Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato: Different Coffee Drinks Explained

If you're not a coffee connoisseur, the menu at your local shop might seem like it's written in a different language (and sometimes it is). What does "flat white" mean? Espressino? Ristretto? You likely already have an established order for your morning cup, but if you don't know what else is out there, you might be missing out on the next best thing. From lattes and cappuccinos to macchiatos and frappuccinos, here are all the different types of coffee drinks, explained.


Drip coffee is your standard cup of joe. All you need in order to brew it is a coffee maker; just add water to the reservoir and coffee grounds to the filter (or a K-Cup pod if you're using a Keurig), get it going and you'll have your finished product in minutes. Add sugar and/or one of the healthiest (or unhealthiest) creamers.


Espresso is a little different from coffee, even though they come from the same bean (which is actually a type of cherry seed). It's the preparation that sets them apart. First of all, you can't use a standard coffee maker to brew espresso. It's best to use an actual espresso machine. The beans are ground more finely than standard coffee, tamped down and brewed with pressurized, hot water into a tiny ceramic cup. The end result is 1 to 2 ounces of a concentrated, full-flavored beverage that can be consumed on its own or as a base for other coffee drinks.


Ristretto — Italian for "narrow" — is a short pull of espresso. Depending on where you order it from, it could be anywhere from 15 to 25 milliliters. A standard shot of espresso is 1 ounce.


Lungo — Italian for "long" — is a larger shot of espresso, comparable to a "doppio" or double shot. It requires more water than a standard shot of espresso.

Espresso con panna

If plain espresso is a little much on your palate, you might enjoy it "con panna" or topped with whipped cream.


An espressino is made with espresso, which is topped with steamed milk, cocoa powder and sometimes Nutella.


A latte is super creamy because two-thirds of it is dairy (or an alternative milk if you prefer vegan-friendly coffee). The first ingredient is a shot of espresso, and then the barista fills the rest of the cup with steamed milk. A thin layer of milk foam tops it off.


A cappuccino is very similar to a latte, but it has more foam and less milk. After the shot of espresso goes in, steamed milk fills the middle of the cup, and then it's topped off with a thick layer of milk foam and sometimes a sprinkle of cinnamon.


A macchiato starts with steamed milk, which is topped with two shots of espresso followed by a thin layer of milk foam.


An Americano skips the dairy altogether. It includes two shots of espresso and hot water. The ratio for this drink should be one part espresso and two parts water.

Flat white

The flat white originated in New Zealand, but now you can get it at practically any of the best coffee shops in the U.S. The drink, which is typically served in a ceramic cup with a saucer, is made just like a latte with one shot of espresso and steamed milk, but less foam.


Iced coffee is just drip coffee that's been chilled down.

Cold brew

Cold brew is different than iced coffee, and it takes a lot longer to make. Ground coffee is steeped in cool, filtered water for hours at a time. Because it's made without heat, it's not as acidic as drip coffee and is naturally sweeter and smoother.


If you're a fan of Starbucks, you've likely seen a Frappuccino before. The drink, which is trademarked by the chain, features a coffee or cream base blended with ice and other ingredients, topped with whipped cream, flavored syrups and sometimes cookie crumbles. They're very similar to a milkshake, making them among the unhealthiest items on Starbucks' drink menu.

Red eye

You may have taken a red-eye flight from any of America's busy airports, and this drink was named for the extra energy boost you'd need to stay awake through the overnight trip. It's regular drip coffee with a shot of espresso added.

Black eye

A black eye, on the other hand, is drip coffee with two shots of espresso added.

Green eye

For those in desperate need of energy, a green eye is a regular drip coffee with three shots of espresso. Not enough? Eat an Oreo cookie. We bet you didn't know they had caffeine.


The cortado, which originated in Spain, is equal parts espresso and steamed milk. The name is derived from the Spanish verb for "to cut," referring to the milk mellowing the bold espresso.


"Affogato" is Italian for "drowned," but don't be alarmed — it refers to a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream drowned with a shot of espresso.

Caffè breve

Caffè breve is made like a cappuccino, but with steamed half-and-half instead of milk. This makes the foam a lot creamier.

Caffè mocha

Caffè mocha is layered with espresso, chocolate, steamed milk, milk foam and whipped cream. It's a perfectly sweet option for when you need to kick a sugar craving.

Long black

To make a long black, fill 80% of your cup with hot water and add a shot (or two) of espresso. It's comparable to an Americano.

Café au lait

Café au lait sounds really fancy, but it's just French for coffee with hot milk. Unlike a latte, it does not come with foam on top, and in America, it's usually made with scalding milk rather than steamed milk.

Café bombon

Café bombon is one part espresso and one part sweetened condensed milk. Whipped cream tops it all off. In its native country of Spain, it's often consumed as dessert.


You won't find this at any old coffee chain, but you will find it at America's best bars. A classic Irish coffee is made with sweetened coffee, Irish whiskey and whipped cream. It was invented by an Irish chef in the 1940s and was brought to the U.S. by an American writer who drank it at an Irish airport. It was first served stateside at Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco in 1952. From bloody marys and pina coladas to margaritas and mudslides, lots of your favorite cocktails have interesting origin stories.

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