9 Most Popular Espresso Drinks

I often wonder if downing a triple shot of espresso is just a biological need for the caffeine or for psychological reasons as well. After all, we humans are creatures of habits and many of us can’t start our day without a jot of java goodness. But there is so much more than just sipping a coffee. The other part of us also wants to be seen and perceived by others as cultured and sophisticated.

I challenge you to pay attention to what people shout at a Starbucks when ordering nuanced espresso drinks with their own signature twist to it. Sometimes a person would ramble on for 30 seconds or longer with all the adjectives such as skinny for the milk fat content, thin layer of foam, extra extra hot… I thought why not demythfy the most common espresso-based drinks so you don’t have to feel intimidated next to them.

image by Lokesh Dhakar-http://lokeshdhakar.com/coffee-diagram-follow-up/

image by Lokesh Dhakar-http://lokeshdhakar.com/coffee-diagram-follow-up/

Espresso

There are undoubtedly many variations and names for different espresso drinks, but the common “denominator” is espresso.

Espresso is just a very concentrated coffee brewed by pumping nearly boiling water (around 200 F or so) through finely ground coffee under a minimum of 9-bar pump pressure. What you’ll get is a coffee of medium to dark brown in color, thick and syrupy in texture and a harmonious balanced between bitterness and acidity with a full-bodied taste topped with a layer of crema.

A single shot calls for 7 grams of coffee with 1 fluid oz. of water; a double shot 14 grams of coffee and 2 oz. of water and so on. Espresso is also described in “length” such as “Ristretto” (reduced) short, “Normale” (normal) or Lungo (long) with proportionated coffee to water ratio as 1:1; 1:2 or 1:3 respectively for the three lengths.

Now we’ve got the definition of espresso out of the way, let’s look at how each of the drinks is all about. In general, most of the drinks are a play-on the number of espresso shots with different amount of frothed or steamed milk or cream.

Espresso Macchiato

It’s a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foam. “Macchiato” means “marked” or “stained”. Certainly you can make it a single or double shot.

Espresso con Panna

“Pana” means “cream” in Italian. A single or double shot of espresso with whipped cream on top. The volume of whipped cream can also be adjusted less or more to your liking. The whipped cream takes the edge off the straight shot of espresso and might be an introductory drink for someone new to the espresso scene.

Café Latte

This is one of the most popular drinks in the North America. It’s one part of espresso with two part of steamed milk with a layer of foam. The number of espresso shots can vary from 1, 2 or even triple.

Flat White

It’s also known as “Australian Latte” as it was believed to be first concocted in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s. Very similar to Café Latte but smaller in volume, it consists of one part espresso to 2 part of steamed milk with a very thin layer of microfoam.

Café Breve

Just like Café Latte, but substitute milk with half-and-half prepared in the same way as latte.

Cappuccino

Another very popular drink. It’s made of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 foam and 1/3 steamed milk. It combines the kick from the espresso, smooth microfoam and a creamy mouth feel of the steamed milk. Once again, you can make it stronger by adding another shot of espresso. You can also try out 2% milk, whole or skimmed.

Café Mocha

1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk, 1/6 cocoa and 1/6 froth. Start off by adding cocoa to the bottom of the cup. Then pull a double shot espresso followed by steamed milk with a little bit froth on top.

Café Americano

Refers to adding 16 fluid ounces of hot water to a shot or two espresso. The coffee strength resembles that in dripped coffee, but it has more flavor and aroma due to the espresso brewing method.

Hope by now you feel a lot more confident about different espresso-based drinks and maybe this will spark an interest in you to learn about how to pull a perfect shot. It may sound quite simple on the surface but in reality it takes so much more such as the freshest coffee beans, a high-end burr grinder, a good quality espresso machine with an integrated or stand-alone frothing wand. Then there is the human factor such as the barista skills and techniques.

If you are interested in learning more about different types of espresso machine and how each performs, please feel free to peruse this site for the Buying Guide and comprehensive reviews of best-rated espresso makers.

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