You’ve undoubtedly seen Starbucks’ advertisements for their newest espresso drink: the Flat White. If you look at their chalkboard drawing to explain a Flat White, more questions are easily raised.
Courtesy of Starbucks
It’s espresso and milk? How is that any different from a latté? Or a cappuccino? Well now that I think about it, what is the difference between a latté and a cappuccino?
All three of these espresso drinks have a bit in common. All are broken into three portions, all involve espresso, and all contain steamed milk. How can they be so different?
Part of the differences between the three drinks lies within the portions of the milk used. All three contain steamed milk, but only cappuccinos and lattés use foamed milk. The difference between those two is how much foamed milk is used. In a latté, it’s one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk with a light dusting of foamed milk on top. In a cappuccino, the drink is divided into even thirds: one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foamed milk.
At a glance, coffee beans and espresso beans look exactly the same. However, we know that each produces a completely different taste, and espresso is used in most of our popular coffee drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos.
So what is the difference between them?
Both come from the exact same bean, but the name “espresso” actually refers to a brewing method rather than a type of bean. Specifically, espresso is produced with pressure, whereas coffee is not. Yet, if you brew regular coffee beans with an espresso machine that uses the required pressure, you still won’t produce espresso.
The beans used for creating espresso are roasted differently from regular coffee beans to give espresso its unique bitter taste, its thickness, and its small amount of crema (foam). These beans are roasted until they are far darker than normal coffee beans and have an oily sheen. When ground for brewing, the grinds are also far finer than normal coffee grounds, since they must be tightly packed into a tiny basket.
Since espresso is brewed with pressure, the brewing time is significantly shorter as well. When all is said and done, the typical espresso machine will produce one perfect shot of espresso, instead of cups of coffee.
It’s for this reason we see more coffee brewers in homes than espresso machines; it’s a lot of work for a small result, even though the small result packs quite a punch in terms of taste.