Espresso Drink Names and Terms

Caffe Latte

A Caffe Latte is a single shot of espresso with steamed milk. There is no frothed milk in this drink – see How to make a Latte. A Caffe Latte should have approximately a 3:1 ratio of milk to coffee. Note: ordering a Latte in an Italian restaurant may get you a glass of milk so be sure to order Caffe Latte.

Most major coffee chains will make lattes with a shot of espresso – two shots for larger cup sizes (16+ oz).

Cafe au Lait

A Cafe au Lait is similar to a Caffe Latte except it is generally made with brewed coffee instead of espresso in a ratio of 1:1 milk to coffee, with sugar added to taste.


Cappuccino is traditionally equal parts espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk. A Macchiato is one of the simplest drinks to make at home with a Saeco espresso machine. Many coffee shops will add much more milk than this in the belief that bigger is better.


An Americano is a single shot of espresso with 6 to 8 ounces of hot water added. This term was originally devised as a sort of insult to Americans who wanted their espresso diluted.

Americanos are best made with espresso blends that have some part Arabica and some part Robusta beans – the Arabica provides a better flavour, while Robusta has more caffeine content and makes a better crema. The combination of the two mean that the additional water added to the shot(s) don’t overly dilute the flavor.

Hammerhead aka A Shot in the Dark

A hammerhead is a shot of espresso in a coffee cup that is then filled with drip coffee.

This may very well be the drink with the most distinct names. It seems that every espresso bar insists on giving it a new name. Check out a few of the alternate names, such as “red eye” (a single shot), a “red eye” (a double shot) or “dead eye” (triple shot).

This is probably one of those love it or hate it drinks. On one side it to me seems like a novelty drink in the sense of give me all the caffeine I can get. But at the same time if the espresso is made properly and the coffee is chosen wisely it can be an exceptional drink and unlike straight shots it’s not gone in a couple of sips. Personally I love it. If you have the option of choosing the coffee go with something roasted a little lighter and on the acidy side. The combinations of the caramelized sugars and depth of the espresso plus the high notes of the coffee make an excellent beverage.


This is usually a Cappuccino or a Caffe Latte with chocolate syrup added. This term actually has very little meaning beyond chocolate being involved so you might want to ask what it is in a given coffee house before you order one. Some will use chocolate powder and instant milk while higher end shops with use a premium cocoa sauce and hand steam your choice of milk (almond, soy, coconut, etc). See this recipe for a Cafe Mocha for more details.

Espresso Con Panna

This is a shot with whipped cream. In high end shops, the whipped cream with be dispensed from a charger (nitrous oxide cartridge + 28%+ cream), with most midrange shops using a generic whipped cream that you would find from the grocery store. Here’s a more detailed Espresso Con Panna recipe.

Please don’t ever buy an Espresso Con Panna from a shop that uses cool whip.

Double Shot

Two shots of espresso with the same amount of all other ingredients.

Just to make things confusing some shops will treat a double as double everything keeping the proportions the same. To get around this, you can order your drink normally and ask for an “extra shot”.


This is a restricted shot. Less water is allowed to come through the coffee grounds and should take the same time as half a regular pull. This is approximately a 1/2 ounce (15 mL) pull, specifically, the first half of a regular shot, using the same quantity of coffee grounds as a regular shot. You can find a guide for how to pull a ristretto here.


This is an extra long pull allowing approximately twice as much water through the same amount of coffee as normally used for a single shot. This will be somewhat over extracted. It’s about a 2-3 ounce shot.

Cafe Macchiato

Cafe Macchiato is a shot of espresso (served in a small espresso cup) topped off with steamed milk (of a velvety smooth texture) – the ratio of cafe/latte is approximately 80/20. Most Italians drop a teaspoon of sugar in this elixir. Put another way this is a serving of espresso with a small dollop of foam on top.

White Coffee

A “White Coffee” is a term commonly used to refer to a very light-roasted coffee. It is also sometimes used to refer to a “flat white”, a milk-based espresso drink.

Cafe Breve

A Cafe Breve is essentially a cappuccino made with half&half instead of whole milk. This should have a very rich creamy flavor. Half&half is a bit of a pain to foam, but it most definitely can be done.


A dry cappuccino generally refers to a drink with a small amount of foam and no steamed milk.

8 thoughts on “Espresso Drink Names and Terms”

  1. Good option.

    Wow, i didn’t konw there is so many types of coffee. I would choose cappuccino that is my favorite, also with creamy hill on top and lot of sugar.

    Hmmm i thing i going to make one right now…
    Thanks for inspiration 🙂

  2. Other coffees

    There’s also:

    Flat White (Australia/New Zealand): It is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk from the bottom of a pitcher) over a single (30ml) or double shot (60ml) of espresso. It is similar to the latte and the cafe au lait and like other espresso based beverages it can be interpreted various ways.

    Kopi: various coffees in Singapore use condensed milk. very sweet. see bottom of

  3. As far as I had the chance to

    As far as I had the chance to look at this word, it seems the UK “inherit” it from the US (similar to what happened with the Italian word “panini”, by the way); sometimes it also happens Italians introduces new words or new meanings in the UK: an Italian journalist reported many years ago if you go in a clothes shop in London and ask for “a body” the shop assistant would had looked at you like you have two noses, wondering why you want to buy a corpse… 🙂

    1. Most Italian coffee shops that I’ve seen do this by pouring the espresso over a scoop of ice cream, though it may well be a stylistic choice. Ultimately the ice cream melts and espresso cools if you take too long to eat it.

  4. Thanks!

    I just started a job at a local coffee shop and they don’t have a recipe guide for any of these and this is going to help me out a lot. Thanks for putting this together!


  5. San Diego version?

    Every time I had a Hammerhead in San Diego in the ’90’s, it was always three shots. I used to think this was just the version of that particular coffee house. But, every time I ask a fellow San Diegan about this, they remember it the same way. It’s still just a variation on the same thing.

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