Know your coffees, from Americano to Ristretto

Walk into any coffee shop these days and you’re likely to be faced with an array of choices. But do you know your flat white from your latte, your espresso from your cortado?

Here’s our guide to what it all means, and how to make your own versions at home.

You may think this is a standard black coffee, but an Americano starts with a shot of espresso that’s topped up with hot water.

At home: You can experiment with ratios, but generally it’s two parts water to one part espresso.

Black coffee
A black coffee is usually a filter or drip coffee, brewed in a countertop coffee maker.

At home: Make a pot in your drip machine or use a French press you can pop on the breakfast table.

Café au lait
Directly translated from the French, this drink is simply ‘coffee with milk’. That generally means a black coffee with just the smallest splash of milk.

At home: Brew a pot with your drip coffee machine and add a splash of your favourite milk to taste.

A coffee shop favourite, this chocolate-sprinkled brew is a shot of espresso topped with a little steamed milk and a whole lot of foam.

At home: Start with a shot of espresso, and use the steamer on your espresso machine or invest in a standalone milk frother to get the perfect split of warm milk and foam.

If you like short drink but like it milkier, a cortado is a great option. One part espresso, one part steamed milk, it might be small but there’s still plenty of flavour. At home: Make a shot of your favourite espresso and steam an equal amount of milk, then serve up in a small coffee cup or glass.

Doppio is Italian for ‘double’ – in this case a double shot of espresso. This little cup of coffee packs a real punch! At home: Use a two cup measure in your espresso maker and serve in your smallest coffee cup.

Espresso is a small, strong shot of coffee brewed by pushing hot water through finely ground coffee at high pressure to create a creamy ‘crema’ on the top.

At home: Use a traditional espresso maker or stove-top coffee pot to create the perfect single serve.

Flat white
Sometimes confused with a café au lait, a flat white is actually a shot of espresso topped with a good slug of steamed milk.

At home: Follow the same process as a cortado, but with at least double the amount of steamed milk.

Directly translated from the Italian latte means simply ‘milk’, and is a shot of espresso topped with plenty of steamed milk and just a touch of foam. You’ll often see this in high street coffee shops with flavoured syrups for a really sweet and milky drink. At home: Use the steamer on your espresso maker to warm and froth your milk, or set your milk frother to warm and then froth for just a few seconds.

Lungo means ‘long’ in Italian, but that doesn’t mean there’s less caffeine. In fact, this is an espresso but with a longer pull, to extract maximum caffeine from the grounds. At home: Set your grinder for a slightly coarser grind than you’d usually use for espresso. If you can pre-infuse your coffee, do this, then set your coffee to brew. While a standard espresso will come around half way up a cup, fill your lungo to the top.

A bit like a cream covered mousse, a macchiato has two distinct layers – espresso and a layer of milk froth. At home: Pour out your espresso then spoon over an equal quantity of frothy milk for the perfect pairing.

One for the chocolate lovers, a mocha is a shot of espresso, hot chocolate and a generous glug of steamed milk, usually topped off with a layer of froth.

At home: Use the best quality hot chocolate you can so the coffee flavours aren’t overpowered by sweetness.

Ristretto is a short pull espresso, which means using the same amount of ground but half the amount of water. That results in a stronger flavour profile, and more sweetness, but generally around half the caffeine of an espresso. At home: You’ll need an espresso machine with a manual pull handle for this one, so you can control the flow of water.

Looking for more coffee-making tips? Have a look at our other blogs to learn everything there is to know about coffee.

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