I have always loved the flavor of coffee drinks and have enjoyed a variety of them without knowing the differences between them.
Following is the breakdown of what I have learned about the differences between the popular coffee drinks, espresso, latte, and cappuccino.
Espresso Brewing Technique
Loosely ground coffee is placed in the removable portafilter compartment of the espresso machine. The coffee is compacted into the chamber using a hand held device to form a puck. Next the portafilter is re-inserted into the machine and the brewing is started when hot water, between 195 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, is passed through the puck. As the brewing progresses, the espresso flows into a small cup placed in front the machine to catch it. This brewing process should take about 25 seconds.
The Espresso Experience
Regardless of the flavor of the espresso, the drink should not have a burnt, sour or bitter aftertaste to it and it is best drank from a ceramic cup, consumed while the grassy layer is still present, and while the drink is still hot. There is only a small time period within which an espresso can be enjoyed. If it is cold and stale it will not taste as it should. Espresso is used in the making of the popular coffee drinks, latte, and cappuccino.
The Making of Latte
Latte, also known as caffe latte, is made from a combination of 1/3 espresso, 2/3 hot milk and foamed milk on the top. The milk temperature is raised to between 150 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, at the most. The steam wand is used but care is taken not to froth the milk. Both the espresso and the milk are poured in a cup together. If any microfoam is created as a result of the heating of the milk, it can be put on top of the latte and can even be used to create decorative designs. I find it interesting that the latte is considered a drink for children in European countries while here in the United States that is not the case. When properly prepared, it is a tasty blended drink with a marbleized texture. I sometimes will add cinnamon and shaved or powdered chocolate to the top.
How is Cappuccino Made?
Like the latte, cappuccino is also made from espresso and milk. The proportions are different, however, and the drink contains 1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk (steamed) and 1/3 milk frothed into a microfoam and created with the steam wand of the espresso machine. When the milk is frothed to create the microfoam, its volume doubles. Although more microfoam is created using skim milk as opposed to whole milk since it contains more proteins, the aim is to create just enough to put on top of the cappuccino.