This article will be a fun and illustrated one! Consider it as a little relaxing interlude in this Home Guide to Espresso course. Have you ever been to a cafe and wondered how a latte is different from a flat white? Or what a “long black” is compared to an Americano? We’ll break down the most common types of espresso drinks you will find on a cafe menu. You won’t have to be nervous in front of your barista ever again!
Bear in mind that every cafe has a slightly different recipe for the same drinks. Some cafes use ristretto shots for all their coffees, others only use traditional single espresso shots, and most use double shots. Here, I’ll discuss the most common, standard recipes that I’ve come across whilst working as a barista; as well as after discussion with other baristas from different countries. The “common ground”, if you will.
This is Part 3 in this espresso guide. If you want to follow along an easy-to-understand, simple, barista-taught course on how to brew good espresso from home, check out Part 1 and Part 2 here! It’s 100% free of charge, no-fluff and supercharged with tips and tricks to up your coffee game.
In this article, we’ll look at the various types of cafe coffee drinks made using espresso. That means coffee like cold brew and filter won’t be included here. Now, remember our definition of espresso?
“Espresso is finely-ground coffee that is extracted under high pressure and hot water.”
In essence, all the drinks here will involve the use of an espresso machine. One serving of espresso is called a “shot”. One espresso shot is typically about 1 oz (30ml).
However, this shot can vary. It can increase or decrease in volume, depending on the amount of coffee or water used by the barista. They are all still espresso, don’t be mistaken. Just consider them as different variants of espresso shots. Let’s look at them now:
Types of Espresso Shots
This is what we think of when we hear the word “espresso”. A small, strong, 1 oz (30ml) drink, brewed in around 30 seconds, from 8-10g of ground coffee.
A “smaller” espresso. The amount of coffee used is exactly the same (8-10g), but less water is pumped through it. As a result, the final volume is even less than that of a regular espresso.
There is a bit of debate about ristrettos, but in some instances they taste sweeter and fruitier than a regular espresso. Since we’ve used less water, it takes a shorter time to brew. Hence, the darker, more bitter flavours are not extracted.
A “longer” espresso. Again, it is brewed with the same amount of coffee, but this time, more water is pumped through it. Thus it takes a longer time to brew, and the result is a more watery, diluted espresso.
A double shot uses twice the amount of ground coffee (16-20g), and produces twice the amount of liquid in the cup (about 2 oz or 60ml).
Double shots are becoming the industry standard across most coffee countries, such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand. In Italy though, the birthplace of espresso, it gets tricky. You’ll see why when you get to the cappuccino section below.
Black Espresso Drinks
An espresso shot extracted into a cup with a little hot water. The hot water must go in first, and the espresso on top. This preserves the crema and gives it that nice golden-brown finish atop the coffee. Many people enjoy this with a small jug of milk or cream on the side.
An espresso with a larger volume of hot water poured into it. As opposed to a long black, the hot water is poured on top of the espresso shot, which breaks the crema and mixes it around into the coffee. The final look is similar to your typical, pure black coffee. An Americano is essentially a weaker long black, as it is diluted with more water in it.
Want to know how a Long Black stacks up against an Americano side by side? Check out this article for the showdown: Long Black vs Americano: 4 Major Differences
An espresso shot with a little scoop of frothed milk lying on the top. It adds a layer of creaminess and sweetness to the espresso shot. A short macchiato is served in a small, demitasse cup.
A long black with a little scoop of frothed milk lying on the top. In other words, hot water + espresso + milk foam.
Espresso Con Panna
An espresso shot with whipped cream on the top. Very yummy!
A long black with whipped cream on top. Can be garnished with chocolate powder or cinnamon powder for that little extra taste kick.
Milk-Based Espresso Drinks
Typically a double espresso shot with steamed milk mixed into it. The milk has been frothed a little so you get about 1 cm of milk foam from the top of the cup. This is what gives a latte its nice, creamy yet silky smooth mouthful.
A double espresso shot with steamed milk. Compared to a latte, the milk is steamed with only a tiny bit of froth. The foam level is very thin, about 0.5 cm from the brim. Usually, it is served in a smaller cup, which means it is a stronger white coffee than a latte.
This drink is the most popular in Australia and New Zealand, with both countries laying claim as to who invented it first! Have a little read of our flat white-exclusive scoop here.
The well-known and beloved Italian classic. As per the Italian National Institute of Espresso guidelines, cappuccinos are traditionally prepared with a single shot of espresso, topped with heavily frothed milk. The thick layer of milk foam is what gives you that white mustache on your upper lip when you take that first sip!
However, as double shots are becoming more and more prevalent, many cafes across the globe are serving cappuccinos with double shots. Some cafes serve their cappuccinos with a dusting of chocolate powder on top of it.
A regular cappuccino contains frothed milk, which has a harmonious blend of liquid milk and microfoam. A dry cappuccino is when the cup is filled with only dry foam. You get a thick, white, fluffy dome atop the espresso shot, and no liquid milk at all.
A double espresso shot mixed with chocolate syrup/powder, topped with frothed milk. It’s essentially a chocolate coffee.
A small, “baby” latte. Typically a single espresso shot topped with steamed milk and a little froth – the same as that of a latte. Served in a small demitasse glass, which is about 3 oz or 100ml. Sometimes a ristretto shot is used instead.
A small, “baby” flat white. A single espresso shot topped with steamed milk, with little to no froth. Typically served in a demitasse cup, the same ones a pure espresso would come in.
Special Espresso Drinks
An espresso shot poured on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream! This is a unique desert that is found more commonly in restaurants than cafes.
In my humble opinion, affogatos taste like a slice of heaven!
A top secret milk-based coffee that originated from Melbourne. Very few baristas outside of Australia know of this drink. Indeed, to even know of this drink almost feels like being in an exclusive club.
It is a [REDACTED] made with a [REDACTED] shot, and [REDACTED], [REDACTED] [REDACTED].
Oh dear, I guess the Melbournians don’t want me leaking their signature coffee out. Quick, click on the article below to learn more about this mysterious Magic Coffee!
Wrapping it up!
The names may sound fancy, but in reality, once you know what these coffees are, they’re really quite simple. All that’s different is the ratio of milk, foam or water to the coffee shot. Cafe coffees? Demystified.
Now you know what they are, you can easily recreate your favourite cafe drinks from home. Your homework? Pick and choose your favourite milk-based espresso coffee! Will it be the traditional, timeless cappuccino? Or the most popular Aussie and Kiwi coffee, the flat white? Head out to your local specialty coffee cafe, and give these coffees a whirl.
In the next part of this Home Guide to Espresso, we’ll start getting into learning how to steam and froth milk for your favourite milk-based espresso drinks. You’ll learn how to make your own creamy, frothy cappuccino or latte right from home.
Stay tuned for Part 4, which I’ll release in the coming weeks. Till then, stay coffeed up!
[Update: Part 4: How to Steam Milk is now released!]