So, we have lot of people who come into the shop and ask us:
"What's the difference between a Cappuccino and a Latté"
"So how is your Macchiato different from the one that I get at Starbucks?".
Often, our baristas are more than happy to take a moment or two to explain to you the differences. But usually someone's in a hurry and the few seconds that we have isn't enough to really communicate the differences. Thus this article is born. Perhaps from a need, perhaps from my extreme nerdyness when it comes to quality espresso-based beverages, I hope you find it informational and helpful all the same.
The Common Denominator
So, let's start at what's the same before we talk about what's different. All espresso bevrages start with- you guessed it- espresso. Without going way too in depth here (which I would love to do sometime in the future) espresso is essentially a form of very very concentrated coffee. To explain the process of crafting it briefly, we take a small amount (around 18-20g) of very finely, freshly-ground coffee and push around 2oz of very hot, highly filtered water through it at high pressure. The result is a small amount of very thick, extremely flavorful liquid- the base of our beverage endeavors here at the shop. Now, there are all kinds of methods and theories that go into "pulling" espresso, but we'll save all of that talk for another day. :)
So, now for the portion where things begin to differ. What we add (or don't add) to this base of espresso is what differentiates our separate beverages. Here at BLOC, we choose between filtered water, whole milk, or whipped cream for the beverages that are on our static menu. (Keep an eye on that seasonal rotating menu, though, we're always trying to combine espresso with something fun- ice cream, sodas, you name it).
The obvious first option is to combine the espresso with nothing at all. This is referred to as a doppio or "double" in Italian. That's due to the beverage actually being two shots of espresso served together- which is normal. This espresso beverage is for the sophisticated and experienced coffee drinker. You're tasting the coffee in it's purest, most intense state- allowing you to pay mind to it's subtleties in flavor. Ask your barista to point some of those out the next time you're in the shop!
The next step up in volume would be the Macchiato. That word in Italian roughly translates to "Stained" or "Marked"- which makes a lot of sense when you find out that a traditional-style Macchiato is basically a doppio that's "stained" with a splash of steamed milk. Yielding a ~3oz beverage, this is a great way to experience the flavor profile of a coffee without the extreme acidity that is sometimes present in espresso. The milk really rounds out the body of the drink, and gives it a smoother, more airy texture. Note that Starbucks also serves a form of Macchiato, except theirs is essentially the opposite of a traditional-style. They "stain" 12, 16, or 20oz of flavored milk with a 2oz of espresso. The traditional macchiato is for the coffee drinker that wants to experience full-bodied, intense coffee flavors without the acidity that comes with straight espresso.
Continuing with the increase of volume, we have the spanish-derived Cortado. Cortado roughly translates to the past participle of the verb cortar in spanish, which means "to cut". Basically, we're cutting, or diluting 2oz of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk. So we have a 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk- perfect in our mind. The milk served in a cortado is steamed to be a little less thick than a cappuccino or latte, making it less dense in texture. The head on a cortado should be about the size of a number 2 pencil.
The next up in volume is my personal favorite- the tried-and-true Cappuccino. The go-to beverage of most baristas, the cappuccino is seemingly perfect. Combining 2oz of espresso with 4oz of thickly-steamed milk yields a beverage that is dense, airy, and flavorful with a smooth, medium body, but plenty of coffee flavor. I like mine served on the cool side so I can drink them right away. A 6oz beverage is nice in the morning as it's not too much milk to upset your stomach, and also perfect in the afternoon after a meal to help you digest and give you the afternoon caffeine boost you probably need. Note that unlike completely traditional cappuccinos, BLOC utilizes a form of steaming that produces what's called microfoam. Instead of the large-bubble, extremely frothy foam present in old-school capps, we produce a very evenly-dispursed, consistent-tasting foam that combines with espresso perfectly, and also lets us make that super-cool latté art everyone loves.
Last in this line of milk and espresso combinations is the Latté. The word is a shortening of the Italian "caffe latte" or "coffee-milk". That's mostly due to the ratio that's involved. It's commonplace nowadays for lattés to be served in a ratio of about 2oz of espresso to 10oz of lightly steamed milk yielding a 12oz beverage. At BLOC, we currently have two sizes- a 12 oz and a 16oz. Both are served with 2oz of espresso, although we always recommend adding an extra shot to the 16oz option to balance out with the abundance of steamed milk. Lattés are a wonderful beverage for people just entering the world of third-wave coffee. Balancing the intense espresso with a generous portion of steamed milk yields a drink that's approachable and mild, yet extremely delicious. This drink was a common breakfast item for Italians in the last century. A little bread, a little milk, a little coffee... makes for a decent morning treat.
Branching out from the milk and espresso options, we have two other additions. Adding hot filtered water to that double shot yields what's referred to as an Americano. This beverage landed it's name in the early 1900s when American soldiers were stationed in Europe. The very strong coffee that the locals in Europe drank (espresso) was too much for the soldiers, so they added hot water to dilute it some. We recommend a ratio of about 8oz of water to every 2 shots of espresso. It dulls the intensity of the espresso out some, while leaving just enough of the flavor profile to be enjoyable.
And last up, we have the Caffé Con Panna or just "Con Panna". Roughly translated to mean "with cream" this is a doppio espresso served over whipped cream. (insert heart-eyes emoji here) The size of this beverage varies largely depending on where you are geographically. Some regions serve it in a very small container- a demitasse, or what doppios are usually served in. Some serve in latté-sized containers. Here at the shop we like to serve it in a 6oz or cappuccino sized container. We love this drink after a stressful day. The combination of sweet, smooth whipped cream with espresso yields a little bit of joy in a cup. Highly recommended.
To finish things up, it's important to remember that all of the technicalities mentioned here aren't really all that important. What matters is that you receive a cup of coffee that you enjoy. Taste is king! If you're interested in trying something new, or if you have any other questions, feel free to reach out to us via social media, or better yet, stop in an ask one of our baristas! We would be delighted to show our nerdy sides and talk shop with you for a little while. :)