Espresso 101

Macchiato, latte, cappuccino: many espresso terms used today have far strayed from their origins. Regardless, if your restaurant serves coffee and espresso, then understanding basic terms as well as their modern meanings holds value. Customers ordering coffee will range from traditional to trendy, and their understanding of what coffee or espresso drink they want may vary drastically! Grasping the concepts of each term and creating a foundation for each one specifically in your menu is the key to consistency; it will help with training employees as well as keeping customers coming back for more. <<Tweet This>>

We’ll start with some coffee variation that are typically found on many barista menus:

  • Caffe Americano: Simply known as an ‘Americano’ for many, this is a style of coffee prepared by adding hot water to espresso, giving a similar strength to but different flavor from regular drip coffee.

  • Cafe au Lait: Meaning simply ‘coffee with milk’, this is defined as a coffee beverage consisting strong or bold coffee (sometimes espresso) mixed with scalded milk in approximately a 1:1 ratio.

  • Coffee Milk: The state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk! Similar to chocolate milk, coffee milk utilizes coffee syrup rather than chocolate syrup.

  • Cold Brew: This refers to the process of steeping coffee grounds in room temperature or cold water for an extended period. It is also sometimes referred to as Toddy coffee which is a trademarked cold brewing system.

  • Iced Coffee: A 16-ounce cup of ice with hot-drip coffee poured over it. A double shot of espresso tops it off.

Once you’ve got some of the standard coffee basics down, it’s time to move onwards to espresso-based drinks!

  • Caffe Latte: Lattes are a portion of espresso and steamed milk, generally in a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio[4] of espresso to milk, with a little foam on top. A cafe latte should have the same glossy finish as the cappuccino.

  • Macchiato: This is one of those terms that has strayed drastically from its origins. Traditionally, macchiatos utilize a shot of espresso topped with foam. Nowadays in the US, macchiatos are more like a latte with milk and other flavorings to fill a standard tall cup.

  • Cappuccino: Made in thirds — 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foam. This is a very traditional way of making cappuccino. The milk should appear glassy, smooth, shiny and with no visible bubbles. The milk and foam should be blended or mixed to create a thick, creamy texture.

  • Cafe Mocha: Mochas are a variation of a latte wherein chocolate syrup or flavorings are added to the mix. 1/3 espresso, 1/6 cocoa, 1/3 milk, 1/6 foam. Cocoa is the first layer, and then you pull the double espresso shot. Then steam the milk to the consistency of a cafe latte. La Colombe cafe mocha is unique because they use an unsweetened chocolate.

  • Chai Latte: Chai tea with a single shot of espresso. In addition, 1-2 tablespoons of instant Espresso may be brewed while simultaneously steeping Chai in the same container; a small amount of a dairy or non-dairy beverage of choice is usually added to complete the drink.

There are literally hundreds of variations for coffee and espresso, and adding flavorings into the mix gives your restaurant unlimited potential for unique creations! You can always substitute decaf beans for those customers who like their coffee but without the caffeine. Outfit your tableware with quality mugs and cups to enhance the effect of your well-prepared drinks.


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