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A Basic Guide to Espresso Drinks

A Basic Guide to Espresso Drinks

Most coffee shops in America have business revolving around two kinds of coffee. Standard American style drip coffee, and Italian style espresso drinks. These drinks are wildly popular, but there is a lot of misinformation out there about them. Many people just aren’t familiar enough with what goes into making these drinks, and we want to try to educate some of our customers about what we have to offer. We’d never want to tell a customer what they should or should not order, but a little knowledge goes a long way with coffee. We want to help you find a drink you will love, and these basic tips should help. It’s worth mentioning the caffeine content of some of these drinks. A major misconception about espresso is that it has more caffeine than regular coffee. It’s true that espresso is concentrated, but there is only about 25-30% as much caffeine in a shot as there is in a 12oz cup of coffee. Sometimes people feel more buzzed from the caffeine when they drink espresso because you are consuming all of that caffeine at one time rather than over the time it takes to drink a hot cup of coffee. It’s sort of like drinking a beer vs. drinking a shot of hard liquor.  So, here’s a breakdown of espresso drinks.
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The simplest of espresso drinks (obviously), espresso is what all other Italian style coffee drinks are based off of. Espresso is finely ground coffee packed into a disk and then extracted under extremely high pressure. It’s a concentrated and incredibly flavorful beverage. Because of the concentrated flavor of espresso, all of the other drinks on this page are designed to enhance espresso’s flavors in some way. The creamy, light colored top part of an espresso shot, called the crema is where all that flavor is, so a great shot will have thick rich crema on top.


A macchiato is a shot of espresso with just a dash of steamed milk on top. It’s perfect for people who enjoy the strength of an espresso, but want to dilute it just a little bit. The macchiato is the first and boldest tasting drink on this list to have any milk in it. Without getting too technical, adding milk, especially whole milk, to espresso changes the way the body absorbs caffeine, which creates a mellower and longer lasting caffeine buzz.
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Cappuccinos and Lattes

“What is the difference between a cappuccino and a Latte?” We get this question all the time at Coffee Labs. They’re both made of milk and espresso and are the same size, so what’s the difference? The texture of the milk, that’s the difference. A cappuccino is thicker, richer and more aerated than a latte. Well-steamed Cappuccino milk will have a more aerated consistency, while good latte milk will generally have the same texture as wet paint. Because of the difference in texture, a cappuccino will weigh slightly less than a latte, Coffee Labs serves “wet” style cappuccinos, so they are not as light as other shops but they’re still pretty light.  



Americano’s are as legend has it, the Italian solution to American style coffee. During WWII American GIs weren’t happy with the fact that they couldn’t get an American style cup of coffee. They were not used to espresso, so they started asking Baristas to put espresso into hot water to make something that tasted kind of like American style coffee. This created an entire new espresso drink, the Americano. Served hot or iced it’s a great way to enjoy a diluted espresso without milk or a non-dairy milk alternative. A well made espresso shot in an Americano is a great thing. There are tons of other variations we could get into here, but for the moment that’s  just a brief explanation of a few of the drinks most coffee shops will offer. Maybe next time you come in you'll be encouraged to try something new! We'd be happy to help you!

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