December 9th, 2022
The Difference Between Espresso Drinks
- What are espresso brew ratios?
- What are espresso drink ratios?
The Difference Between Espresso Milk-Based Drinks
- What is a Latte?
- What is a Flat White?
- What is a Cappuccino?
- What is a Cortado?
- What is a Macchiato?
We are here to help you navigate the differences between classic milk-based espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. There are several differences between each milk-based espresso drink, from the espresso-to-milk ratios to the espresso shot volume and even down to the texture of the milk.
Join us on this journey to unpack the difference in espresso drinks. By the end of this post, you will be an espresso drink-making pro! We’ve also created a simple 8-step tool to calculate the milk-to-espresso ratio for five popular drinks latte, cappuccino, flat white, cortado, and macchiato. You can also use the tool for single-shot espresso, double-shot espresso, and at varying strength levels, all while keeping the milk-to-espresso ratio intact.
What are espresso brew ratios?
To best understand the difference between your favorite milk-based espresso drinks, you must first understand brew and drink ratios.
What is an espresso brew ratio? Espresso brew ratios are the amount of coffee grounds used versus the final extraction yield or liquid in your cup.
For example, a double espresso calls for a 1:2 ratio, meaning that for every 1 gram of ground coffee in your espresso portafilter, you aim for 2 grams of espresso yield in your cup. A standard double espresso recipe would call for 19 grams of finely ground coffee in your portafilter, yielding 38 grams of espresso in your cup and typically within 30 – 35 seconds.
This is important when understanding milk-based drinks, as some “classic” drinks call for a double espresso 1:2 ratio. In contrast, others may call for a single espresso using a similar ratio. You also have variations of espresso drinks ranging from 1:1 (1g of coffee grounds to 1g of espresso liquid) to a 1:3 – 1:4 ratio (called a lungo).
What are espresso drink ratios?
What are espresso drink ratios? Now that we have a basic understanding of espresso brew ratios (the base of our drink), we can get into espresso-to-milk ratios.
All classic milk-based espresso drinks call for a base of espresso (either a single or double shot), which is then topped with frothed or chilled milk.
Most drinks call for a double shot of espresso as this most intense shot helps cut through any milk added. We have seen classic drink recipes for cappuccinos call for a single shot of espresso, but we still lean toward using a double shot.
The below will detail all the classic espresso drinks, the shot type, and how much frothed or chilled milk is needed. Please note that scaling a standard 10-ounce latte to a 16-ounce drink would require more espresso and not just topping it with additional milk. If you have ever encountered a super milky drink, it is because the café did not also scale up the espresso needed to cut through the additional milk in the drink. We will default to the classic proportions and let you do any tinkering for larger drink sizes!
The Difference Between Espresso Milk-Based Drinks:
What is a Latte?
A latte is the “milkiest” drink out of the classics and a good reason to keep the proportions of milk to espresso very tight.
Our recipe calls for a 20g double shot of espresso at a 1:2 ratio resulting in 40g (1.4 ounces) of espresso extraction. We top off our espresso with 230 – 240g (8.1 ounces) of milk resulting in a 9.5 – 9.9-ounce latte!
In terms of frothiness, the latte should hit around 1cm of thick milk foam at the top of the drink. The thick foam recommendation falls right in between a flat white or cappuccino.
What is a Flat White?
This is a stronger milk-based drink than a latte, as it uses the same amount of espresso but with a smaller amount of steamed milk.
Flat White Recipe:
Our recipe calls for a 20g double shot of espresso at a 1:2 ratio resulting in 40g (1.4 ounces) of espresso extraction. We will top off our espresso with 100g (3.5 ounces) of milk resulting in a perfect 5-ounce Flat White!
In terms of frothiness, the flat white should only have around 0.5cm of thick milk foam at the top of the drink. This is half of the foam of a latte and 1/3 of a cappuccino.
What is a Cappuccino?
Like the flat white, the cappuccino ratio perfectly balances espresso and milk. The only difference between a cappuccino and flat white is the amount of froth at the top of the drink. Also, some call for a single espresso for their cappuccinos, but we still prefer a double shot (feel free to try both!)
Our recipe calls for a 20g double shot of espresso at a 1:2 ratio resulting in 40g (1.4 ounces) of espresso extraction. We will top off our espresso with 100g (3.5 ounces) of milk resulting in a perfect 5-ounce cappuccino!
The cappuccino has the thickest milk foam at 1.5cm in terms of frothiness.
What is a Cortado?
The cortado has significantly less milk than the previous drinks and is really for those who love the boldness of espresso.
We recommend using a 20g double shot of espresso at a 1:2 ratio resulting in 40g (1.4 ounces) of espresso extraction. We will top off our espresso with 55g (2.0 ounces) of milk resulting in a perfect 3.4-ounce cortado!
In terms of milk, we recommend frothing milk like a latte for this drink but only using 2 ounces of milk.
What is a Macchiato?
The macchiato is the boldest of all classic milk-based espresso drinks, and most need clarification about how little milk there is when they order one! The macchiato calls for a spot of milk and is served in an espresso cup, so it is a very small drink.
Our recipe calls for a 20g double shot of espresso at a 1:2 ratio resulting in 40g (1.4 ounces) of espresso extraction. We will top off our espresso with 25g (0.88 ounces) of milk resulting in a perfect 2.3-ounce macchiato!
In terms of milk, we recommend frothing milk like a latte for this drink but only using 25g of milk.