Coffee, Espresso, and Lattes, Oh My!

Considering how much we all love our coffee at Do Good For Your Body, it's kind of amazing that we haven't dedicated an article to it before now. America was a little late to the coffee game compared to the rest of the world. The United States' coffee culture started to take off in 1773 when a certain Tea Party took place in Boston Harbor. It's not easy to keep drinking tea after your neighbors take a stand by throwing it all into the sea, so the popularity of coffee began to soar. In the 1860s, entrepreneurs John and Charles Arbuckle and James Folger both found success selling pre-roasted coffee beans by the pound to the public. During the civil war, instant coffee came onto the scene. It was the epitome of popularity until 1971 when a small company called Starbucks decided to tailor their drinks to each customer's preference. Over the past 20 years or so, coffee in the USA has evolved into its own culture; an artistic craft practiced in locally-owned coffee shops across the country. 


Walk into any coffee shop these days (and many fast food joints), and you'll find a dizzying amount of different types of coffee drinks to choose from. Have you ever wondered what they all are? You probably know that a latte is made from espresso and steamed milk, but how does that differ from a cappuccino? Is an americano just regular coffee? And what in the world is a cortado? Below we'll go over some of our favorite coffee and espresso beverages so that next time you visit your favorite coffee shop, maybe you'll branch out and try something different!

Coffee vs. Espresso

All espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso. It kind of sounds like one of those trick questions on your SAT's doesn't it? The difference between espresso and coffee is the brewing method. Regular coffee is always slow-brewed. Whether you use a drip coffee maker, a french press, a percolator, or a pour-over system, hot water is allowed to slowly filter through ground coffee beans to produce a rich, flavorful cup of coffee. Espresso is made by a machine that pressurizes and heats the water to near boiling and then shoots it through finely-ground coffee beans. A typical cup of coffee is around 8oz and offers a rich but less intense flavor than espresso. A serving of espresso is only 1oz because it is concentrated and has a bold but smooth flavor. We can't pick one over the other, as they both have their place in a coffee lover's repertoire. Espresso is used for the base of most coffee drinks because its small size and bold flavor lend itself well to experimentation. 


A true cappuccino is approximately 5oz - 6oz and is made with 1oz of espresso and just under 3oz of milk. The milk is steamed using a steam wand, an attachment found on all mid-to-high level espresso machines. A steam wand infuses the milk with hot steam, pulling air into the milk while heating it at the same time. This causes small bubbles to form, transforming the milk into a lovely creamy texture called microfoam. To create the cappuccino, a shot of espresso is put into a small cup, and the steamed milk is artfully layered into the espresso, creating a beautiful balance of coffee and milk.


Lattes are a trendy coffee drink, and they are made differently everywhere you go. In general, a latte is similar to a cappuccino but uses a lot more milk. A typical latte usually runs between 12oz - 16oz. You start with a single (1oz) or double (2oz) shot of espresso and steam approximately 8oz - 10oz of milk. As the air is incorporated into the milk, it grows in volume due to the microfoam and froth, which consists of larger bubbles than microfoam. Once the milk is steamed, you pour the milk directly into the espresso, essentially blending the two. This blending of milk and espresso is another big differentiator between a cappuccino and a latte. And one yummy side note - if you add melted chocolate to a latte, it turns into a mocha!


Here is where things may get a little dicey, so bear with us. Those of us intimately familiar with the incredibly popular 16oz caramel macchiato may be in for a shock. The term macchiato literally means "stained with milk." A true macchiato is only about 2oz - 3oz and is made in reverse of how a cappuccino or a latte is made. A small amount of steamed milk is added to a cup, and a single or double shot of espresso is poured right into the middle of the microfoam. This technique results in a "spot" of steamed milk sitting upon a sea of rich espresso. It may be small, but it's mighty!


If you are looking for a simple, straightforward drink and don't love the taste of pure espresso, a cortado may be just the thing for you. Cortado translates to "the cut," which refers to the cutting of espresso with milk. A cortado usually runs around 4oz and contains steamed milk but very little foam. Using the warmed milk but not the foam gives more of a 50/50 balance between the espresso and milk. It's a wonderful beverage that lets the flavor of the coffee shine. 


Espresso has been enjoyed overseas for a long time now, but the American palate has not completely adapted to the flavor. Many find it overpowering or simply too strong for their liking. It's one reason why cappuccinos and lattes are so popular, the milk tempers the boldness of the espresso. The americano, however, is made only with espresso and water. Usually, it is a 50/50 blend of the two. But most coffee shops tend to add more water than espresso. Adding water to a double shot of espresso resembles the flavor of straight-up coffee and lends itself well to cream and sugar if that's your preference. 

Bonus - The Affogato

If you have never had an affogato, you are missing out. Affogato means "drowned" in Italian, which is an apt name for a dessert drink where one shot of espresso is poured over a scoop of vanilla ice cream immediately before serving. The resulting melty-creamy-sweet concoction is the perfect marriage, and if you ever have the opportunity to try it, don't hesitate!

Try Them All!

There you have it - the list of the most popular espresso drinks in the United States. It's a good thing we have Daily DeCaffeinate in our lives because with so many decadent beverages available, who can choose just one? 

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