A Guide To Espresso Drinks: Comparing Famous Coffee Beverages
Image Credit: Barista making Cappuccino coffee | Freepik

Espresso is the foundation of many coffee drinks which is basically a concentrated brew of grounded coffee beans. It has a very intense bitter coffee flavour and is used as a base for popular coffee beverages like cappuccino, latte, cortado and macchiato.

Despite all of these beverages being made with one key ingredient, there is a world of difference between them. In every recipe, despite similar ingredients being used, the different ratios, preparation methods and textures bring a contrasting polarity between the beverages.

Here you will learn the basic recipes, key differences and flavour profile of these drinks and help you find the perfect brew for yourself. At the end of this article, you will understand the clear difference and be able to order coffee confidently without being intimidated by the choices.

Learn About The Key Ingredients And Basic Differences

Key Ingredients:

Espresso-based coffee beverages are generally made with three main ingredients that are espresso milk and foam.

Espresso makes the foundation of this drink which is prepared using an espresso machine. The machine pressurises the water and passes it through the coffee grounds at a high speed, resulting in a strong, flavourful, and aromatic coffee with a layer of crema on top.

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Milk is used for adding texture and creaminess to the beverage and generally steamed milk is used. Different ratios of milk determine different textures and richness which also affects the taste of coffee beverages.

Foam or frothed milk is added for a frothy texture in the beverage which is made by steaming the milk that adds to a delightful light texture.


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Cappuccino is made with a perfect balance of espresso, steamed milk and foam. First, the freshly brewed espresso is added to the base, then steamed milk tops espresso and combines to create a creamy drink. On the top, foam is added for a frothy texture. These layers create beautiful ripples in the coffee and sometimes baristas use this characteristic to showcase their creativity by creating different patterns on the top.


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Latte has a higher quality of steamed milk as compared to cappuccino. This is the key difference between both drinks. Latte is much more creamier and richer and slightly diminished bitterness. Only a little foam is added on top, just for the sake of presentation. This beverage is perfectly suitable for those who don't like very strong flavours.


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Cortado is a Spanish drink which includes equal ratios of espresso and milk. As compared to other beverages, this drink completely lacks that frothy texture and thus it retains the original boldness of coffee, giving a stronger flavour profile. Those who like stronger and bolder flavours must look for a cortado on the menu.


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Macchiato is an Italian drink which means "marked" or "stained" coffee. Unlike other drinks, macchiato has many variations in which the ratios of milk and espresso are different. Espresso macchiato uses a single shot of espresso with around 10 ml of steamed milk and a spot of foam is added. Whereas latte macchiato contains more steamed milk making the coffee closer to latte. Some people also opt for double shots of espresso, but that’s totally based on preferences. In the end note, espresso macchiato is the original recipe that you’ll be served at a coffee house when you order plain macchiato.

Now that you know the basic differences between these coffee beverages, you can confidently alter them based on your preferences and also opt for added toppings for more fun.