Espresso Drinks

Espresso Drinks: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you overwhelmed by the variety of espresso drinks on the menu every time you walk into a coffee shop?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll break down the espresso universe into two main categories—black coffee and milk coffee—unveiling the secrets behind each delectable option.

Join me on this caffeinated journey and discover your perfect cup, as we unravel the art and science of espresso drinks together.

Here is a helpful table summarising all of the espresso drinks we will cover.

Espresso DrinkEspresso ShotsMilkCoffee-to-Milk RatioCup Size (ml)Key Features
Single Espresso1NoneN/A20-30Intense, concentrated, served in a small cup
Double Espresso2NoneN/A40-60Same as Single Espresso, but with twice the volume
Americano1NoneN/A150-170Espresso diluted with hot water, served in a larger cup
Lungo1NoneN/A30-40Longer espresso, with the option to add hot water on the side
Filter CoffeeN/ANoneN/AVariesBrewed differently, offering a more refined, less intense flavor
Espresso Macchiato1Foamed Milk1:1 – 1:220-30Served in an espresso cup, with a small amount of milk
Cortado (Piccolo)1Foamed Milk1:4100-120Small milk espresso drink, served in a glass cup
Flat White2Foamed Milk1:4150-200Double espresso shot mixed with foamed milk, served in a cappuccino-sized cup or smaller
Cappuccino1:6 – 1:7Foamed Milk1:6 – 1:7150-200Popular worldwide, balanced ratio of espresso and milk, often featuring latte art
Café Latte1Foamed Milk1:14300 Larger milk coffee drink with a milder coffee presence, served in a big cup

Black Espresso Drinks: The Undiluted Essence of Coffee

You might be wondering, what makes a black espresso drink? It’s simple—these beverages focus solely on the robust flavors of coffee beans, without the influence of milk or other additions.

As a barista, I’ve seen the appreciation for black coffee grow, so let’s dive into the various options.

Single Espresso: A Powerful Punch of Flavor

Single Espresso, also known as a Single Shot, is the foundation of all espresso drinks. Served in a small cup, this intense and concentrated coffee offers a rich taste and smooth structure.

Any respectable coffee shop brews a double espresso into 2 separate demitasse cups since the true espresso needs the deeper coffee basket.

Pro tip: give it a quick stir before you drink to mix all the layers and get the full flavor experience.

Double Espresso: Twice the Taste, Double the Satisfaction

If a single shot of espresso just isn’t enough, then a Double Espresso (or Espresso Doppio) is the way to go. The process is the same as a Single Espresso, but the barista uses a larger cup to capture espresso shots from both spouts.

You’ll not only get a bigger drink but also save some bucks compared to ordering two Single Espressos.

Americano: A Milder Adventure in Espresso Land

For those who prefer a milder intensity but still crave the espresso taste, an Americano is the perfect solution. This drink combines a shot of espresso with 100-120ml of water, maintaining the espresso flavor characteristics while providing a gentler experience.

I find that Americanos appeal to customers who enjoy the nuances of espresso but desire a smoother, more relaxed beverage.

Lungo: Playing with Length for Unique Tastes

The Lungo takes a different approach to dilution. This longer espresso is produced by adjusting

the grinder for a longer shot or by adding extra hot water to a regular espresso, allowing the customer to dilute it according to their preferred taste.

The result is a less intense espresso with a personalized touch, making it an appealing option for those looking to experiment with their coffee experience.

Filter Coffee: A Refined Alternative to Espresso

Lastly, let’s talk about Filter Coffee or Batch Brew. Technically, it doesn’t fit the espresso category since it doesn’t come from an espresso machine.

However, it’s a popular option for those who want a larger cup of black coffee. Filter Coffee offers a more refined, less intense flavor that develops as the coffee cools down.

As a barista, I find that Filter Coffee aficionados appreciate the subtler, nuanced taste profiles this brewing method brings to the table.

Milk Coffee Drinks: A Symphony of Espresso and Milk

Now that we’ve explored the world of black coffee, it’s time to delve into the delightful realm of milk coffee drinks. These beverages artfully combine espresso with varying amounts of milk, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures.

Macchiato: A Delicate Kiss of Milk

The Espresso Macchiato is a minimalist’s dream. It starts with a single shot of espresso, to which just a little bit of foamed milk is added. The result is a small, intense coffee drink with a touch of creamy sweetness.

The ratio is usually between 1:1 and 1:2, striking a delicate balance for those who want a hint of milk without overpowering the espresso.

Cortado: A Small Wonder in a Glass Cup

Sometimes called a Piccolo, the Cortado is another small milk espresso drink, often served in a charming glass cup. It combines a single shot of espresso with foamed milk in a 100-120ml cup, providing a delightful interplay between the coffee and milk flavors.

The Cortado is a personal favorite of mine, as it offers just the right amount of milk to complement the espresso without diluting its essence.

Flat White: An Antipodean Classic with a Double Kick

Originating from Australia and New Zealand, the Flat White has quickly become a global favorite. This drink is a more substantial option, mixing a double shot of espresso with foamed milk in a cappuccino-sized cup or even smaller.

What sets the Flat White apart is its bold coffee flavor, paired with the perfect amount of milk to create a creamy, satisfying beverage that still packs a punch.

Cappuccino: A Worldwide Favorite Steeped in Tradition

No list of milk coffee drinks would be complete without the classic Cappuccino. Arguably the most popular coffee drink globally, the Cappuccino consists of a single shot of espresso and foamed milk.

The ratio between these two components varies from café to café, depending on the cup size, but usually falls within the 150-200ml range, striking a harmonious balance between coffee and milk.

Beautiful latte art is the cherry on top, showcasing the barista’s skill while adding a touch of joy to your day.

Café Latte: A Creamy Embrace for Coffee Lovers

For those who prefer a larger, milkier drink with a more subtle coffee presence, the Café Latte is the answer. Served in a generous 300ml cup, this soothing beverage combines a single shot of espresso with a generous helping of foamed milk.

The coffee-to-milk ratio is around 1:14, making it the perfect choice for those who enjoy a milder coffee experience wrapped in a velvety blanket of milk.

Latte Art Above

A Barista’s Perspective: Personal Insights into the World of Espresso Drinks

As a barista, I’ve had the pleasure of crafting countless espresso drinks, each with its own unique character. Here are a couple of personal insights I’ve gained from my time behind the espresso machine:

  1. The importance of milk temperature: When steaming milk for espresso drinks, it’s crucial to achieve the perfect temperature to ensure the milk is velvety and sweet. Ideally, milk should be steamed to around 150°F (65°C) for optimal flavor and texture. Going beyond this point can scald the milk, resulting in a less pleasant taste and compromising the drink’s quality.
  2. The art of espresso extraction: The secret to a great espresso-based drink lies in the skillful extraction of the espresso shot itself. As a barista, I can’t stress enough the importance of dialing in the grind size, dose, and extraction time to achieve the ideal flavor profile for each coffee. It’s a delicate balance, but when done right, it elevates the entire beverage and creates a memorable experience for the customer.


In conclusion, as a passionate barista and coffee enthusiast, I’ve taken you on a journey through the delightful world of espresso drinks.

We’ve explored the bold intensity of black coffee options, the comforting allure of milk coffees, and the artistry behind crafting the perfect cup.

I hope this newfound knowledge will enhance your appreciation for these beloved beverages and inspire you to try something new the next time you visit your favorite café.

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  1. As someone who holds a Q Grader certification, I must commend you on explaining the intricacies of black espresso beverages. However, I would suggest a note on water quality and its impact on espresso flavors. The mineral content can significantly alter the taste profile, something aficionados never overlook.

  2. I had my first Lungo after reading this guide, and what a different experience. It truly shows how stretching the brew time changes the dynamics of the espresso. I never thought I’d enjoy anything other than a straight double, but here we are. Thanks for broadening my coffee horizons.

  3. Quick question regarding the Café Latte – you mention a 1:4 coffee-to-milk ratio, but isn’t it more towards 1:6? Perhaps I’ve been making mine too strong all this time. Could you clarify this so I can perfect my morning routine?