You may be used to hearing “winter is coming” by now. The only other pop culture phenomenon that competes with Game of Thrones in my world is PSL. That’s right. If “winter is here,” then that means pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks! Grab a friend, get a scone, and prepare to bend the knee to House Pumpkin Spice!
I enjoyed my first PSL of 2017 this last weekend with my future-sister-in-law while we were shopping. I overenthusiastically shoved my venti-sized-cup-of-happiness in my Gent’s hand, so he could have a sip, and he reminded me of the idea for this blog.
What exactly is espresso?
Are Americanos patriotic?
Why a latte?
And why are people getting shot-te?
I thought I knew the answers. I thought I drank enough coffee that I was a coffee connoisseur. But I couldn’t answer the simple question of what makes a latte different than other coffee based drinks. Shame… So I did what any overly confident, caffeinated person does…I asked Google.
Here is what I found…
First and foremost, there are few differences between coffee and espresso. The most notable differences are the brewing times and the fineness of the grinds. Pure coffee is more of a “drip” or “filtered” brew process over coarsely-ground coffee beans, while espresso is the product of infusing steam with a much finer grind of coffee beans. Whether you drink coffee or espresso, at the end of the cup they are the essentially the same. Espresso (I would quickly just like to remind everyone that there is no “x” in espresso…okay, carry on) is a strong black coffee, sometimes also called “short black.” Espresso is the key ingredient to every espresso based drink. So if you’re not drinking drip or filtered coffee, and you aren’t drinking straight espresso, you’re probably consuming an espresso based drink like…
Macchiato: a macchiato is three times the fun. It combines espresso, steamed milk and foam to create a trifecta of flavor. The bottom layer of your drink is pure espresso, topped with a layer of steamed milk that is slightly mixed with espresso. The top layer is the foam of the milk. The steamed milk and foam help to lower the bitter taste of the espresso. And don’t be afraid to add flavoring to your macchiato! In fact, here’s a tasty tidbit for you…my very first coffee drink was a caramel macchiato in 2001, compliments of my mama! Thanks mom!!)
Americano: mixes hot water with extracted espresso…very scientific. I don’t know how to exactly explain the extraction process, so moving on…
Café Latte: This is probably the most popular espresso based drink. A latte adds steamed milk and micro-foam to espresso. This differs from a macchiato because in a latte all three liquids are blended fully together, whereas the macchiato layers. Many coffee shops will add flavors to lattes to also help lessen the harshness of the espresso. My personal favorites are vanilla or caramel, in case anyone feels the need to buy me a latte as a thank you for this informative, mind blowing, order-changing, blog.
Cappuccino: A cappuccino is the cousin of lattes. The biggest difference – however – is a cappuccino has more foam and is typically crowned with shaved chocolate or another sweet decadence. You guessed it! Many add flavoring to cappuccinos like they do other drinks.
Frappuccino: Since I talked about cappuccinos, I might as well mention frappuccinos. Fraps are like unicorns…they are magical and they are the hybrid of two of the best elements on earth…sweets and coffee. And just like unicorns, their existence in the real, coffee drinking world is questioned by nonbelievers. Frappuccinos are a creation from Starbucks. Fraps are their poster child for their iced, blended beverages line. They are great, don’t get me wrong! Frappuccinos are at the top of the chart for “fancy coffee drinks” (just like how unicorns are at the top of fancy dream horses’ chart). Frappuccinos consists of coffee and sweet crèmes, blended with ice and other ingredients, and then topped with whipped cream or drizzled with sweet sauces. In the spring of 2016, Starbucks temporarily offered a Unicorn Frappuccino, proving both unicorns and frappuccinos are real…so I rest my case.
Flat white: Flat whites have climbed my preference ladder in recent years. I best describe a flat white as a “grown up cappuccino.” It’s very much like a cappuccino, but without all the pizzazz. A flat white combines espresso and steamed milk, but leaves out the micro-foam and sweet toppings.
Mocha: last but not least, is mocha. I’d say this is the second most popular in the espresso categories. Mochas are usually sweet and smooth tasting, which is a great starting point for beginning coffee drinkers. Mocha is the love child of cappuccino and hot chocolate. It mixes chocolate powder (coco mix essentially) with espresso, and adds steamed milk and micro-foam. To finish off this dessert-in-a-cup, many baristas add whipped topping and sprinkle on even more chocolate powder. What’s not to love?
There are more coffee drink combinations out there, but I believe the above to be the most common. And to answer the burning question of “what is a shot?” it is simply another serving of espresso! A typical shot is 40mg of caffeine, so when your friendly barista asks you if you’d like an extra shot, he/she isn’t threatening your life, he/she is trying to save someone else’ life by properly caffeinating the demons away. Like they say, “I don’t have a problem with coffee; I have a problem without it!”
Thanks latte for reading! May your will be strong and your coffee stronger. Cheers!