Espresso Your way: 9 Great Espresso Drinks

iced latte/ espresso drinks

Espresso drinks are a staple of the coffee culture. From lattes to macchiatos, the world of espresso has many flavors for every palate!

Espresso-style coffee drinks range from bitter drinks designed for Americans in Europe to enjoyable dessert-like drinks in a number of delicious coffee flavors.
While coffee lovers are undoubtedly into espresso and the delicious drinks it makes possible, many people are unaware of drink differentiation and usually stick to their regular brew.

Knowing what the espresso drinks are composed of, how they’re made, and how they differ from one another can help you make sense of things when it’s your turn to order, as well as increase your confidence at the counter (or in your own home espresso machine).

Let’s go through these most popular espresso drinks one by one so you can take pleasure in each moment confidently, instead of being confused and unsure.


Ah, Latte. The King of coffee. The Classic.

When you think of coffee, this drink is probably one of the first things that spring to mind. Thick, creamy milk and robust espresso combine to make a delicious combination that has a mouthwatering appeal.

The latte, which is made from espresso and milk, is the largest and most milky of all espresso and milk beverages. This makes it the most approachable drink. Since the 16th century, people have been drinking coffee and milk together, and the name and reference of the combination have evolved over time. The word “latte” was adopted due to its simplicity as a short form for “caffe latte,” which is coffee and milk. Over time, the abbreviation “latte” came to be used to refer to a beverage that mostly has milk in it, regardless of who first uttered the phrase. The rest is history!

What’s a latte? Lattes are made with one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, with a thin layer of foam on top, usually containing 1-2 ounces of espresso and 8-15 ounces of steamed milk. Anything larger than 8 ounces is referred to as a latte in the specialty coffee world. It’s not unusual to find two or three distinct latte sizes. Steaming Latte milk is heated to between 135 and 150 degrees, with only a thin layer of microfoam.


The Americano is a watered-down espresso. It’s named after—you guessed it—Americans, who are known for diluting their espresso with water (the americano) or milk (the latte). It was created in Europe during World War II to mimic the Americans’ favorite drip coffee.

If you want a low-calorie energy boost, the americano is for you. If you want a syrupy and sweet drink, do not drink this coffee drink.

What’s an Americano? An Americano is similar in strength to a cup of regular black coffee, but it is prepared by combining a single or double shot of espresso with hot water. It’s made with 1/3 espresso, 2/3 water, and all the bitterness. This creates a different flavor profile compared to traditional black coffee.


The classic little cup is one of the most well-known types of espresso drinks! You’ll be able to find one no matter where your travels take you.

Cappuccino is an espresso drink with steamed milk topped with a deep layer of fluffy, frothy foam on top. Many coffee lovers love the cappuccino since it has more milk foam than the latte. Due to the smaller amount of milk, the cappuccino is more caffeinated than the latte.

Cappuccinos are a great compromise for people who want to enjoy the espresso taste without being overpowered by it.

You can’t order a “no foam cappuccino”, as it would be like a ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk, and ⅓ emptiness – and that just makes it a tiny latte or a flat white. The drink’s identity is defined by foam, you can’t take it out.What’s a cappuccino? A cappuccino is an espresso beverage with steamed milk, milk foam, and espresso. It consists of equal proportions of espresso, steamed milk, and foam (⅓ each).

Flat White

The Flat White was first served in Australia, where it was named for a customer who desired a cappuccino-size drink but without foam. In other words, it’s a “no foam cappuccino with extra milk.”

A flat white may be described as a cross between a cappuccino and a latte. It’s comparable in size and ratio to a  modern cappuccino, yet it’s prepared like a latte, with the espresso thoroughly blended with steamy milk. The top layer of microfoam on a flat white is as thin as feasible, compared to a latte and cappuccino.

If you desire a strong espresso-milk drink with more ounces than a cortado and as little microfoam as possible, then the flat white is for you.

What’s a flat white? A flat white is a coffee beverage made with espresso, steamed milk, and a very thin layer of foam on top. In the specialty coffee industry, flat whites are explained as small lattes. A flat white has the thinnest possible microfoam layer, no more than half a centimeter thick, whereas a latte has a layer of microfoam about 1 centimeter thick. There is still enough foam for latte art.

Cortado / Gibraltar

Cortado, aka Gibraltar, with its Spanish roots, has lately become quite popular. In particular, it is gaining popularity in many of the most technical cafés throughout America.

This ultimate Spanish coffee drink is extremely smooth, with just the right balance of espresso and milk. It’s robust and silky, with each component enhancing the other.

The perfect balance between espresso and milk creates a platform for rich flavor notes to shine through while maintaining just-so proportions.

As a visual reminder, most Cortados are served in 4.5 oz clear or glossed glasses—referred to as “Gibraltar” glasses at coffee shops.Cortados / Gibraltars have a richer profile than cappuccinos. The more subtle flavors of the espresso can be tasted throughout the milk.

What’s a cortado? The Cortado is an espresso beverage made with an equal amount of espresso and steamed milk. The drink’s recipe is simple:  one double shot of espresso and 2 ounces of milk. The milk is not foamy or frothy, as it is in other drinks.


In Italian, “macchiato” means “stained” or “marked”, a vague adjective that attests to the drink’s inconsistency across cafes.

Traditionally, this drink is simply a shot of espresso topped with a little bit of microfoam produced by steaming milk. This foam is generally spooned out, so no actual liquid milk is in the cup. The drink is never larger than 2-3 ounces in volume.

The macchiato you order at an Starbuck is often less authentic and loaded with caramel syrup. That’s nothing like the traditional macchiato. The Italians invented macchiatos to highlight the flavor of espresso rather than hide it in syrup.

Macchiatos are a wonderful way to enjoy espresso’s deep and diverse tastes while not sacrificing the full punch. The little bit of milk and foam smooths out the roughest edges, while still preserving the shot’s flavor profile.

What’s a macchiato? The Italian macchiato is espresso that’s been dolloped with frothed milk. A traditional macchiato is typically served in a demitasse cup with a capacity of 2 oz. to 3 oz (60 ml to 90 ml), containing about 1 espresso shot and 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk foam on top. Modern coffee shops, however, make macchiato by steaming and adding milk much the same way as a cappuccino or latte, filling the cup with a combination of steamed milk and microfoam. 


The mocha is an unusual example of a classic espresso drink with an additional ingredient and no well-known tale of origin (although the term “mocha” can be traced to the ancient seaport town of Yemen, known as Mocha, which was a major coffee exporter). The mocha is so rich, creamy, and chocolaty that it tastes like you’re drinking chocolate pudding.

The mocha is the fraternal twin of the latte, with only one exception: the addition of chocolate (whether in the form of cocoa powder and sugar or chocolate syrup).  Typically, mocha is a double shot of espresso, 6+ ounces of milk, topped off with whipped cream, and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

What’s a mocha? A mocha is usually served in an 8 oz. to 12 oz. (240 to 350 ml) cup. It is a drink made with 1 to 2 shots of espresso, steamed and foamed milk, flavored with 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup (or 5 to 8 g of cocoa/cacao powder).

Latte Macchiato

When making a latte, the espresso is usually poured into the glass first, followed by the steamed milk.  The latte macchiato, however, is done in reverse. This time, the espresso marks the milk. The milk is steamed to a smooth microfoam state, which is then poured into a cup. A half-shot of the espresso is added after the milk has been poured, gently pouring it over the top, creating layers. This makes for a layered drink with an espresso spot on it, called a “macchia.”

Since there is less espresso, the latte macchiato has a lower caffeine concentration than the latte.

What’s a latte macchiato? A latte macchiato has the same ingredients as the latte, only the method is different. Milk is first poured into the cup, followed by adding the espresso. As a result, the milk gets stained with espresso, which is why the drink’s name is complemented by the Italian term for “stained.”

Café Au Lait

The café au lait is fancy-sounding but it’s a simple drink made with only two ingredients: espresso and milk.

The café au lait, which is the ancestor of the latte, is similar to the composition of a latte in terms of the pairing of coffee and milk. The main distinction between these two coffee beverages, however, is the kind of coffee used. Because drip coffee uses a greater proportion of water to coffee during the brewing process, it does have somewhat more caffeine than espresso; nevertheless, it isn’t as strong as espresso. 

The cafe au lait should not be included given the nature of this list and that all beverages are based on espresso. However, in order to avoid confusion and promote overall awareness, many other countries, particularly in Europe, will use espresso, hot water, and hot or steamed milk to produce this beverage.

What’s a café au lait?  The café au lait is typically made up of 1/2 drip coffee and 1/2 steamed milk. In contrast to the café au lait, the latte has roughly 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk. The café Au Lait differs from the latte in that it contains drip coffee rather than shots of espresso.

What Are Dry And Wet Drinks?

You may modify your favorite espresso and milk drinks if you understand what “wet” and “dry” drinks are. These words allow you to customize the amount of foam in your drink.

  • If you ask for a dry drink, you’re telling the barista that you want more foam and less steamed milk. Because the foam is less liquidy than milk, the drink is  “drier.”
  • If you ask for a wet drink, you’re telling the barista that you want less foam and more steamed milk.

Here are a few examples of how you might use these terms:

  • A dry latte will have more foam than normal, making it resemble an upsized cappuccino.
  • A wet cappuccino will have lower foam than a regular one, closer to a flat white.

Which should you choose? It’s up to you!

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an authentic espresso experience, it’s important that your knowledge of what makes each drink unique extends beyond its visual differences.

The essence behind every type of espresso drink is different from one another; however, there are many similarities between these espresso drinks which can easily be missed if not understood thoroughly.

Espresso can be served in many different ways, but these 9 espresso drinks outlined above are sure to keep your energy levels up all day long!

Happy Caffeinating!

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