Espresso vs Latte: What’s the Difference?

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espresso vs latte

Espresso and lattes are common choices on coffee shop menus and can even be made at home to enjoy. Maybe you’ve heard of these common coffee drinks but don’t know the differences between them? Keep reading to find out!

What is Espresso?

Espresso is a concentrated coffee drink measuring approximately one ounce per shot. It is made by forcing hot water through packed (tamped) grounds. The extraction of concentrated coffee results in the signature intense bold flavors. The espresso shot has 3 parts. The “body” is the darker bottom, the “heart” is somewhat lighter and in the middle, and the “crema” is the foamy light colored head on top. This drink is typically served as a doppio (2 ounces) or even as a triple (3 oz). Most espresso lovers enjoy it on its own.


Credit: Marcelo César

What makes a latte?

Lattes are coffee beverages made with shots of espresso and steamed milk. The steamed milk creates a thin layer of foam that sits at the top of the latte. The size of the beverage (6-20 oz) determines how many shots of espresso go into it. It can range from 1-3 ounces by default, but some prefer adding even more than that. Lattes combine the intense espresso with steamed milk to create a mellower, much creamier version of the bold espresso flavor.



Latte Variations

When ordering a latte, there are a variety of options for customizing them. These include milk substitutes, changing the temperature, or even adding more foam or asking for no foam at all. Another popular change to make is flavor. Most coffee shops have a wide range of flavors to choose from. These include vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, etc. There are even seasonal flavors like pumpkin, gingerbread, and s’mores. The wide variety of options makes lattes much more customizable than espresso.

Does Espresso Have Variations?

Yes and no. There are some different options for ordering an espresso, but most of them make it a different type of espresso drink. For example, a customer can order a ristretto espresso. Ristretto means there will be less water pulled through the grounds at a quicker rate. This type of espresso has a sweeter flavor and makes a little bit less than a regular shot. Though this is still a variation of espresso, it’s technically a different drink.

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The Differences

The major factor separating an espresso from a latte is the steamed milk and thin layer of foam that gets added to the espresso in a latte. This major difference creates smaller differences as well. These include the amount served and the flavor.

Lattes have 95% milk, so the volume of a latte is much greater than an espresso. The smallest latte you can order is 8 oz, whereas most espresso is about 2-3 oz when served.

Flavor differences exist mainly in the creaminess and the very mellow espresso flavor of a latte. Espresso has a lot more intensity of taste because it’s straight coffee concentrate.

Now you know the differences between a latte and an espresso. Next time you’re looking at the coffee shop menu, you will be able to use this knowledge to find something new to try!