Since I write a cozy mystery series (the Coffee & Crime Mysteries) about the owner of a coffee shop, I read a lot about coffee. And as much as my doctor might wish otherwise, I drink a lot of coffee. Now, granted, I am not much of a connoisseur – I like a little coffee with my sugar and cream. However, I make a point to actually taste various types of coffee (without the sugar and cream), so that I am able to experience and recognize the difference, say, between a Hawaii Kona and a Jamaican Blue Mountain; a dark roast versus a light roast; or a blend versus a single origin. It’s fun and informative and I’m hoping to share more coffee lore in my books as time progresses.
One of the things I get asked most about is the difference between the various espresso drinks. So I thought I’d create a little blog post about it.
What is an espresso drink?
The basics: An espresso drink is one that contains espresso (typically created in a machine by forcing steam through ground coffee beans), steamed milk, and foam in various amounts and in various layered combinations.
Some espresso drinks also contain other ingredients (like chocolate or other flavored syrups, or whipped cream), but all espresso drinks contain the basic three ingredients of espresso, steamed milk, and foam.
My Favorite Espresso Drinks
Cappuccino: This is probably one of the most often ordered drinks, and likely the first thing you ordered at a Starbucks (outside of a pumpkin spice latte perhaps). A cappuccino should be made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk, in that order. Because of the layering, many good coffee houses will serve drinks like this in glass cups or short tumbler, so you can also appreciate the drink visually.
Latte: If you’re at all familiar with romance languages, you might be able to guess what a latte is all about. Yup – milk. A shot of espresso goes in the bottom of the cup (or a tumbler glass, outside of the States) and the rest of the cup is filled with steamed milk, giving the drink a sweeter taste. Then, a soupçon of milk foam is added to the top.
Macchiato: The macchiato is a step down from the strength of a straight espresso. Layering is important here and a good barista (like those at my favorite local coffee shop, The Conscious Cup, in Crystal Lake) will make sure that there is a dark espresso layer on the bottom, a layer where the espresso and a little blop of steamed milk mix, and then the finishing layer of foamed milk (some coffee houses I’ve been to omit the foam).
Mocha: Ah, the joys of chocolate and coffee combined! The mocha is my go-to coffee drink in the winter. It’s 50/50 espresso (on the bottom) and chocolate syrup, topped with steamed milk. Sweet, rich, powerful, it’s a great pick-me-up for those chilly mornings when neither me nor my car want to start up. Some people like to put whipped cream on top. I say, go right ahead, there’s always room for whipped cream!
Americano: Most espresso drinks call for a shot (30 ml) of espresso. If you need more volume, but not more jazz (as in a Doppio, where you’d get double the amount of espresso), then you could opt for an Americano, which is the standard espresso shot coupled with twice the amount of hot water.
Cortado: Not always on the coffee menu here in the Midwest, the Cortado is one of my favorites when I really need a java fix. A popular drink in Spain, hence the Spanish rather than Italian name, it’s espresso mixed with an equal amount of steamed milk, and is creamy rather than foamy. Plus, because it is not layered, I can mix in a ton of sugar without anyone being the wiser and calling me a coffee Philistine!
There are many more, but I’ll leave some for a future post. If there’s a coffee drink you’d like to know more about, or want to share YOUR favorite coffee drink, please leave a comment! I love to hear from you all. Now, at least, the next time you’re in line at your favorite coffee shop, you’ll be armed with some information, and can perhaps step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Or, maybe you’ll just impress the the guy or gal in line behind you with your exceptional coffee knowledge!
Be sure to linger over your coffee. Enjoy it, make it a ritual instead of just slugging it back. It is a delectable pleasure to be savored. As the mother of a dear friend used to say, “Just one more sip, George.”
Illegitimi non carborundum!