There are so many espresso-based drinks out there, that it can be hard to know what to order. As of this season, there are over 87,000 different coffee combinations just at Starbucks alone!
For those of us, the home baristas, we often create drinks at home to our personal preferences not realizing the actual name of the drink we’ve made.
This break-down of espresso drinks will help you put a face to a name in the coffee world and give you an understanding of the ratios of these beverages, so you can decode the name of the mystery drink you make every morning and unlock the ability to order it at cafés.
First, we’ll start with classic black espresso-based drinks, and then get into white coffee drinks or milk-based espresso drinks. Without further ado, let’s take a tour through 15 of the most popular coffee beverages.
The Definition of an Espresso
Considering every recipe following will include this common ingredient, let’s first define the baseline. What is espresso? An espresso is a concentrated shot of coffee brewed by pulling pressurized near-boiling hot water through finely ground coffee grounds in under thirty seconds. It doesn’t require an expensive espresso machine to make a great cup of espresso you can easily find a workable machined for under 300 dollars.
A typical espresso shot is one ounce, aromatic, and packed with caffeine.
A well-extracted shot is typically 70% dark liquid and 30% crema.
Crema is a golden caramel color and has a creamy, foamy consistency.
Most cafes offer single, double, and triple shots of espresso and you can often single, double, or triple the espresso in each of the drinks we’ll describe below.
Espresso Ristretto vs. Espresso Lungo
Ristretto means “restrict” in Italian, aptly describing the way this type of espresso is made.
An espresso ristretto is a shorter, even more concentrated version of espresso, made by shooting less water through the same amount of dry coffee grounds.
Espresso Lungo is the antithesis of ristretto, meaning “long” in Italian. It is made by sending more water through the same amount of coffee to create a less concentrated, longer shot of espresso.
Americano vs. Long Black
Americano and long black, as well as espresso Lungo, are often put in the same category of less-concentrated espresso beverage options.
However, the Americano and long black are frequently debated. Some say that there isn’t a difference in these drinks since they each have the same recipe: espresso and hot water. But the difference is in the order as well as the ratio.
- Pour a 2-ounce shot of espresso into a mug or glass.
- Use a kettle to pour 6 ounces of hot water over the shot of espresso sitting in the cup.
- This is a standard 8-ounce recipe, but the typical ratio is 1:3, three parts hot water one part espresso.
Long Black Recipe:
- Pour 4 ounces of hot water into a mug or glass.
- Extract a 2-ounce shot of espresso into the cup of hot water directly or pour an already extracted 2-ounce shot of espresso into the water.
- Long black is most commonly prepared in a ratio of 1:2, two parts water, and one part espresso.
Taste and Profiles:
For an Americano, add hot water to a shot of espresso. For a long black, extract a shot of espresso directly into a cup of hot water. It might seem like they would taste the same, but strangely they are different experiences, and they look different too.
- An Americano tastes closer to standard drip coffee and looks a bit richer and cloudier in the cup.
- On the other hand, a long black retains espresso’s beautiful crema and has a closer taste to an espresso Lungo.
Still, neither are a substitute for their taste profile parings, they are their own unique drinks.
Tip: If you are considering an espresso machine with built-in features that makes a Long Black or an Americano, check out our review on Breville BES870XL Barista Express, a versatile semi-automatic with a dedicated hot water dispenser for all your black beverages.
Red Eye vs. Black Eye vs. Dead Eye
The red eye, black eye, and dead eye beverages are simply single, double, and triple shot versions of the same drink. The drink originated from the need for a little extra caffeine when taking a red eye flight, and so the idea to add a shot of espresso to coffee was born.
Red Eye Recipe:
- Pour one standard 8-ounce cup of coffee.
- Add in a 1-ounce shot of espresso.
Black Eye Recipe:
- Pour one standard 8-ounce cup of coffee.
- Add in a 2-ounce shot of espresso.
Dead Eye Recipe:
- Pour one standard 8-ounce cup of coffee.
- Add in a 3-ounce shot of espresso.
The famous drink has spurred a multitude of alternate names including a “Shot in the Dark,” a “Hammerhead”, and a “Canadiano” – a play on americano. Many of its other aliases liken it to an oil spill in some way with names like “Sludge Cup.”
Tip: Starbucks’ three-shot recipe is called the “Green Eye.”
Steamed Milk vs. Micro Foam vs. Frothed Milk
Before we jump into white coffee beverages, it’s important to explain the differences between steamed milk, micro foam, and frothed milk. For every recipe you will be injecting cold milk with air, via hot steam to different degrees.
- Steamed milk is the flattest recipe made with the least amount of air for a velvety type of hot milk.
- Micro foam incorporates more air for a creamy, thicker foam.
- Finally, frothed milk injects even more air for a firmer, more voluminous macro foam.
Latte or Caffe Latte
A latte is going to be the white espresso-based beverage with the most milk in the cup. Traditionally, lattes were supposed to be an espresso to milk ratio of 1:3, but most major coffeehouses prepare it as 1:4 or even 1:5 if you don’t ask for an extra shot of espresso.
This is part of what makes lattes so popular for pouring art, as you have the most room to work with your milk. Latte art is now done competitively and is a fundamental part of coffee culture. You can add flavors to your milk for any number of variations from vanilla to cinnamon, lavender or rose lattes.
Tip: Remember, latte in Italian means simply milk, so make sure to say caffe latte if you’re traveling abroad.
- Start with a lower, wider coffee mug that can hold at least 10-12 ounces of liquid.
- Steam roughly 8 ounces of milk using a method that will produce a flat velvety steamed milk with just a thin layer of micro foam.
- Add a double shot of espresso into the empty cup.
- Pour your steamed milk into the espresso until the cup is full or until you’ve created your desired design.
Tip: If you want to check out an espresso machine with “Advance Latte System”, read our review on the DeLonghi La Specialista, a professionally inspired semi-automatic espresso machine.
It has a special feature, De’Longhi “my” button – where you can customize each recipes to be the way you like it.
A cortado was always my version of a latte when I’d prepare it for myself at home, not knowing the name. It uses the same type of milk as a latte, but much less of it, making it a favorite of coffee enthusiasts that want to taste the flavor of the bean. The ratio of espresso to milk is 2:1.
- Start with a glass or mug that can hold 4.5-5 ounces of drink.
- Pull a 2-ounce shot of espresso into your cup.
- Steam 4-5 ounces of milk the same way you would for a latte and add it to your glass until it’s almost full then stop.
Cappuccinos are universally beloved beverages that feel like a treat because of the fluffy foam on top.
Traditionally, cappuccinos should be made with a 1:1:1 ratio, but as is common with most drinks brought over from Italy.
Tip: American coffeehouses tend to add more milk and foam than espresso, so be aware of that when ordering or be prepared to ask for an extra shot of espresso, or to order it “dry.”
- Start with a mug that holds at least 6 ounces of drink.
- Extract a double shot of espresso (approx. 2 ounces).
- Steam at least 4-6 ounces of milk froth until you have a thick layer of macro foam on top.
- Let the milk sit for around 30 seconds, so the steam and froth separate.
- Pour 2 ounces of the steamed milk from your cup of froth. Note: the thicker foam won’t come out onto your drink, only the heavier steamed milk.
- Scoop out 2 ounces of the macro foam on top of the drink.
- Optional: Add a dash of cinnamon on top.
- Variation: A dry cappuccino will have less of the steamed milk and more of the froth, while a bone-dry cappuccino will have no steamed milk and instead a double portion of foam.
Tip: If you are looking for an espresso machine specialized in finely textured, feather-weight milk foam for your cappuccino, read our review on Jura E6 Automatic Coffee Center, a professional automatic coffee center that’s suitable for home use as well.
A flat white is another great option for those of you who find lattes too milky. Like the cortado, it is a 1:2 espresso to milk ratio, but it has a denser foam and different pouring method for a distinct taste and look. The flat white originated in Australia, where they began wanting to taste more of the espresso through less milk and foam, so they took the foam off the top for a flat-topped drink.
Flat White Recipe:
- Start with a mug that holds 5-6 ounces of drink.
- Pull a 2-ounce shot of espresso.
- Steam 4 ounces of micro foam, falling somewhere in between latte and cappuccino style milk.
- Start pouring the milk into the espresso from a higher distance, then as it starts to fill up start pouring closer to the cup to create a flat white circle of foam on top.
Latte Macchiato vs. Espresso Macchiato
While these two drinks have a very similar name, and are often confused, their recipes are vastly different.
A latte macchiato is 6-8 ounces of steamed milk, marked with one double shot of espresso.
On the other hand, an espresso macchiato is a double shot of espresso with just an ounce of steamed milk and usually an added scoop of foam, too.
Latte Macchiato Recipe:
- Start with and 10–12-ounce cup.
- Begin steaming 8 ounces of milk, which will expand.
- Pour the milk into your cup leaving 1-2 ounces of room.
- Pour a hot double shot of espresso right in the middle.
- Typical Ratio: 1:6
Espresso Macchiato Recipe:
- Start with a small 3–4-ounce glass.
- Steam 2-3 ounces of milk into micro foam.
- Pull a double shot of espresso and add it to your small glass filling it halfway.
- Pour an ounce or two of your milk and add a dollop of foam from your steamed milk on top.
- Typical Ratio: 1:1
Mocha or Caffe Mocha
Mochas are a great gateway into the coffee world because they taste mostly like hot cocoa. This drink is composed of espresso, steamed hot chocolate milk, and micro foam. If you use white chocolate, it’s considered a white mocha. You can also add peppermint for a holiday peppermint mocha.
- Start with a small 8–10-ounce glass.
- Brew a 2-ounce shot of espresso.
- Steam 2-ounces of chocolate milk.
- Froth 1 ounce of thicker macro foam.
- Combine espresso and chocolate in the mug and add one ounce of milk foam on top.
- Optional: Add whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
- Ratio of espresso to steamed chocolate milk to milk froth is 2:2:1.
A shaken espresso is a delicious, iced espresso beverage made with espresso, simple syrup, milk, and ice. Starbucks recently popularized this beverage, but you can make it at home too.
Shaken Espresso Recipe:
- Start with a shaker full of ice and a tall glass.
- Add a chilled double or triple shot of espresso to the shaker. Note: I personally recommend using a lighter, blonde roast.
- Add .5 ounces of simple syrup or vanilla syrup.
- Add 4 ounces of non-fat or 2% milk.
- Shake your ingredients and pour it into your glass. Top with more ice.
If you’d like a shaken alcoholic espresso drink, the espresso martini might be for you. This beverage is served chilled in a martini glass. It’s made of espresso, coffee liqueur, and your favorite vodka.
Espresso Martini Recipe:
- Start with a chilled martini glass.
- Chill a 1-ounce shot of espresso in the fridge or freezer for a quick cool down.
- Prep 2 ounces vodka and .5 ounces of Kahlua or your preferred coffee liqueur, as well as .5 ounces of simple syrup.
- Shake the espresso with your other ingredients and ice until well-chilled and pour into the martini glass.
- Optional: Garnish with 1-3 coffee beans.
- Ratio of espresso to vodka is 1:2.
We hope you’ve discovered something new in this catalog of popular café-style espresso beverages.
Understanding the ratio of milk to espresso in the white drink category is especially important to how much you might enjoy a particular drink.