Misconceptions and Common Espresso Based Drinks

The Macchiato

Recently there has been much misunderstanding when it comes to what the names of common espresso based drinks really mean. If you go to Starbucks and order a macchiato you will get one drink, while if you go to any third wave coffee shop and order a macchiato you will get something entirely different. These misunderstandings cause your wonderful barista to make a drink for you that you did not want in the first place! Today I would like to clear up some of these misunderstandings and talking about what some of these drinks traditionally are.

First, let’s start with probably the most misunderstood drink: The Macchiato. If you go to Starbucks and order a macchiato you are going to get a large sugary drink with whipped cream on top. A traditional macchiato is far from that. In fact, a macchiato is a very small drink consisting of a shot (or double shot) of espresso and just a “dollop” of milk on top. The entire beverage only comes out to be between two and four fluid ounces depending on the size of the cup and which coffee shop you go to. If you speak with someone who is very traditional when it comes to their espresso based drinks, they will also tell you that the dollop of milk is only to be foam; however, the standard in most specialty coffee shops in America is a “wet” macchiato. This means that it consists of steamed milk and microfoam on top, which allows the consumer to enjoy some beautiful latte art which the barista expertly pours.

The Cortado

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-CortadoWhen you add just a little more steamed milk to your espresso than a macchiato, you get a cortado. The cortado comes from Argentina, and if you get a “real” cortado then you are going to be served a four ounce beverage that has a double shot of espresso and steamed milk with no foam. However, the more standard version of the cortado you will find is going to have a little bit of microfoam on it, which allows for some more wonderful latte art. Sometimes, people also refer to the cortado as a gibralter, because it is often times served in a gibraltar glass.

Flat White vs. Cappuccino

If you add just a little bit more milk to your espresso than a cortado we come to two very controversial drinks: the flat white and the cappuccino. Both a flat white and cappuccino are traditionally served as a six ounce beverage. They both have the same amount of espresso in them (generally a double shot), but they differ in the consistency of the milk poured. A flat white is closer to being a smaller latte than anything else, which I personally like to call a manly latte. It has steamed milk and micro foam; however, it has less foam than a latte would have. The flat white is very popular in New Zealand and Australia, and many people expect the same quality here in the US as they get there. A cappuccino has much more foam than the flat white has. A traditional cappuccino will have one third espresso, one third steamed milk, and one third foam with each third being about two ounces. Seeing as both of these beverages are quite small, next time you see someone order a 20oz flat white you will know it is not true to its nature.

The Latte

Finally we come to the latte. There are so many kinds of lattes ranging from just steamed milk and Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-latte on hardwoodespresso, to vanilla lattes, to caramel lattes, to really as creative of a latte that you can come up with to make. Lattes come in many sizes, but they all share the same fundamental feature with each other. This feature is that they all have the same amount of micro foam on them. One way that this can be visualized is a latte has two fingers of foam widthwise, and a flat white has half a finger of foam.

These are the core espresso drinks that any barista should master. From there, creativity is the only limit to what kind of deliciousness you can create behind the bar!

Latte Art: Turning Crema to Canvas

A signature of the third wave coffee movement is latte art, espresso drinks finished with a design. You’ve absolutely witnessed this: lattes finished with ferns, hearts, or flowers freshly poured by your barista. It’s a testament to a well-pulled shot of espresso, milk with good micro foam, and a barista who knows what he/she is doing (and who has likely poured a few hundred lattes).Latte-Art-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego

Latte art is a really fun addition and beautiful detail, and there’s really no way to fake it. To even have a shot at making one of those beautiful designs, you’ll need your shot of espresso to be fresh and have a nice layer of crema (that light, tawny foam-like layer floating atop a well-pulled shot of espresso). Additionally, you’ll need to have steamed your milk well. It helps a lot if the milk is fresh and cold before you begin steaming, and it’s considerably easier to pour latte art with full fat dairy milk (latte art is possible with non-dairy milks like soy or almond milk, and also with fat-free dairy milk, but it’s definitely trickier to pull off. If you’re a beginner, you should absolutely start with good old-fashioned whole milk.). Your milk needs to be fully micro foamed, and the timing is best if you pull the shot while you steam your milk.

There are actually two categories of latte art: free pour latte art and etching. Free pour is what you’ll see most of your third-wave baristas doing- as they pour the drinks, they also manipulate the foam to draw the design as it comes out of the Latte-Art-Espresso-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-300pitcher and flows into the cup. Etching happens after a latte has already been poured: a barista will then use the existing foam to draw or stencil a design or picture on top of the latte- some baristas even sculpt three-dimensional art out of the foam! However, because of the time required to render art in the etching style, it’s likely that the drink will have already begun to cool, and the foam to have degraded a bit by the time the consumer gets their drink. For this reason, free pour latte art tends to be favored by coffee shops that place a high premium on the taste of their coffee bean.

To be able to free pour a design into a latte, you’ll need to use your freshly steamed milk and freshly pulled espresso just as soon as they’re done. One important step is the first bit of milk poured into espresso – it ought to be done from a height of at least six inches, and with enough force that the milk breaks the surface of the crema. This is a delicate balance – too soft, and the milk will just float atop the crema, ruining your canvas. But too hard, and you’ll break apart the crema too much for drawing.

After you’ve broken the surface, pour carefully until the foam begins to come out of the back of the pitcher- once this happens, you’re able to start making designs!

Next time you are at your favorite coffee shop check to see how your espresso drink is finished. A well-finished latte is a sign of quality, freshness and barista experience.

What’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino?

So, what’s The Difference Between Flat White and Cappuccino? Lately, there has been a lot of talk and debate over two very traditionally different drinks that are slowly becoming very similar. As the Third wave of coffee is crashing over the world there are a lot of changes being made to classic coffee methods and ideals, from brewing, to technic and the ethics behind the whole coffee experience. We have seen new styles being introduced to coffee for the better half of the last decade one of the most noticeable changes has come from the many new drinks that involve coffee. Everyone from Baristas, roasters and probably you as well have been mixing their coffee with things like tonic water, ice cream and of course milk!

History to Present

So lets take a look at two very popular drinks, The flat white and The cappuccino. In most third wave coffee shops you’ll find one of these two and or maybe both. The history of these two drink couldn’t be more different so lets start with the cappuccino. The cappuccino is an age old drink that dates back to the 1900s this drink has been a staple morning drink for many Europeans. The tradition is to have a cappuccino served in a 5-6 oz cup with espresso milk the a semi-thick layer of micro-foam that has been aerated slightly longer to softly lay over the top of the drink. Now The flat white was first brought to light in the 1980s in Australia and New Zealand. There’s no doubt that the drink draws inspirations from the much older cappuccino but with its own twist. A flat white will more commonly then not have less milk and be fully integrated into the espresso. Once the pour is finished the micro-foam will naturally set apart and create a layer of milk over the drink.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Flat-White-vs-Cappuccino-2There are many baristas alike that have chosen a side saying the Flat white has a stronger flavor with perfect mix of milk and espresso. Others saying that the cappuccino is the drink that best mixes milk with espresso without being overpowered by the other. Sometimes the only difference for some people is the vessel that the drink is served in. The more experience I have with either of these drinks I see a common theme being that the milk is almost steamed and integrated the same (by a well-trained barista) and the influence really comes the third wave of coffee that forces on the details in preparing any coffee drink every step of the way, As for me I enjoy both and will be okay with whatever way the shop choices to prepare for me. next time you go into a specialty coffee shop maybe see for yourself what the differences are?