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The Most Popular Espresso Drinks - A Beginner's Guide

Dec 23

Espresso drinks are specialty coffee drinks that include one or more shots espresso "pulled" out of an espresso maker.

The most well-known espresso drinks are the Cappuccino, Latte (Caffe Latte), and Mocha (Caffe Mocha), however there are many others and each seems to have their own particular favorite.

Here's a list of the most well-known types of espresso drinks that we've compiled for you. You can pick from the traditional latte or the exquisite macchiato, or even the espresso cocktail. Maybe you need some refreshers on your coffee drink types...but if you want to make them at home visit the recipe to learn more! They are part of the Barista Series, where you will learn to make top-quality coffee at home. Are you ready to begin drinking?


The primary ingredient in every drink listed below, let's begin by definining espresso. Espresso is a method of brewing coffee. It's a method to make coffee where a small amount of nearly boiling water is pushed through finely ground coffee under pressure.

In preparation for brewing, coffee is finely grinded into a portafilter basket which is then tamped to form the shape of a flat "puck," and secured into the espresso machine. When the machine is turned on, it delivers water at a very stable temperature by using a mechanical pump. To push the coffee through the machine, it utilizes 9 bars pressure to fill the area above the espresso puck.

A perfectly balanced espresso shot is something you should just drink. The flavor? A bit strong, but the ratio of coffee 1:2 to water is significantly less diluted than a standard cup filter coffee (closer to a 1:15 ratio). In addition to being strong, a shot of espresso is expected to have a rich and balanced taste profile underneath the glossy crema top.

Espresso is served in small cups named demitasses, which holds around 2 -3 fluid ounces, the volume of a double, or a triple espresso shot. The best espresso cups are made from porcelain, or double wall tempered glass. However, double wall tempered glass is a great alternative, that gains more and more popularity.


A cappuccino, also known as an espresso drink, is made that is made with steamed milk, foam of milk and espresso. It's very similar to a latte (cafe latte) however the amount of steamed milk differs. Here's the breakdown for a cappuccino and latte:

A cappuccino is made up of equal amounts of espresso, steaming milk and foam ( 1/3 each).

A latte is made up of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, with a thin layer of foam over it. Here's a chart that breaks it down!

The differences between the two drinks are fairly subtle, as is the taste.

According to the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano, the institution that regulates espresso, the ideal cappuccino cup has an elliptical bottom, with thick walls and is made of porcelain. The bottom of the cup is made of thicker material to improve heat retention. The traditional color of the cup is bright white for aesthetic reasons.


A latte could be described as a coffee drink which includes espresso, steamed, as well as a layer of foam. The latte is made up of 1/3 espresso and 1/3 steamed milk. Additionally, there is a thin layer of foam over the top.

The latte you choose should be made with the right type of foam. The milk must have a texture that appears like microfoam. It's difficult to achieve that texture without the steamer. We'll explain how to achieve it with different tools available to you.

Latte is served in wide cups, which give the barista more space to create the latte art. The wide cup also mitigates the issue with the foamed milk, which is not desirable when creating latte art. The best latte cups for home baristas are made from thick porcelain, or double walled borosilicate glass.

Flat White

Flat whites are coffee drinks that include espresso, steamed milk and a layer foam. It is similar to cappuccino and latte but it is a bit thinner over the top. Modern coffee shops offer tiny differences between the three coffee drinks, and often times the lines blur. In general, the main distinctions between a white flat vs cappuccino vs latte:

Flat White has a 1/4 inch of microfoam at the top. The milk that is steamed is stretched between 20 and 25%.

The latte is medium-frothy with about 3/8 inch microfoam on top. Spread the milk out 25-35 percent.

Cappuccino is creamy but not foamy. It has about 1/2 inch of foam at the its top. The steamed milk with a ratio of 30-50%, is the most stretched of the three.


An Americano, also known as a Caffe Americano, is an espresso drink that is made using hot water and espresso. You can make the drink with just one or two shots espresso and different ratios of water. The strong espresso roast is diluted to make a drip coffee. This could be the cause of the name. The exact source of the term is murky and is believed to have originated in the 1970's. The strength of the coffee is more similar to the American drip coffees.

Is an Americano allowed to drink milk? Never. A true Americano does not include milk like a latte, cappuccino, or macchiato. You can add milk if you like however, it's still not the authentic version of this drink.

Espresso Macchiato

Caffe macchiato, also known as espresso macchiato is a shot espresso, topped off with frothed milk. The word "macchiato" means "stained" in Italian, meaning that the dark espresso is colored due to the foam of milk placed on top. Some sources say the macchiato originated to help drink espresso until the end of the day.

The other kind of macchiato, also known as a latté macchiato. A latte macchiato is essentially made of steamed milk, which is stained by a bit of espresso over the top.

Mocha Latte

Mocha, also known as mocha latte is a beverage made of espresso and steamed milk that's flavoured by chocolate syrup. There are many variations on exactly what is a mocha; it's up to the barista! The drink can be made with different levels of espresso shots, different amounts of steamed milk , and various quantities of chocolate syrup. Starbucks culture has seen the mocha rise in popularity from the 1980s onwards.

Red Eye Coffee

The coffee known as red eye is a blend of drip coffee as well as two shots espresso. It is most likely that the name refers to the experience of taking an "red eye flight" an air traveler's flight that is over night, causing passengers to be tired and have red eyes.

There are a few variations to the names of this drink which are referring to the number of espresso shots. Red eye is one shot, black eye is 2 shots and dead eye or green eye has 3 shots. If you buy it from an espresso shop you can select "red eye coffee" with the option of indicating how many espresso shots you would like. This coffee includes: drip coffee, one to three espresso shots, depending upon the desired strength.