The Espresso Menu Explained | Five Senses Coffee (2023)

The coffee menu (and what defines your favorite beverage) is a hotly debated topic between baristas, coffee enthusiasts and the casual café goer alike. The exact definition of what constitutes a flat white or a cappuccino has changed over the decades and the drinks still vary greatly depending on where in the world you order them. Let’s look at the coffee menu as it is today, as well as considering where these drinks came from.

Black Coffees

Espresso/Short Black
This is the basic building block for almost every other drink you make. A single espresso can be beautiful and delicious or even truly horrible depending on the skill of the barista preparing it. That being said, there’s actually a bit of variation in what can be defined as ‘espresso’.

Most baristas would agree that espresso should be brewed at a ratio of 1:2

So, a 22g dose of coffee would be extracted to produce a 44g double espresso, but not everyone brews their espresso at a 1:2 ratio. Some baristas prefer to make their espresso lighter and more diluted, brewing at a 1:2.5 ratio (or 22g in, 55g out) and some baristas prefer to make stronger, more intense espresso, brewing at ratios of as little as 1:1.5 or 22g in, 33g out.

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But not every café puts the same amount of coffee in their basket. Here in Australia, most cafes are dosing 20-22g and yielding 40-44g for a double espresso.

Over in the USA, it’s more common to hear 19-20g in and 38-40g out. In the UK, 18g in and 36g out is the norm and in Italy, where making a single espresso is more common, it’s likely that your barista is dosing 7g in and 14g out. They’re all brewing coffee to the same strength, but yielding different amounts so while we use the same name – espresso – we can get different sized drinks.

For an interesting perspective check out the results of this 2015 survey James Hoffman published: The State of Espresso in 2015.

Long Black/Americano
A long black is typically a double espresso extracted over hot water. How much water goes into a long black varies from café to café, but ‘enough to fill the cup’ is a good rule of thumb. Depending on the size of the cups you’re using that might mean your long blacks are 44g of espresso and 44g of water, or 44g of espresso and 88g of water – or even something else entirely! The temperature of the water should also be considered. Most machines dispense water that’s at tea brewing temperature instead of drinking temperature. Therefore, considerate baristas might mix some cooler water into their long blacks so they can be drunk sooner rather than later.

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Milk Coffees

Love it or hate it, the reality is that over time the humble flat white, latte and cappuccino have become more similar than different. Back in ‘the olden days’, the espresso for a latte was poured into a handled glass and the milk and foam were intentionally separated into layers which the consumer had to stir together before drinking. This looked very dramatic, but wasn’t particularly practical (or enjoyable in my opinion). Cappuccinos were made with mountainous peaks of dry, meringue-like foam, like a babycino for grownups. It was fun to scoop the foam off and eat it, but wasn’t a great drinking experience and held hidden risks. It was very easy to get all that fluffy foam and chocolate on your nose, around your mouth, or worst of all, stuck in your moustache (your experience may vary).

So customers started asking for a simpler coffee than these two. Plain white coffee, in a cup, without all that frothy nonsense. And thus, the flat white was born.

Back in those days, the flat white was literally a milky coffee in a cup with no foam whatsoever and some people still make them like that today. However, as baristas became more skilled at their craft, foam crept back onto flat whites as baristas wanted to balance the cup with a little creaminess and display their mad latte art skills.

Who ‘invented’ the flat white is a hot topic of debate between Australians and New Zealanders. The Australians claim to have invented it, and the New Zealanders (as usual) claim that the Aussies stole another one of their ideas. At least we’re consistent with our rivalries.

As the take away coffee culture surged in popularity, these three coffees were served in paper cups far more frequently than in their original glass or ceramic vessels and in turn, the differences between them became less pronounced, with only foam depth differentiating them (cappuccinos kept their chocolate powder though). This drink differentiation crept back into the dine-in versions of the drink.

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There are probably more variations of this single beverage than there are on the rest of the espresso menu combined. I’ve read countless heated debates on barista forums about the ‘proper’ definition for this drink. The word ‘Macchiato’ means ‘stained’ in Italian, so the drink was originally prepared as an espresso which was ‘stained’ with just a dash of textured milk. The exact amount of milk this ‘dash’ contained became the point of interpretation for baristas and consumers alike. People also fill their macchiatos with milk to various levels ranging from barely any milk at all, to half-filled or topped up completely.

Long macchiatos experience more variety again. An Australian ‘invention’, they’re bigger drinks, so they consist of two shots of espresso, but are typically served in a latte glass. The traditional method was to add just a dash of milk to these drinks as well, but many consumers then found the beverage too intense or lacking in overall volume. To dilute the coffee, people started asking for more milk (or water!) in their macchiato, and today there are many different varieties of this drink on offer. Ultimately, I prefer to let the customer decide what drink they would like, rather than to ‘educate’ them about the correct definition of that drink in the past, present or even future!

Piccolo Latte
These are essentially smaller, stronger lattes. They’re either served in an espresso cup and are the same as a short macchiato that’s been topped up, or are served in a latte-shaped glass which is about the size of an espresso cup.Magic
This drink is more commonly found in Melbourne and there’s a lot of debate about the correct definition of this beverage. I’m going to share my opinion, as well as my theories about the different ways it can be prepared. A magic is a double ristretto (which is just the first half of an espresso, in this context) served in a five-ounce cup, filled with flat white-style milk. Whilst not explicitly stated, it’s also assumed that the milk will be a little on the cooler side, say 45-48 degrees Celsius, so that the drink can be consumed quickly. Some people say that a magic should be a double ristretto served in ‘a cup’ which is only three quarters full. This is also a valid definition, but I feel that the reason the cup is only three quarters full is because the cafes who make their magics like this were probably using bigger cups. The cup was only three quarters full, so that the ratio of milk to double ristretto was similar to the ‘original’ version.

Going Forward

The espresso menu can seem confusing, inconsistent and varies from café to café, city to city, and country to country. This can be a point of anxiety for customers. They want to get the coffee they like, but don’t want to feel uncomfortable in the process of ordering. This is where empathy from hospitality professionals is vital. We’ve tried menus that offer white coffee, black coffee or filter coffee. For some, this makes ordering a simple decision and for others, it adds to confusion.

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Does that menu mean I can’t get my flat white or long macchiato? Only a ‘white coffee’, whatever that is?

Other menus list all the options exhaustively, taking up half a wall in the process, naming all the possible variations on offer; but the prices remained the same. This was confusing in its own way. Choice is important, but too much choice can be overwhelming when all you want is something delicious.

Ultimately, this is where a baristas discretion becomes important. Each coffee drinkers’ preference is unique and they will gravitate towards particular styles of service. There’s no single ‘right’ way to do things; just make sure you put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know the difference (or lack there-of) between a flat white and a macchiato. We were all that person once upon a time.

For an A4 download of the Modern Coffee Menu, click here. Of if you’d like a hard copy, just mention it with your next coffee order and we’d be happy to include one in there for you.

© Cover image provided with permission by Emily Bartlett. All rights reserved by photographer

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What is expresso explained? ›

As a beverage, espresso is a concentrated form of coffee brewed with high pressure, hot water and finely ground coffee beans. Espresso is thicker than regular coffee and has a layer of “crema” on top, which results from air bubbles mixing with the coffee's oils.

What is espresso on a menu? ›

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee served in small, strong shots and is the base for many coffee drinks. It's made from the same beans as coffee but is stronger, thicker, and higher in caffeine. However, because espresso is typically served in smaller servings than coffee, it has less caffeine per serving.

What are the 4 qualities of a perfect espresso shot? ›

The 5 most important factors to pulling perfect espresso shots are: Water Pressure, Extraction Time, Water Temperature, Grind Consistency, and Tamping. If any one of these are off, your shots will lose a lot of flavor and you won't enjoy your end espresso drink.

What are the 3 qualities of a perfect espresso shot? ›

But when it comes to quality, three essential characteristics must work together harmoniously to create great espresso:
  • Acidity. Acidity is that sparkle, the brightness present in coffee that gives it a lift on our tongue. ...
  • Sweetness. Sweetness can take various forms in espresso as well. ...
  • Bitterness.
Jun 24, 2014

What are the 3 types of espresso? ›

Common espresso drinks: Without dairy include: Espresso (single), Doppio, Ristretto, Lungo, Americano, Con Hielo, or Rocket (aka Shot in the Dark, Red Eye, or Black Eye). With dairy include: Macchiato, Crème, Noisette, Cortado, Cappuccino, Breve, Mocha, Affogato, Viennois, Con Panna, Flat White or Latte.

Is espresso healthier than coffee? ›

Many people think espresso and coffee are two distinct beverages, but they're actually just different brewing methods. Both types of drinks have similar benefits, although light- to medium-roasted coffee has a slight edge over espresso for supporting heart health, cognitive health, metabolic health, and more.

Is espresso coffee the same as regular coffee? ›

WHAT MAKES ESPRESSO DIFFERENT FROM COFFEE? Espresso is thicker and more intense than coffee because of the lower grounds to water ratio, the finer grind, and the pressurized brewing method. Regular coffee uses a coarser grind, more water and gravity to extract the final brew.

Is 2 shots of espresso the same as a cup of coffee? ›

Each shot of espresso adds approximately the equivalent caffeine of one 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee. Ounce for prepared ounce they are all about the same.

What is a coffee with 2 shots of espresso called? ›

Nothing too crazy or advanced here. Doppio - Italian for “double,” doppio is a double shot of espresso and is the gold standard. Most coffee shops serve a doppio, or double shot, as the default order when you ask for an espresso.

What is the 10 second rule for espresso? ›

However, while some myths come and go, one that's stuck is the concept of the ten-second espresso. Essentially, this school of thought maintains that a shot of espresso should be consumed – or mixed with milk or other ingredients like milk – within ten seconds of brewing. If not, it spoils.

What are the 3 main variables of espresso brewing? ›

In order to achieve this, you must change the parameters of the espresso. The three main parameters are the dose, yield and brew time, all of which have a massive impact on flavour.

Which espresso shot is stronger? ›

Ristretto is the most concentrated type of espresso drink, making it the strongest. This type of espresso is made with less hot water than what is normally used and has a shorter extraction time. This specific process creates a sweet and strong flavor that is so intense, some customers prefer to add milk.

What makes a perfect espresso? ›

Castillo advises timing your shots to get the best brew ratio (the ratio of ground coffee to hot water). “Typically with espresso we use a 1:2 brew ratio, because espresso inherently is a very concentrated drink,” he said. To achieve that ratio, he recommends a shot time between 24 and 30 seconds.

What is an espresso with milk called? ›

Latte. A latte, much like a cappuccino, is a combination of espresso and steamed milk. They are generally no smaller than eight ounces, though there really isn't a limit to how small or large they can be.

What is 1 shot espresso called? ›

A single shot of espresso, by contrast, is called a solo ("single") and was developed because it was the maximum amount of ground coffee that could practically be extracted by lever espresso machines. At most cafés outside of Italy, a doppio is the standard shot.

What is 2 shots of espresso with milk called? ›

Cortado comes from the Spanish word “cortar” which means to cut. This delicious espresso beverage has hot frothed milk which in essence “cuts” the acidity of the espresso. This creamy drink consists of a 1:1 ratio of frothed milk to a brewed double shot of espresso.

What happens if you drink espresso everyday? ›

Espresso is high in antioxidants, and it can be good for your health. Regardless, consuming too much of it can have some negative effects like anxiety, restlessness, or insomnia. Consuming 400-600 mg/day of caffeine or 2-3 cups of espresso generally shouldn't have any negative effects.

When should you not drink espresso? ›

Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.

Some health experts recommend people stop drinking coffee as early as 2 p.m. If it's the later afternoon or evening and you still need a caffeine boost, try having one cup of black tea, which has half the amount of caffeine of coffee, or green tea, which has around one third the amount.

Is espresso good for high blood pressure? ›

In fact, espresso did not boost the pressures of habitual coffee drinkers, though it raised systolic pressure readings on average by 13 mm Hg and diastolic pressures by 7 mm Hg in subjects who were not coffee drinkers. Espresso is strong stuff, but an intravenous slug of caffeine should be even more potent.

Is espresso stronger than coffee? ›

Espresso typically has 63 mg of caffeine in 1 ounce (the amount in one shot), according to Department of Agriculture nutrition data. Regular coffee, by contrast, has 12 to 16 mg of caffeine in every ounce, on average. That means that ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine.

What is the difference between espresso and expresso? ›

Is it expresso or espresso? Espresso is a noun that refers to a certain type of coffee. Expresso is a common misspelling based on a mispronunciation of this word. If you are writing in English, you should, only ever use espresso.

How is espresso different from coffee? ›

WHAT MAKES ESPRESSO DIFFERENT FROM COFFEE? Espresso is thicker and more intense than coffee because of the lower grounds to water ratio, the finer grind, and the pressurized brewing method. Regular coffee uses a coarser grind, more water and gravity to extract the final brew.

What is the point of drinking espresso? ›

Drinking espresso gives you a boost of energy. This energy can make it a lot easier for your brain to focus on your day-to-day responsibilities. Espresso kick starts the dopamine in your brain, helping to aid in concentration.

How many shots of espresso equal a cup of coffee? ›

Caffeine content in a standard 8-ounce cup of drip coffee is roughly equivalent to one and a half shots of espresso.

Is espresso worse for your stomach than coffee? ›

The rule is: the shorter the brewing time, the more stomach-friendly the coffee. For that reason espresso, despite its intensive and strong taste and appearance, is better digestible than filter coffee. In addition, espresso contains less caffeine than filter coffee.

Why can I drink espresso but not coffee? ›

Ask for Espresso

But espresso is known for being easier on the stomach for a couple of reasons. First, the combination of high pressure and short extraction time produces a different balance of chemical compounds than the same coffee would in a drip or pour over brew.

Why is espresso so much better than coffee? ›

Espresso is roasted for a longer time, usually past the second crack, so it has a toasted and deeper flavor. The beans are also roasted for longer, so it removes a lot of the acidity while releasing more oiliness. This creates a heavier, fuller feeling in the mouth. Learn more about the different coffee roasts here.

What is 2 shots of espresso called? ›

Doppio - Italian for “double,” doppio is a double shot of espresso and is the gold standard. Most coffee shops serve a doppio, or double shot, as the default order when you ask for an espresso.

Is espresso just black coffee? ›

So, while an Espresso is also a Black Coffee, a Black Coffee cannot be called an Espresso unless brewed by forcing hot water at high pressure through the finely ground coffee.

Can you drink espresso like coffee? ›

However if espresso beans are the only thing you have at home, we have good news! You can still make a delicious cup of drip or pour-over coffee. Espresso beans and regular coffee beans are the same thing, usually just a darker roast!

Why is coffee called espresso? ›

The origin of the word 'espresso' came from the espresso machine. This name was given by two men, Luigi Bezzera & Desiderio Pavoni, who after years of tweaking their coffee making machine came up with a newer model in 1903. They called the coffee made with a newer machine - cafee espresso.

How many espresso beans in a cup of coffee? ›

An average cup of coffee typically contains between 95-100mg of caffeine. An average espresso bean contains about 6mg of caffeine. You can approximate 16-17 beans would equal a cup.

Is espresso good for the liver? ›

Coffee also lowers the risk of other liver conditions including fibrosis (scar tissue that builds up within the liver) and cirrhosis. Drinking coffee can slow the progression of liver disease in some patients. Beneficial effects have been found however the coffee is prepared – filtered, instant and espresso.

Does espresso help weight loss? ›

Drinking espresso may reduce your hunger. Drinking espresso may help you to lose weight by increasing your energy level and temporarily reducing your hunger. These effects come from the caffeine content of espresso, a strong black coffee made by forcing stream through ground coffee beans.


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