Understanding Different Coffee Drinks - Part 2

If you're like us, you've probably had this experience: You walk into a trendy-looking coffee shop. The speakers are blasting music with bombastic bass, the friendly barista with an arm full of tattoos is rushing around behind the counter, and no less than three bearded men in beanies are clanging away on their laptops. You realize a bit too late that its your turn to order. Quickly glancing at the menu over the cashier's head, you find yourself paralyzed with fear. There are a list of drinks, and you don't know what any of them mean. Sure, you've heard of a latte and a cappuccino, but what's the difference? Flat White? Macchiato? What are these?

Don't worry! Because we've experienced this, as well, we know the best way to help you navigate the complicated world of coffee drinks. Below is a helpful breakdown of the different coffee drinks you are most likely to encounter. We hope that with this information, you can feel comfortable exploring the delicious world of coffee!

Advanced Drinks

If you are trying to impress someone with your coffee knowledge, ordering any of the drinks below will do the job. Interestingly, most of these drinks are quite common in Europe and probably wouldn't be considered all that special. But stateside, these drinks are generally found in third-wave shops. All are espresso-based.


The term macchiato means "stained" or "spotted" in Italian, and its a good visualization of what a macchiato drink is. Simply put, it's a shot of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk on top, which looks like a stain on top of the coffee.

The macchiato has the highest ratio of espresso to milk, and the milk is meant to complement, not overwhelm the espresso. The amount of milk needed varies, but typically a macchiato calls for 1 tablespoon of milk to a single shot of espresso.


Flat White


The flat white is very similar to a latte. They both use espresso and microfoam milk (steamed milk with tiny bubbles to give it a velvety look and texture), but the flat white simply uses less milk. There is a slightly higher ratio of espresso to milk. 

Additionally, the layer of microfoam is smaller than in a latte or cappuccino, which allows the crema from the espresso to mix nicely with the layer, creating a light brown top to the drink. The small layer of microfoam is why the drink is called a "flat" white.


The Americano is fairly simple to make. Take a shot of espresso and add hot water. It is meant to be a substitute to drip coffee, with the hot water diluting the strong flavor of the espresso. There is no specific ratio of water to espresso, and most prepare to reflect their personal preference. The flavor is not meant to mimic traditional drip coffee; instead its purpose is to more closely mirror the strength of drip coffee.

An unconfirmed belief is that the Americano was created during World War 2 when American GIs added water to their coffee when stationed in Italy.


The Cortado is a Spanish drink consisting of equal parts espresso and warm milk. The main difference with a cortado compared to lattes and cappuccinos is that the milk is only steamed, not frothed. 

The purpose of the cortado is specifically to reduce the acidity of espresso, which makes it a good choice for those who like using light roasted beans for their espresso but have trouble with the acidity.


We hope you found this guide informative. Be sure to keep in touch as we will be posting more great drink recipes for you to enjoy!


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