Sunday, December 3, 2023

Milk-based Espresso Drinks Explained

by Mads

What is espresso with milk called?

If you’re a coffee lover, you’ve probably tried an espresso with milk at some point. It’s a classic drink that’s loved by many, but what is it actually called? Well, there are a few different terms used to describe this drink, depending on the specific recipe and the country you’re in.

The most common term you’ll hear for espresso with milk is a latte. This is an Italian word that means “milk,” so it’s a pretty fitting name for a coffee drink that’s made with espresso and steamed milk. When you order a latte, you can expect to get a double shot of espresso (about 2 ounces) and around 8 ounces of steamed milk.

In some places, you might also hear this drink referred to as a café au lait, which is a French term that means “coffee with milk.” This drink is similar to a latte, but it usually has a higher ratio of milk to espresso. A typical café au lait will have an equal amount of espresso and milk, so it’s milder and creamier than a latte.

Another term you might come across is a flat white. This is a popular drink in Australia and New Zealand, but it’s also starting to gain popularity in other parts of the world. A flat white is like a latte, but with less milk and a thicker layer of microfoam on the top. This makes it a creamier and smoother drink than a latte.

Finally, if you’re in Spain or Latin America, you might hear this drink referred to as a cortado. Cortado means “cut” in Spanish, and it’s a reference to the way this drink is made. A cortado is a shot of espresso that’s “cut” with a small amount of steamed milk. This results in a rich, smooth drink that’s less milky than a latte.

What makes a good milk-based espresso drink?

Now that you know what to call your espresso with milk, let’s talk about what makes a good one. There are a few key things to focus on if you want to make or order a delicious milk-based espresso drink:

1. Properly steamed milk. The milk is what gives these drinks their creamy texture and sweet flavor, so it’s important that it’s steamed correctly. The milk should be heated to around 150-160°F and steamed until it has a velvety texture with small bubbles.

2. The right ratio of espresso to milk. The ratio of espresso to milk can vary depending on the specific drink, but in general, you want to aim for a balance between the two. A good milk-based espresso drink should have enough espresso to provide a strong, rich flavor, but not so much that it overpowers the milk.

3. High-quality espresso. Of course, the quality of your espresso is also important. Look for espresso that has a rich, full-bodied flavor with a hint of sweetness. And make sure it’s brewed correctly – the espresso should be extracted in 25-30 seconds and have a thick, golden crema on top.

4. Personalization. Ultimately, the best milk-based espresso drink is one that’s customized to your tastes. Whether you like it extra hot or with a flavored syrup, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

What are some popular milk-based espresso drinks?

Now that you know what makes a good milk-based espresso drink, let’s look at some of the most popular options:

1. Latte – As mentioned earlier, this is the most common milk-based espresso drink. It’s made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, and it can be customized with flavors like vanilla or caramel.

2. Cappuccino – A cappuccino is similar to a latte, but with more foam on top. It typically has equal amounts of espresso, steamed milk, and foam, and it can be sprinkled with cinnamon or cocoa powder.

3. Flat white – This drink is becoming more popular in the US and Europe. It’s made with a double shot of espresso and a small amount of steamed milk, topped with a layer of microfoam that gives it a velvety texture.

4. Macchiato – This is a bolder milk-based drink that’s made with a shot of espresso “stained” with a small amount of steamed milk. It’s perfect for those who prefer their coffee strong and uncomplicated.


Milk-based espresso drinks are a staple of the coffee world, and for good reason. They’re rich, creamy, and satisfying, with just the right amount of kick from the espresso. Whether you prefer a classic latte or a trendy flat white, remember to focus on the quality of the ingredients and the ratio of milk to espresso. And don’t be afraid to customize your drink to your liking – after all, the best milk-based espresso drink is the one that brings you joy.

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