Have you ever stood at the counter in a coffee shop staring at the chalked menu and wondering if you should order a macchiato, a lungo or a breve? You’re not alone. Given the considerable variety of espresso drinks available and the fact that many cafes have developed their own names for some of them, it’s no wonder that ordering coffee gets confusing. This short, sweet guide to coffee drinks should make it easier for you to order—and duplicate—your favorite drinks at home.
Generally speaking, espresso is a beverage made by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. That’s the definition you’ll find in most dictionaries. The Specialty Coffee Association of America provides a fairly representative example of a more precise definition:
Espresso is a 45ml (1.5 ounces) beverage that is prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water of 192 - 198 F (88 - 92 C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, where the grind of the coffee has made the brewing "flow" time approximately 22-28 seconds. While brewing, the flow of espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick dark gold cream foam ("crema") topping. Espresso is usually prepared specifically for, and immediately served to, its intended consumer.
Espresso and its variations are the base of most coffee drinks found on traditional coffee shop menus. While espresso is clearly defined, precise measurements and coffee-to-water ratios aren’t consistent across all venues and can be needlessly intimidating. For that reason, we’ll keep the following descriptions simple.
Café Americano: Generally, a shot of espresso diluted after brewing with enough water to fill a 6-ounce cup. In some shops, though, an Americano is simply coffee made in a drip coffee maker.
Doppio: Also called a Double, a doppio is precisely what it sounds like: a double serving of espresso prepared with twice the ground coffee and twice the water.
Espresso Lungo: A shot of espresso pulled “long” to add more water and soften the taste. A lungo may also be called a long espresso.
Espresso Ristretto: A shot of espresso cut short, restricting the amount of water and resulting in a denser, more flavorful cup. A ristretto may also be called a short or a corto.
Breve: A shot of espresso with steamed half & half.
Café con leche: A coffee drink that consists of strong coffee and heated milk. Traditionally made with espresso (see also Caffe Latte) but can also be prepared using drip coffee (called café au lait in that case).
Cafecito: A Cuban coffee drink made by combining finely ground coffee and turbinado sugar before brewing the mixture as espresso. A variant that may be familiar to some involves allowing the first few drops of an espresso shot to dribble over sugar in the cup, stirring vigorously until a paste is formed, and then pulling the rest of the shot.
Café Corretto: Literally, “correct coffee” or “coffee the right way.” Espresso with a shot of alcohol added. The spirits used vary; some popular options include Sambuca, Galliano and Ouzo.
Café Freddo: Iced coffee.
Caffe Latte: A shot of espresso with about three times that amount (or more, particularly in the U.S.) of steamed milk and topped with less milk foam than in a cappuccino.
Cappuccino: A coffee drink consisting of espresso, steamed milk and milk foam in equal parts. Cappuccino is often served with a dusting of cinnamon. A variation consisting of espresso and milk foam but no steamed milk is called a dry cappuccino in many shops.
Cortado: A shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk.
Dead Eye: A cup of brewed coffee with a shot of espresso added. Depending on the coffee shop, this may also be called a Red Eye, Shot in the Dark, Pile Driver or Depth Charge.
Espresso Con Panna: A shot of espresso topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
Espresso Granita: In Europe, frozen espresso and crushed or shaved ice served with a topping of whipped cream. In the U.S., espresso, milk and sugar frozen together in a special dispensing machine – a cappuccino slush, or, at Starbucks, a Frappuccino.
Espresso Romano: Espresso served with a slice of lemon on the side.
Latte Macchiato: An espresso drink made by dribbling a shot of espresso into a glass of frothed milk. The espresso creates graduated layers of color in the cup: dark at the top underneath a layer of pure milk froth and nearly pure white at the bottom.
Macchiato: A shot of espresso with a dollop of foamed milk or cream. The foam should form a light “mark” on the espresso, hence the name, which means “marked” in Italian.
Mocha Latte: An espresso drink made with chocolate, espresso, steamed milk and milk froth. Some cafés use chocolate syrup, while others choose cocoa powder or melted, high-quality chocolate.
Moka: Coffee made in a stovetop moka pot.