A Basic Guide To Common Espresso With Milk Drinks

If you are new to espresso, the number of options and jargon on your local coffee shop menu may be quite overwhelming. So, here’s a rundown of common espresso with milk drinks. 

Espresso With Milk Drinks
Espresso is a full-flavored and concentrated type of coffee that is typically served in shots

Most of the coffee beverages we know and love are espresso with milk drinks. Whether it’s an espresso macchiato, a foamy latte, cappuccino, or a mocha. Whether you enjoy making espresso at home or visit coffee shops regularly, you might want to acquaint yourself with some common espresso with milk drinks.

By learning what these drinks are made from, how they are prepared, and how they are different will provide you with confidence and knowledge, especially when it is you’re ordering a drink in a new coffee shop.

What Is Espresso?

Espresso is a small, concentrated serving of coffee. It comes in tiny serving sizes, known as shots. It is brewed when pressurized hot water is forced through finely-ground coffee beans compacted together. You’ll hear baristas talking about “pulling an espresso shot.”

You may also be interested in reading our guide on how to use an espresso machine.

Unlike other types of coffee, espressos contain crema — a flavorful and aromatic brown foam made from the combination of air bubbles and the soluble oils of the finely-ground coffee beans. The presence of crema in your espresso shot shows it was brewed by a skilled barista or a professional coffee maker.

5 Common Espresso With Milk Drinks

Every drink included in this list is made from two simple ingredients — espresso and milk. There are dozens espresso drinks that use sweeteners, flavored syrups, or cream rather than milk. 

No matter the size, most coffee shops double up their espresso shots in all espresso with milk drink. So, usually, when you choose the size, you simply decide how milky you like your drinks. For example, the amount of espresso in a 12-ounce latte and a 6-ounce cappuccino will probably be the same. 

While this is not true in every coffee shop, it generally is the norm. If you liked this post, you might be interested in learning why a tamp is the key to a properly pulled espresso.

Latte

The latte is the biggest of all the espresso with milk drinks with only a thin layer of foam and a lot of milk. The reduced ratio of espresso blends well with flavored syrups like caramel or vanilla. Everyone loves its simple and smooth flavor — even those who do not actually like coffee!

A latte typically contains one to two ounces of espresso with eight to 15 ounces of steamed milk. So, it is not unusual to see two or three latte sizes. In the world of specialty coffee, a drink bigger than eight ounces is already considered a latte. 

If you prefer your coffee cold, refreshing iced lattes are also available. They are usually made with one to two ounces of espresso, eight to 14 ounces of cold milk (not steamed milk), and ice.

You may also be interested in reading our guide on how to make a latte at home.

Cappuccino

cappuccino in the center of the table
Cappuccinos are very popular

Cappuccinos are incredibly popular. You can probably find them in most coffee shops around the world.

Classic cappuccinos were only five to six-ounce drinks made with one to two ounces of espresso and three to four ounces of steamed milk. Unlike a latte, a third of this drink is foam.

However, Starbucks began to sell large cappuccinos yet maintaining that thick foam layer. Although the size was different from the classic drink, customers could still maintain the classic espresso-milk-foam ratio.

Some specialty cafés have reverted to tradition, so you will typically notice cappuccinos that are five to six ounces in size. Ask for a dry latte if you are looking for a larger cappuccino. 

Since there is less milk diluting the espresso, cappuccinos allow the coffee to shine. However, just like lattes, they are also approachable. They are an excellent choice if you want to enjoy the espresso’s strong coffee flavor without being overwhelmed by it.

Also, please do not order a cappuccino with no foam, as this would only be one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third of nothing. 

You may also be interested in reading our guide on what is a cappuccino.

Flat White

Flat White is an Australian drink that was created in response to a customer’s request for a drink similar to a cappuccino but without crema or foam. So, basically, it is a cappuccino with no foam, and with extra milk. 

Starbucks once again gave it a new definition. Starbucks’ Flat White contains two shots of ristretto (a short shot of a more concentrated espresso coffee) and 10 to 15 ounces of steamed milk. 

In the world of specialty coffee, flat whites are usually described as small lattes. However, the coffee flavor from the espresso is more intense, and with little to no foam.

You may also be interested in reading our guide on flat white vs latte.

Gibraltar/Cortado

We are reducing the size again with another common espresso with milk drink — the Gibraltar, also known as a Cortado. This four to five-ounce drink from Spain is served in a Gibraltar glass.

The Gibraltar is a drink meant to be drank as fast as possible. The espresso is strong, and it is only mixed with two to three ounces of steamed milk to make it less intense — just enough to make it a little bit enjoyable.

The milk is cooler than other espresso-based coffees so you can drink it quicker. Gibraltars are stronger than cappuccinos, and you can taste more of the coffee’s flavors through the milk.

Many people who are new to espresso do not like the strong coffee flavor of this beverage, but it is enjoyed by many coffee lovers worldwide. It is strong but still not as robust as a plain espresso.

Macchiato

full cup of macchiato coffee
The classic macchiato was simply a shot of espresso with a small dollop of microfoam on top

Macchiato is yet another perplexing coffee drink. Several years ago, Starbucks added this coffee to their menu as a 12 to 20-ounce coffee drink with a lot of caramel syrup – which is very unlike the classic macchiato.

The classic macchiato was simply an espresso shot topped with a drop of microfoam. This froth was usually spooned out, leaving no milk in the cup — and the drink was never bigger than two to three ounces in size.

Most speciality coffee shops prefer a classic macchiato, but put their own spin on it. They make latte art by pouring a small amount of liquid milk into the espresso instead of adding a small dollop of microfoam on top just to be spooned out. It is still a two to three-ounce drink, though, but it now has a drop of steamed milk.

If you’re at a specialty coffee shop and order a macchiato, you will probably be asked to explain what you really want. To reduce confusion simply say “espresso macchiato.” 

Macchiato is a great option if you want to experience the strong coffee flavor of espresso without being overpowered by it. The small amount of liquid milk added or the small dollop of microfoam on top smooths out the rough edges without changing the flavor profile of the espresso shot.

You may also be interested in reading our guide on macchiato vs. cortado coffee.

What Is A Breve?

When request a breve, you often get a latte brewed with half-and-half rather than milk. Although that is actually the default drink, any espresso with milk drink can be modified using breve.

For example, a breve macchiato is just a macchiato made with steamed half-and-half rather than milk. Another example is a breve cappuccino, which is a cappuccino brewed with steamed cream rather than milk.

You may also be interested in reading our guide on what is a breve coffee.

What Are Dry And Wet Drinks?

If you understand what dry and wet drinks are, you can easily alter your favorite espresso with milk drink. These terms allow you to control how much foam you want in your coffee drink.

Requesting a dry drink from a barista means that you want more foam and less liquid. On the other hand, ordering a “wet” drink from a barista means that you don’t want much foam and extra steamed milk.

For example:

  • A wet cappuccino contains less foam than standard cappuccinos, meaning it is similar to a flat white.
  • A dry latte will have more foam than normal, which brings it closer to a large-size cappuccino.

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