There are many unique names for all the coffee drinks out there, and it can get confusing. What is a cortado? Or an espresso macchiato, latte, cappuccino, or Americano? Could one of these be your new favorite go-to drink? All of these drinks are made with deliciously roasted espresso, dialed in for the perfect shot every morning. Today, we are going to explain these common coffee drinks and help you decide which of these drinks you will love.
Everyone’s talking about espresso, but what is it?
It’s simply a method of preparing coffee. Espresso is a strong, concentrated coffee, brewed by pushing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. To brew the perfect shot of espresso, extraction time is short; the grounds and water are typically in contact for less than thirty seconds. Flavor can be extracted from the coffee quickly because the water temperature is high, the beans are very finely ground, and pressure is exerted throughout the brewing process. The result of this extraction method is a concentrated, more vivid-tasting drink that many coffee drinkers favor.
Cortado vs. an Espresso Macchiato
A cortado and an espresso macchiato may seem similar but they do have important differences. Both of these delightful drinks contain espresso and freshly steamed milk. What sets them apart is the ratio between the espresso and milk in each drink. In addition, an espresso macchiato is traditionally served in a demitasse cup on a saucer with a spoon, whereas a cortado is served in the traditional cortado glass.
Cortado comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means to cut. This delicious espresso beverage has hot frothed milk which in essence “cuts” the acidity of the espresso.
This creamy drink consists of a 1:1 ratio of frothed milk to a brewed double shot of espresso. Typically, a cortado is served in a small cortado glass with a small layer of froth (as seen in the picture). If you are looking for a great espresso drink that’s a little out of the ordinary, then you should try a cortado.
The birth of the name “macchiato” came from baristas needing to show the difference between an espresso and an espresso with a bit of milk in it. The Italian word macchiato means “stained” or “marked”, hence the espresso macchiato name is translated to “marked coffee”.
This delicious drink is a rich shot (or shots) of espresso marked with a dollop of frothed milk on top. An espresso macchiato is traditionally a 2:1 ratio of espresso to milk, which makes for a stronger espresso taste in the final drink. An espresso macchiato is served in a demitasse cup on a saucer with spoon. This small beverage gives coffee drinkers a little milk in their espresso to soften the sometimes strong or acidic flavor.
Latte vs. Cappuccino
Some of the most commonly ordered espresso drinks are a latte and a cappuccino. Once you try them, it’s easy to see why! They are both made with fresh espresso and creamy frothed milk, and are easily customizable by adding flavor or choosing an alternative milk. The difference between them lies in the ratio of froth and weight of each drink.
The name latte is a shortened form of the Italian name caffè latte, which means “milk coffee”. Since the 17th century, both coffee and milk have been a part of European meals.
Many coffee drinkers like this drink if they enjoy the flavorful taste of espresso when it is tempered with a generous amount of milk. When steamed, the natural sugars in the milk make this drink sweet and tasty. A latte is made by pulling the perfect shot of espresso and then topping with steamed milk. Then, the barista expertly finishes the pour with textured milk (usually topped with a design such as a rosetta, tulip, or heart).
A traditional Italian cappuccino is a coffee drink that is prepared with shots of espresso and steamed milk. A cappuccino is rich in flavor and texture. If you like some sweetness to your coffee drink without losing the coffee flavor, then you will love a cappuccino.
A cappuccino is similar to a latte in that it consists of the same ingredients. Tasty cappuccinos are made by pouring the espresso and then milk, but the technique for frothing milk for a cappuccino is slightly different than for a latte. Baristas integrate more air into the milk, resulting in a light whipped consistency to the cappuccino’s foam. A properly made cappuccino will be significantly lighter in weight than a latte.
Americano and Café au Lait
Still haven’t found the next drink for you? The Americano and café au lait are also popular drinks commonly ordered. The Americano is fresh espresso shots with hot water resulting in a drink comparable to brewed coffee. If you like brewed coffee but want to try something a little different then you should definitely try an Americano. Alternatively, the tasty café au lait is freshly brewed coffee and frothed milk. If you are looking for a mild, sweeter coffee drink, you should consider getting the café au lait.
There’s a popular belief that the Americano name originated during World War II. American G.I.s (when in Italy) would modify espresso with hot water to make it more like the brewed coffee that they had back home. Americano is short for the Italian name café Americano, which literally translates to American coffee.
The Americano is prepared by adding hot water to espresso shots, giving it a similar strength to brewed coffee, but with a bold, velvety smooth taste. This makes it a good alternative if you like coffee, but want to branch out. The strength of an Americano varies with the amount of water added to the drink and the number of shots of espresso. This delightful drink lets you enjoy the flavorful espresso taste without the intensity of a straight shot of espresso.
Café au Lait
In American coffee houses, a café au lait is brewed coffee mixed with steamed milk. This coffee drink is different than a café latte, which contains espresso. The French name café au lait is translated to “coffee with milk”. For a café au lait at Water Street, you can choose what type of brewed coffee you would like: light roast, dark roast, or decaf roast. If you prefer a mild, creamy coffee drink, then a café au lait would be perfect for you!
Customizing your favorite drink at Water Street Coffee
Don’t forget that at Water Street, you can always customize your favorite drinks! You can add any of our flavored syrups to get a unique new flavor in your drink. Water Street Coffee makes our own syrups, and we’re always expanding our homemade syrup offerings. To read more about Water Street Coffee’s house-made syrups and what makes them so delicious, check out our house-made syrup blog. You can also always add an extra shot of espresso to your drinks for a little extra pick-me-up. When you are ordering a drink that has milk in it, you can replace 2% or skim milk with soy milk, almond milk, or breve (half-and-half). Or for a sweeter treat to top your drink, add whipped cream and our homemade dolce (caramel) sauce. Yum!
To see the full Water Street Coffee drink menu, and pick out the next drink you might try,click here!