Essential Espresso Based Drinks Every Barista Should Know

There are a lot of different coffee cultures around the world, and things may get confusing when it comes to the different kinds of coffee beverages cafes offer on their menu.

In this segment, we’ll be tackling the different kinds of espresso based drinks every barista should know before running a coffee bar. Things may get a bit technical, but we’ll try our best to keep it as simple and informative as possible.


This is basically a small, strong coffee, topped with a golden-brown layer called crema, and is typically referred to as a “shot”. It’s brewed under 6-9 bars of pressure using an espresso machine and is used as a base for numerous coffee drinks.

Traditionally, as single shot of Italian espresso is brewed using 7-9 grams of coffee with a brew temperature of 88-96°C and a percolation time of 25-30 seconds with a total beverage size of around 25-30ml.

Now this is where things will start to get a little bit confusing. Nowadays, modern coffee shops make espresso using different brew ratios depending on the size of their portafilter and the coffee they use. Typically modern specialty coffee shops default to brewing a double shot of espresso using around 18-21 grams of coffee and a brew ratio of 1:2, 1:2.5, 1:3 depending on the cafe’s desired recipe.

An espresso has three key visual elements. The crema, body, and heart.

The crema is the top most layer of an espresso shot that is foamy and golden-brown in color. This is where the espresso’s flavor and aromatic qualities can be found. The thickness of the crema will depend on how fresh the coffee is. The fresher the coffee is from its roast date, the thicker the crema will be.

The body is the middle layer of the espresso and is usually a caramel color. The heart is the bottom most layer of the espresso. This is typically rich brown in color and bitter in taste. An espresso is usually served with a teaspoon on the side to stir and mix all three layers. This should have a well balanced flavor of acidity, sweetness, and just a hint of bitterness.


The term ristretto when translated means “restricted” which, in barista terms, means to restrict the flow of liquid. It is made with the same amount of coffee used to brew an espresso, but extracted using a slightly finer grind size and using half as much water. A ristretto is a more intense and concentrated form of espresso. In terms of brewing ratios, a ristretto would be a 1:1 to 1:1.5 coffee to water ratio.


The term lungo means “long” which, in espresso brewing, means to extend the extraction time making for a slightly larger beverage size. The brew ratio of an espresso is usually 1:2 and 1:4 for a lungo. Compared to an espresso, a lungo will have a milder, balanced taste and have lighter mouthfeel.


Caffe Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato is basically an espresso shot topped with a small amount of foamed or steamed milk. The Italian term “macchiato” when translated, means “stained” or “marked”, meaning stained or marked coffee. It is typically made with a double shot or 2oz of espresso and topped with 1oz of steamed milk. This drink is perfect for those who find espresso too strong and a cappuccino too weak. A macchiato packs just the right amount of punch from the espresso and is balanced out with a bit of sweetness from the steamed milk.


When translated, cortado means to cut, and in barista terms, this means the coffee is cut with milk. A cortado is traditionally made with 1 part double espresso and 1 part steamed milk. The nuances from the espresso and appreciate it’s bright acidity and fruity notes and sweetness from the steamed milk comes through making for a well balanced drink.


The cappuccino and cortado are both controversial drinks since both claim to be made with equal parts of double espresso and milk. What makes a cappuccino stand out from a cortado is the milk. A cappuccino is made with equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. Compared to a cortado and a latte, a cappuccino contains a thicker layer of milk foam making for a lighter, fluffier texture. It is also customary in some cafes to serve a cappuccino with a little dusting of chocolate or cinnamon powder on top.

There are two types of cappuccinos. A dry and a wet cappuccino. Again, the difference lies in how the milk is steamed.

For a dry cappuccino, the milk is steamed with intentionally increasing the amount of micro foam. This version of the cappuccino has more milk foam than steamed milk, resulting to a light and bouncy layer of frothed milk on top. Having more micro foam means that there is less steamed milk in the drink. This makes for a stronger coffee with a more pronounced flavor of espresso.

A wet cappuccino, on the other hand, uses more steamed milk and less micro foam. This results to a silkier textured milk similar to a latte but with significantly more micro foam. The silky steamed milk in this version of the cappuccino enhances its natural sweetness and cuts the strength and  acidity of the espresso


A latte is a staple in every coffee shop and is often confused with a cappuccino since both are espresso based and contain steamed milk. What makes the latte different from a cappuccino is the way the milk is steamed. The milk for a latte is steamed in such a way that there is less introduction of air, making for a silky texture and a thin layer of microfoam. A latte is properly made if it contains a double shot of espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of frothed milk on top. This makes for a balanced milky cup of coffee with a silky mouthfeel, and an aesthetically pleasing look especially if it’s done with latte art.