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Deciphering the Local Coffeehouse Menu's Espresso Drinks

How to Order Espresso Drinks

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A Shot of Espresso with Crema

A well-pulled shot of espresso with crema

Photo (c) Counter Culture Coffee
If you're new to espresso, the abundance of options and jargon on your local coffeehouse menu may be overwhelming. This guide will help you place espresso orders with confidence and explore the exciting world of espresso. You may also want to check out this guide on ordering non-espresso drinks.

Breve (brev-ay)
An espresso-based drink that's made like a cappuccino, but with half and half instead of milk. This term has also come to mean any espresso with half and half in lieu of milk, regardless of the proportions and whether or not it's foamed.

Caffé Americano (kah-fay ahh-mer-i-kan-oh)
A shot of espresso combined with enough hot water to fill a 6-ounce cup. The Americano was supposedly invented by European baristas for American G.I.'s during World War II to replicate Americans' preferred drip-style coffee. It's popular on its own after dinner in Italy, but in the U.S., many consume it with milk and/or sugar throughout the day.

Café au Lait (kah-fay oh ley)/Café con Leche (kah-fay kon lech-ey)
French and Spanish variations on the Italian drink Caffé Latte. "Lait" and "leche" mean milk in French and Spanish (respectively). Like Caffé Lattes, the milk flavor is fairly dominant. A 2:1 ratio of milk to espresso is common. Sugar may be added, and is usually included in Café con Leches.

Caffé Latte (kah-fay lah-tay)
Recipes vary widely, but a general definition is a double espresso in the base of a preheated mug or cup, topped with steamed milk to fill, and garnished with froth or latte art. "Latte" means "milk" in Italian, so generally the milk flavor is more dominant in this beverage than other espresso-based beverages. A 2:1 ratio of milk to espresso is common.

Caffé Mocha (kah-fay moh-kuh)/Mocha Latte (moh-kuh lah-tay)
A variant of Caffé Latte made with white, milk or dark chocolate syrup, milk or powder. They are sometimes topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, or other sweet additives.

Café Noisette (kah-fay nwah-zett)
Espresso with a small amount of milk added, making it the color of "noisette," French for "hazelnut."

Cappuccino (kah-poo-chee-noh)
A traditional Italian cappuccino is a single espresso shot topped with equal parts steamed and frothed milk (in a ratio of 1:1:1) served in a 4 to 6 ounce preheated bowl-shaped cup. Many in the American market have adapted this recipe, incorporating more steamed and frothed milk, while keeping the espresso quantities the same unless otherwise specified.

The foam that tops a cappuccino acts as a natural insulator, keeping the drink warmer longer.

Doppio (doh-pee-oh)
A double shot of espresso. It's the standard espresso size in many coffeehouses.

Espresso (ess-press-oh)
A full-flavored, concentrated form of coffee that is served in "shots." Espresso is made by forcing pressurized, hot water through very finely ground coffee beans. This process is called "pulling a shot."

Unlike most coffees, espressos have "crema," a flavorful, aromatic, reddish-brown froth made when air bubbles combine with fine-ground coffee's soluble oils. The strong presence of crema indicates a quality, well-ground coffee and a skilled barista (professional coffee maker). Crema and espresso's quick extraction process give espresso a fuller flavor, longer aftertaste and lower caffeine content than drip content.

Each shot is about 1 ounce. Many shops choose to only offer double espressos (two shots, also called "Doppios," which is Italian for "doubles") for quality control issues. Other coffeehouses also offer single shots and lungos. Regardless of the size, espressos are usually poured into a demitasse (a small, two- to four-ounce cup).

Espresso con Panna (ess-press-oh kon paan-nah)
Espresso topped with whipped cream (this link opens a video recipe for whipped cream).

Espresso Macchiato (ess-press-oh mock-e-ah-toe)
A single or double espresso topped with a dollop of heated, texturized milk and (usually) served in a small cup. "Macchiato" means "mark" or "stain." In this case, the "mark" is the dollop of milk on top of the espresso.

Flat White
A shot of espresso with a double shot of steamed milk. Unlike most steamed milk coffee drinks, it is "wet," so it has little or no foam and a smooth, velvety texture.

Flavored Latte (la-tay)
A Caffé Latte with flavoring syrup or powder added. Popular flavors include vanilla, peppermint, Irish crème, caramel, cinnamon, almond, hazelnut, toffee, buttered rum, orange and raspberry. Flavored lattes may be topped with whipped cream or other toppings.

Latte Macchiato (lah-tay mock-e-ah-toe)
Also known as a "long macchiato," this drink is primarily made of steamed milk. "Macchiato" means "mark" or "stain." A "Latte Macchiato" is milk "marked" with a half-shot (or less) of espresso. American variations also include Caramel Macchiatos (and the like) with a caramel (or other ingredient) as the "mark."

Lungo (loon-goh)
A "long" pull (extraction) of espresso made with the same amount of finely ground coffee and twice the water of a normal shot. A single serving is about two ounces. If overextracted, they taste bitter and metallic.

It may sound similar to a Caffé Americano (which is espresso with hot water added after it's pulled), but its unique processing results in a different flavor. It has a less strong taste (because it is made with more water), but it also has more bitterness (because the extraction process takes longer and pulls more bitterness out of the grounds).

Red Eye
A cup of filter coffee with one shot of espresso. It's sometimes called a "Hammerhead" or "Shot in the Dark." Variations include the "Black Eye," which is made with two shots of espresso, and the "Dead Eye," which is made with three shots.

Ristretto (ree-streh-toe)
A smaller, more concentrated serving of espresso. It has a more intense flavor and body, and less bitterness. It may be ordered as a single (about 0.75 ounces) or a double (about 1.5 ounces).

Shot
One serving of espresso (about 1 ounce) prepared at normal strength.
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