Updated: December 3, 2023 by Mary Nguyen
Espresso, a potent coffee shot made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, is celebrated for its robust and bold flavor, rich aroma, and velvety texture. It is the foundation for a wide range of espresso-based drinks like cappuccinos, lattes, and Americanos, making it a beloved choice in coffee establishments. With its robust taste and high caffeine content, espresso is a genuine pleasure for coffee aficionados. Its indulgent flavor and silky consistency leave a lasting impression, whether savored by itself or combined with enticing additions. Espresso is a must for those searching for a potent and delightful coffee experience.
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How To Choose The Right Espresso Drink For You
Espresso, the heart and soul of coffee culture, offers a world of flavors and experiences. However, with the myriad of espresso-based drinks available, choosing the right one can be a delightful yet daunting task. Whether you’re a seasoned coffee aficionado or just stepping into the world of espresso, this guide will help you navigate the choices and find the perfect espresso drink that suits your taste preferences.
- Know the Basics: Understand that espresso is a concentrated coffee with a bold flavor. Do you want to retain that bold, robust flavor or tone it down?
- Consider Flavor: Decide if you want a strong kick (espresso), a balanced mix (cappuccino), creaminess (latte), a milder taste (Americano), or added flavors (mocha or caramel macchiato).
- Caffeine Sensitivity: Assess your caffeine tolerance and adjust your choice accordingly.
- Explore Specials: Look for seasonal or specialty options at your favorite coffee shop.
- Customize: Don’t hesitate to customize your drink by adjusting sweetness, milk type, or adding flavor syrups.
- Trust Your Taste: Experiment and trust your palate to discover your perfect espresso drink.
Espresso or Espresso Shot
An espresso shot is a highly concentrated coffee, usually 1 ounce in volume. It’s made by pressurizing hot water through finely ground coffee beans using an espresso machine. The outcome is a strong, bold coffee with a rich flavor, topped by a frothy reddish-brown foam called crema.
Before sipping, it’s common to stir the espresso to blend its layers of flavor. By mixing the oils and crema on top, you ensure an even distribution of taste and a more balanced drinking experience. Despite its size, a single espresso shot is a flavor and caffeine powerhouse, making it an excellent choice for a quick pick-me-up or as a base for other espresso drinks.
An iced espresso is a simple and refreshing coffee drink made by pouring a shot of espresso over ice cubes. It’s a quick and invigorating way to enjoy the bold and intense flavor of espresso in a chilled form. Some variations may include sweeteners or a splash of milk for added flavor, but the basic version is espresso and ice.
Doppio Or Double Espresso Shot
A doppio is an Italian term used in the world of coffee to refer to a double shot of espresso. It is two shots of espresso served together in a single cup or glass. A typical doppio consists of about 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of espresso, whereas a single espresso shot is usually around 1 ounce (30 milliliters). Doppio is a popular choice for those who desire a more robust and intense coffee experience, as it contains a higher caffeine content and a bolder coffee flavor.
A lungo is a coffee beverage brewed with a longer extraction time, allowing more water to pass through the coffee grounds compared to a regular espresso. The term lungo is Italian for long, reflecting this extended brewing process. It’s made using the same amount of coffee grounds as a regular espresso but with about double the water, resulting in a larger and milder coffee with a slightly diluted flavor than traditional espresso.
Lungos are known for their smoother and less intense taste compared to espressos, and they often have a slightly bitter or acidic note. Despite being milder, lungos still retain the essence of espresso. They are favored by those who enjoy a longer coffee experience without the intense strength of a regular espresso shot.
A ristretto is an intensely concentrated coffee shot created using less water than a regular espresso shot. The word ristretto is Italian for restricted or limited. This brewing method produces a more intense flavor and higher caffeine concentration. Roughly half the water used for a regular espresso shot is used, and consistently fine grounds of coffee beans are extracted over a shorter period, usually around 15-20 seconds.
This shorter extraction time results in a shot of coffee that is bolder, more intense, and has a higher concentration of coffee solids, which includes both flavor compounds and caffeine. The reduced water volume and shorter extraction time of a ristretto highlight the rich and full-bodied flavors of the coffee beans, making it a favorite among espresso enthusiasts who appreciate a strong and flavor-packed coffee experience.
Types Of Espresso Drinks With Water
An Americano is a coffee beverage that consists of a shot of espresso diluted with hot water. It’s often served in a larger cup or glass than a traditional espresso shot. The extra water makes it a milder and less concentrated coffee drink. The name Americano is said to have originated in Italy after World War II when American soldiers found Italian espresso to be too strong for their taste.
To make an Americano, start with a standard espresso shot (a concentrated coffee shot) and then add about 4 to 6 ounces of hot water. This dilutes the espresso’s strength while retaining its unique flavor profile. Americanos can be served over ice during the warmer months to create a refreshing iced coffee variation.
A café zorro is two shots of espresso combined with an equal amount of hot water. Café Zorro is a great choice for those who love the robustness of espresso but prefer a larger, less concentrated coffee drink. It offers a balance between the intensity of espresso and the volume of an Americano, making it a versatile and flavorful choice for coffee enthusiasts.
Espresso laccino is a delightful and unique cold coffee beverage that slowly transforms into an iced Americano over time. This popular drink starts with a double shot of espresso, which is then poured over a tall glass filled with ice. The espresso gradually combines with the water as ice melts, creating a refreshing and smooth iced Americano.
One interesting aspect of Italian culture is their strict guidelines on when to drink specific types of espresso. According to tradition, cappuccino should only be enjoyed in the morning. Italians believe the combination of milk and caffeine in cappuccino can be heavy on the stomach and best consumed as a breakfast beverage. After 11am, Italians tend to choose espresso and other non-milk-based drinks to avoid upsetting their digestion.
Types Of Milk Based Espresso Drinks
The flat white is a popular espresso-based coffee drink originating from Australia and New Zealand, known for its simplicity and smoothness. It was created in response to a customer’s request for a cappuccino without foam, known for its simplicity and smoothness, appealing to those who prefer a subtle coffee experience.
It’s made by combining a coffee-to-milk ratio of 1/3 part espresso and 2/3 parts milk, striking a balanced blend between intense coffee flavor and a smooth, creamy texture. This coffee choice has gained global popularity for its rich taste and velvety texture, making it a delightful option for those who appreciate refined simplicity in their coffee experience. It can be enjoyed in coffee shops or prepared at home with an espresso machine.
Café Con Leche
A café con Leche is a popular coffee beverage that originates from Spain, but is also enjoyed in various Latin American countries. It literally translates to coffee with milk in Spanish.
To make a café con Leche, start with a strong shot of espresso then mix it with an equal amount of scalded whole milk. This results in a creamy, coffee-forward drink with a milder flavor than a straight espresso. Sugar can be added to taste, and the ratio of coffee to milk can be adjusted according to personal preference. It’s a comforting and often morning coffee choice for many.
A cortado is a coffee drink originating from Spain and translates to cut or short in Spanish. It’s made by combining espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk. The result is a balanced and small coffee with a rich espresso flavor that is cut or tempered by the addition of milk, creating a creamy and less intense coffee experience compared to a straight espresso shot. Cortados are typically served in small glasses and are enjoyed by those who appreciate the harmony between espresso and milk in a compact serving.
A latte is a beloved coffee drink appreciated by coffee enthusiasts globally for its smooth and mild flavor. It is ideal for those who prefer a less intense espresso taste. Lattes stand out for their customization options, allowing flavors like caramel, mocha, or lavender to be added based on personal preferences.
To craft a latte, combine a ratio of milk and coffee: 1/3 espresso or double shot, 2/3 steamed milk (170 – 225 ml), 1 cm foam resulting in a silky texture that complements the espresso’s richness. The steamed milk adds creaminess, ensuring a satisfying and comforting balance.
An iced latte is a popular cold coffee beverage served. It typically consists of espresso or strongly brewed coffee mixed with cold milk and ice cubes. This creates a refreshing and creamy coffee drink perfect for when you’re craving a chilled coffee experience. You can customize your iced latte with flavored syrups or sweeteners to add extra depth of flavor.
The piccolo latte is a unique espresso drink that provides a strong coffee experience in a smaller serving. It’s crafted with a ristretto shot of espresso topped with steamed milk. What makes the piccolo latte distinctive is the use of a ristretto shot, which is a more concentrated and intense espresso. To prepare a piccolo latte, a ristretto shot is pulled, poured into a small cup, and topped with warm milk. The ratio of espresso to milk can be adjusted to taste, but in general, the Piccolo Latte has a higher espresso concentration compared to a regular latte.
This drink is ideal for those who prefer a bold, concentrated coffee flavor. If you’re in the mood for a small latte with a powerful coffee kick, the piccolo latte is a great choice to experience intense coffee flavors.
Galao is a Portuguese espresso-based coffee drink, often likened to a latte but with more milk, providing a creamier and milder espresso experience. To make a Galao, combine three-quarters foamed milk with one-quarter espresso, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture. The extra milk gives it a slightly sweeter taste and a lighter coffee flavor, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer a balanced and subtle coffee.
Traditionally, galao is served in a tall glass, emphasizing the perfect milk-to-espresso ratio, enhancing both its appearance and the enjoyment of its delightful texture and flavors. In some regions of Portugal, an alternative method involves steaming and blending the milk and espresso together, ensuring a consistently delicious and satisfying Galao experience.
Cappuccino is a beloved and globally popular espresso-based coffee drink. It consists of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, offering a delicate and balanced flavor profile. The result is a delightful and well-balanced coffee beverage. The espresso provides a strong coffee base, the steamed milk adds creaminess, and the milk foam crowns the drink with a frothy layer.
Cappuccinos are often enjoyed for their harmonious blend of flavors and textures, making them a favorite among coffee enthusiasts. They can also be customized with flavored syrups or cocoa powder, and some baristas create intricate designs in the milk foam, known as latte art, to enhance the visual appeal of the drink.
An iced cappuccino is a delightful coffee beverage that’s perfect for those who want to enjoy the flavors of a cappuccino in a refreshing, cold form. It starts with one or more shots of espresso, which are typically brewed and then allowed to cool. The cooled espresso is poured over a generous amount of ice cubes in a glass, providing the chilled foundation for the drink.
To achieve the cappuccino part of the iced cappuccino, a small amount of cold milk is added to the espresso and ice mixture. The milk can be frothed or foamed if you desire that classic cappuccino creamy texture, but it’s often simply cold milk. Combining the espresso, milk, and ice cubes creates a harmonious blend of flavors and temperatures.
A macchiato is a well-known espresso-based coffee drink celebrated for its strong and bold flavor. Its name, macchiato, means stained in Italian, and it lives up to this by retaining its intense espresso taste despite containing steamed milk. To make a macchiato, start with a shot of espresso. After preparing the espresso, top it with a small amount of foamed or steamed milk.
The macchiato’s appeal lies in the balance between the concentrated espresso shot and the silky steamed milk. This equal combination results in a harmonious blend of flavors that will satisfy coffee enthusiasts with its bold and intense taste. Whether you prefer the traditional espresso macchiato or a flavored variation like caramel or vanilla macchiato, this coffee drink is perfect for those seeking a strong espresso flavor with a touch of creaminess.
A Latte Macchiato is a delightful twist on the classic latte, perfect for those who appreciate layered coffee drinks. This espresso-based beverage is created by pouring a shot of espresso over steamed milk and milk foam, resulting in an attractive layered appearance.
Unlike a regular macchiato with a single shot of espresso and a small amount of foam, the latte macchiato features a larger quantity of steamed milk. This produces a milder taste than traditional macchiatos but still provides a stronger coffee flavor than a regular latte. The combination of creamy steamed milk and bold espresso creates a pleasing contrast in both flavor and appearance, showcasing the barista’s artistry.
Breve coffee is an espresso-based drink similar to a latte with some unique qualities that make it favored by coffee enthusiasts. It stands out because it uses half-and-half milk, resulting in a richer, sweeter, and heavier beverage than a latte. The half-and-half milk adds a luxurious creaminess to the drink, enhancing its overall flavor.
Breve is typically served in a small glass and is made with a double shot of espresso and about 2 ounces of half-and-half milk. This use of half-and-half distinguishes breves from lattes, giving them a distinct sweetness and richness that appeals to those who enjoy sweeter or more indulgent coffee experiences.
Mocha Breve is a variation that includes the addition of chocolate. The flavor notes of coffee and chocolate complement one another.
Types Of Espresso Drinks With Sweet Additions: Sugar, Chocolate, Vanilla, Or Whipped Cream
Café Cubano Or Cuban Coffee
Cuban coffee, aka cafecito, is a strong, dark roast espresso that can be overly bitter. To balance its bitterness, a sweet sugar foam called espumita is prepared by mixing granulated sugar with the concentrated first drops of brewed espresso.
To make a café cubano, start by brewing your espresso. In a measuring cup or creamer cup, add granulated sugar. To achieve the desired espumita, vigorously mix approximately a few drops of espresso with sugar until it transforms into a frothy texture. Stir vigorously to form a pale and thick sugar foam or faux crema. Then, combine the espresso and sugar foam.
A mocha is a popular espresso-based drink that adds a sweet and indulgent twist to the traditional latte. It’s made by starting with a regular latte, which involves pulling an espresso shot and adding steamed milk. Add chocolate syrup or cocoa powder to the latte to turn it into a mocha. This addition combines the espresso’s intensity with the sweetness of chocolate, creating a delightful blend of flavors.
Mochas are versatile and can be customized with your choice of chocolate, whether it’s milk, dark, or white chocolate. They are an excellent choice for those with a sweet tooth who still want to enjoy the bold coffee flavors while satisfying their chocolate cravings.
An iced mocha is a cold coffee beverage that combines espresso or strong brewed coffee with chocolate syrup or cocoa powder, cold milk, and ice cubes. This results in a refreshing and sweet coffee drink perfect for those who enjoy the blend of coffee and chocolate. Customizable in terms of sweetness and garnishes like whipped cream, it’s a popular choice, especially on hot days or when craving a sweet coffee treat.
Mocha Latte or Mochaccino
The mocha latte is a well-loved espresso drink that marries the rich flavors of chocolate with the creamy texture of a latte. To create a mocha latte, add a generous amount of chocolate syrup or cocoa powder to a traditional latte, achieving the perfect balance between the espresso’s bitterness and the chocolate’s sweetness.
Coffee enthusiasts often customize their Mocha Lattes by incorporating additional sweet flavors like caramel or vanilla syrup. For an extra touch of decadence, whipped cream and chocolate shavings can be added as toppings, enhancing both the visual appeal and overall taste. With its delightful blend of espresso and chocolate, the mocha latte has gained popularity worldwide. It is a go-to choice for those seeking a sweet and flavorful coffee indulgence.
Café Rapido y Sucio
A “café rápido y sucio,” also known as a quick and dirty coffee, is a coffee drink made with three shots of espresso and topped with chocolate or mocha syrup. Unlike some other coffee drinks, it doesn’t contain milk or water; it’s a straightforward combination of strong espresso and chocolate flavors. The name quick and dirty suggests that it’s a fast and simple way to enjoy a rich and flavorful coffee with a touch of sweetness.
Caffe Medici or Café Medici
Café Medici is a unique espresso-based coffee drink that combines the strong flavor of espresso with the rich taste of chocolate and a hint of orange. To make a caffe medici, you’ll need 2 shots of espresso, 1 ounce of chocolate syrup, a strip of orange peel, and a dollop of whipped cream as a finishing touch.
This coffee drink offers a sophisticated and well-balanced blend of espresso bitterness, chocolate sweetness, and citrusy notes from the orange peel, making it a delightful choice for coffee lovers, that is good in the morning and as a post-dinner treat.
A bicerin is a classic Italian coffee beverage that originates from Turin, Italy. It’s a unique and indulgent drink known for its rich and layered flavors. It’s a popular choice for those with a sweet tooth and those looking to experience the rich flavors of Italian coffee culture.
To make a bicerin, three main ingredients are used: espresso, hot chocolate, and milk foam. Traditionally, a Bicerin is prepared by layering these ingredients in a specific order. It starts with a shot of espresso at the bottom of the glass, followed by a layer of hot chocolate milk for sweetness. Then, a thick layer of frothed milk foam is gently placed on top, creating a visually appealing and delicious contrast of colors and textures.
The marocchino is a delicious espresso drink that caters to chocolate lovers. Named after Moroccan in Italian, it combines a carefully crafted shot of espresso with cocoa powder, milk foam, and a dusting of cocoa powder on top. This drink is distinct for its rich blend of espresso and decadent cocoa flavors.
The layer of cocoa powder adds sweetness and visual contrast. When you take a sip, the creamy milk foam blends with the layers of cocoa and espresso, creating a delightful symphony of flavors. It’s a popular choice for those who crave a harmonious balance between bold espresso and the smoothness of cocoa.
Espresso Con Panna
Espresso con panna is a delightful Italian coffee that marries bold espresso with luxurious whipped cream. It’s perfect for those who desire a strong espresso flavor with a velvety texture. Originating from Italy, it consists of a single espresso shot generously topped with whipped cream.
The contrast between the robust espresso and creamy whipped cream creates a harmonious balance, delivering intense coffee notes and a rich, indulgent experience. To make an authentic espresso con panna, ensure the correct ratio of coffee to cream, and enjoy this unique coffee treat that satisfies the senses.
Raf coffee is a sweet and popular coffee drink originating from Russia, known for its emphasis on sweetness. It’s made by combining two espresso shots with a generous amount of vanilla sugar and cream.
After preparing your coffee, combine it with vanilla sugar and cream in a milk pitcher, then steam the mixture using a milk steamer. Once it becomes a smooth foam, your steaming is complete. Alternatively, you can substitute sugar for vanilla syrup if you happen to be out of vanilla.
The freddo is a popular iced coffee beverage originating from Greece, known for its refreshing nature and intense flavor. It’s made by blending two espresso shots with ice cubes, creating a chilled and invigorating drink.
To make a freddo, combine freshly brewed espresso shots with a few ice cubes in a mixing container. The ice quantity right defines the drink; too much can dilute it, while too little won’t make it cold enough. Although sugar can be incorporated into the espresso after brewing, it’s not advisable for specialty coffee, as an unsweetened version allows the coffee’s inherent qualities to shine. A full-bodied, low-acidity coffee ensures its flavor remains prominent even after blending.
A frappe is a beverage prepared by shaking, blending, or whipping together ingredients such as espresso or coffee, sugar, milk or water, and ice. The interpretation of a frappe can vary worldwide. For instance, in Bulgaria, soda may be used instead of milk or water. In Serbia, it’s common to include ice cream and whipped cream as toppings. Variations can consist of sweeteners like sugar syrup, milk, and flavorings such as vanilla or caramel for added complexity.
An affogato is a delectable espresso drink that doubles as a dessert-like indulgence. It combines hot espresso with creamy vanilla ice cream or gelato. To make an affogato pour freshly brewed hot espresso over a scoop of velvety ice cream, creating a delightful interplay of temperatures and flavors. As the hot espresso melts the cold ice cream, it forms a harmonious blend of bitter and sweet notes.
Variations of affogatos can include caramel, chocolate sauce or cocoa powder for added decadence. Whether enjoyed after a meal or as an afternoon treat, affogatos offer a magical fusion of hot and cold, bitter and sweet tastes.
Glacé is cold coffee with ice cream and topped with grated chocolate, named after the French word glacé, meaning ‘frozen.’ Unlike other coffees, it must include ice cream. Similar to the Italian affogato dessert, glacé is made with black coffee—brewed in various methods like a coffee maker, French-press, AeroPress, or even instant coffee.
Black Tie or Thai Iced Coffee
The black tie espresso drink is a distinctive beverage that combines traditional Thai tea flavors with a double espresso shot. It originates from Thailand and has gained global recognition for its unique flavor profile and refreshing nature.
To make it, brew strong Thai tea, let it cool, pour it over sweetened condensed milk, add a double shot of espresso, the Thai tea with sugar, and cream or half and half. The result is a harmonious blend of flavors that’s refreshing and invigorating, appealing to coffee and tea enthusiasts alike.
Espresso Drinks With A Sour Twist
The espresso romano is a refreshing coffee beverage that blends the strong espresso flavors with the zesty freshness of lemon. It’s a simple yet sophisticated choice for coffee enthusiasts.
To make a romano, serve a shot of espresso with a teaspoon of sugar and a slice of lemon on the side. While this combination may seem unusual, it enhances the coffee’s flavors. The lemon can be squeezed or dropped into the coffee.
The guillermo is a distinctive and revitalizing coffee drink that blends the bold espresso flavors with the tartness of fresh lime slices. It offers a unique twist on the traditional espresso experience. To make a guillermo, start by placing thin slices of fresh lime in a cup. These lime slices add a tangy element to complement the robust espresso. Next, brew two shots of espresso and pour them over the lime slices, allowing the heat to release the lime’s essential oils, enhancing the overall flavor.
For added sweetness, you can optionally drizzle sweetened condensed milk on top, creating a creamy and indulgent aspect to balance the citrus notes. It’s a delightful choice for those looking to break away from their regular coffee routine.
Alcoholic Espresso Drinks
The espresso martini is a popular espresso-based cocktail that marries the rich flavors of coffee with a hint of alcohol. To create an espresso martini, you typically combine vodka, freshly brewed espresso, coffee liqueur (like Kahlua), and sometimes sweetener, shaking these ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker to achieve a frothy and refreshing drink.
It’s often served in a martini glass, garnished with coffee beans or chocolate for an added touch of indulgence. The espresso martini appeals to those who appreciate the intense espresso flavor while desiring a hint of alcohol. It blends vodka’s smoothness with espresso’s robustness, resulting in an invigorating cocktail suitable for any time of day or night.
A caffé correto is an Italian espresso drink featuring either a single or double shot of espresso corrected with a splash of grappa, brandy, or sambuca. This addition not only enriches the espresso’s flavor but also provides a warm and aromatic sensation, making it a favored choice for those who desire a more intense and spirited coffee experience.
Whether you choose a single or double shot, caffé correto allows you to enjoy the robust coffee flavor with a touch of alcoholic decadence. It caters to both coffee enthusiasts and those who appreciate alcoholic beverages, offering a unique blend of flavors that tantalize the palate and awaken the senses.
So Many Espresso Drinks To Try
The world of espresso drinks is a rich and diverse landscape, offering a spectrum of flavors and experiences to suit every coffee enthusiast’s palate. From the bold intensity of a classic espresso shot to the velvety indulgence of a mocha latte, these beverages are a testament to the creativity and artistry of baristas and coffee lovers around the globe. Whether you prefer the simplicity of a macchiato or the complexity of a café medici, there’s an espresso drink waiting to be discovered and savored.
If you want to try even more coffee beverages check out Types of Coffee Drinks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most popular espresso drink?
Lattes are the most popular espresso based drink in the US. It is a combination of espresso and steamed milk, often topped with a small amount of foam. Lattes are popular for their creamy and mild flavor.
What type of espresso drink is strongest?
Ristretto is the strongest espresso variation. It’s made with the same amount of coffee as a regular espresso but with half the amount of water. This results in a smaller, more concentrated shot of coffee, intensifying the flavor and thickness of the beverage.