed milk. The milk and the coffee should mix in a latte thereby softening the coffee flavor.
Caffe piccolo, often dubbed the little latte, is made from a ristretto topped with steamed milk and served in a demitasse.
Café breve is essentially a rich, creamy latte. Similar to a latte, the breve is made with a single espresso topped with steamed half-and-half and fluffy, airy half-and-half foam. The extra fat in the half-and-half adds a muted nutty sweetness to the espresso.
Espresso con panna, which means espresso with cream in Italian, is a single espresso topped with a dollop of whipped cream. The cream adds extra sweetness to the cup while enhancing its texture, creating a velvety smooth espresso treat.
Flat white, the newest member to the espresso-based drinks menu, is made from two shots of espresso topped with a thick layer of micro-foamed milk. Micro-foam is a velvety, airy steamed milk characterised by tiny air bubbles and a silky texture. Often mirco-foamed milk is created in the layer between steamed and foamed milk (foamed milk, also known as dry foam, generally has very large air bubbles).
Espresso + chocolate and other goodies
Lime, lemon, and chocolate — alone or used in combination, these tasty espresso add-ins create light, bright cups with at least a touch of sweetness.
Café romano is single espresso served with a slice of lemon. The lemon’s sweet citric acid adds a gentle natural sweetness and reduces the espresso’s natural bitterness. You can either sqeeze or drop the lemon into your cup or, if you prefer just a touch of lemon, run the lemon flesh around the rim of your espresso cup.
Café guillermo is a single espresso served over slices of lime. The lime’s sweet citric acid creates a naturally sweet, almost tingly cup with very little bitterness. The guillermo is wonderful hot and refreshingly delicious iced.
Caffè mocha is a sweet, chocolaty coffee made from equal parts espresso (2/5ths of the cup) and chocolate syrup (2/5ths of the cup) topped with layer of steamed milk (1/5th of the cup). A caffè mocha is different from a mochaccino, which is a cappuccino with a tablespoon of chocolate syrup.
Caffè medici is a wonderfully light, bright coffee made by brewing a doppio over a slice of fresh orange peel and 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup and then topped with whipped cream.