For many people worldwide, nothing quite beats drinking a warm cup of coffee to start their day. After all, coffee gives us that much-needed energy boost in the morning, allowing us to tackle whatever the day has in store.
However, for some, a regular cup of coffee isn't enough; they need something with a much stronger kick to feel ready. This is where the espresso comes in: a single espresso shot has a higher caffeine concentration per ounce than your regular cup.
There are even numerous espresso-based drinks you can choose from – from your standard espresso shot to your macchiato and caffe latte.
The question now is, what are the differences between these drinks? Moreover, which of them is best suited for you?
Let's find out.
Let's start with the basic – the standard espresso shot. It is named after the specific brewing method it undergoes, which originated from Italy at the beginning of the 20th century.
The process of making an espresso shot involves forcing a small amount of hot water, typically around near-boiling temperatures, through finely-ground coffee beans that were tamped down in a portafilter basket. The result is topped with a brown microfoam called "crema," which adds to the flavor of the shot.
As mentioned, a single espresso shot contains a higher concentration of caffeine than your typical cup of coffee, usually around 63 mg of caffeine per ounce. That's why it usually has a fuller flavor and stronger kick than brewed coffee.
Of course, there are variations to this marvelous invention, such as the doppio, ristretto, and lungo, which will be discussed further below.
Doppio, which means "double" in Italian, is just as its name suggests – a double shot of espresso. It involves the same extraction process as your typical espresso shot, only with twice the amount of coffee and in a double portafilter.
A doppio shot would typically yield around 1.5 ounces, and it contains twice the concentration of caffeine as your standard espresso shot and has a thicker crema. Because of this, it is the perfect option for espresso-based drinks such as a latte or cappuccino
Ristretto is another variation of the espresso shot, wherein you use less water to extract the coffee from the beans. As a result, you get less coffee than your typical shot. So, why would anyone prefer this?
Well, this is because a ristretto prioritizes the quality and flavor of the coffee over the quantity. In this case, since you're forcing less water through the coffee beans, you preserve much more of your beans delicate notes and get a much more sweet and concentrated flavor as a result.
Ristretto shots usually have a richer and sweeter flavor than your standard espresso shot, which some prefer over traditional shots. It is perfect for those who want to savor the coffee's flavor instead of just the caffeine.
The lungo is the opposite end of the ristretto, an Italian word meaning "long." As the name suggests, a lungo shot is a long espresso shot, which means you use a more extended period and more water to extract the coffee.
As a result, you get a more significant amount of coffee, usually around the same amount as a doppio for a single shot, but that's where their similarities end. A lungo shot has a more subtle sweetness flavor than the typical espresso shot.
It also has slightly more caffeine than your standard espresso since the process requires more extraction time. However, this mainly depends on what type of coffee beans you used for the shot. A lungo is perfect for those who prefer a stronger taste for their coffee.
Now that you know the basics of espresso and its variations let's discuss the different espresso-based drinks. First, we have the macchiato, topping an espresso shot with frothed milk.
The word macchiato means "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, and the drink involves staining the espresso shot with some foam. In this case, the foam is added to slightly diminish the espresso's taste.
The traditional macchiato is considered different from what many cafés have on their menus these days, which can confuse some. With that said, a macchiato is perfect for those who want to experience the richness of espresso but with slightly softer edges.
Also known as "Gibraltar," the cortado is an espresso-based drink with Spanish origins, and it used to be served in Gibraltar glasses, hence the name. It's composed of half espresso and half steamed milk, making it the ideal drink in the afternoon.
This espresso-based drink was designed for quick and casual consumption, with the steamed milk serving to soften the espresso's intensity. A cortado is usually compared to the cappuccino, but the difference is that it's considered richer and more intense than the latter.
It's the perfect drink for those who want something softer than your standalone espresso but still more robust than a cappuccino.
Next, we have the cappuccino, arguably one of the most popular espresso-based drinks worldwide. As mentioned, the cappuccino is similar to the cortado, but instead of having half espresso half steamed milk, it follows the rule of thirds.
In this case, a typical cappuccino is made from 1/3 espresso, 1/3 foam, and 1/3 milk. It's usually only around 5 to 6 ounces, although some cafés offer larger versions that still adhere to the traditional ratio.
Cappuccinos are considered more intense and flavorful than the latte because they contain less steamed milk and more foam topping. It's perfect for those who want something more balanced in terms of flavor and intensity.
- Caffe Latte
Caffe latte, or simply latte, is an espresso-based drink that involves adding steamed milk to your espresso. It's one of the largest espresso-based drinks available on the menu, and it's considered the most approachable among all the espresso-based drinks.
It is primarily due to its smoother and simpler flavor, thanks to the larger volume of milk, making it easier to drink, even for non-coffee drinkers. Moreover, the higher milk concentration means the espresso flavor is more subdued, so adding syrups and other flavors blends well with this drink.
With that said, a latte is best for those who aren't used to rich espresso-based drinks but want to explore the wonders of espresso.
- Flat White
The flat white was initially created in Australia, although some say it's from New Zealand. It is often described as a latte and a cappuccino hybrid, wherein the ratio and size follow your typical cappuccino. However, it follows the process of your regular latte, wherein you mix the steamed milk thoroughly into the espresso. Moreover, unlike the cappuccino, a flat white is topped with the thinnest possible foam layer.
With that said, a flat white is perfect if you're looking for something more robust than a latte but with less foam and larger than a cappuccino.
Last but not least, we have the Americano, which originated from the US, as its name suggests. Simply put, an americano is an espresso that's been diluted with hot water. A standard americano usually involves a double shot of espresso then cutting it with around 8 ounces of hot water.
Americano gives you a more potent and richer flavor than your typical brewed coffee but slightly less flavorful than a standard espresso. What makes this drink so popular is that you can experience the different and subtle notes of espresso by varying the amount of water you add.
An americano is perfect for those who prefer their coffee without milk but don't necessarily like the strength of a standard espresso.
With that, you now know the various types of espresso-based drinks and how they differ from each other. Hopefully, this helped you learn what espresso-based kind of drink you like.
Of course, it's essential to note that regardless of what drink you prefer, you will need high-quality coffee beans to make them. In that case, you can visit https://annamon.com/ for premium-quality beans to make your own espresso-based drinks.