First, a word about the author.
The author of this document is not a big fan of certain aspects of the bastardized coffee culture that see in North America as introduced to us via the Big Bad Mermaid.
So with that in mind I will have a tendency to steer things in what I consider to be the more traditional direction with an emphasis on smaller sizes and the like. It is not to put a right or wrong on the way you choose to drink your coffee; only to suggest that there is another more elegant and refined way of doing things that I want to emphatically urge you to try.
Whether you knew it or not there is a certain underground ethic of what is cool in the world of coffee and particularly espresso. Small is cool. Small cups, small quantities of coffee and small quantities of milk are all very cool. The best part is that you can create cool in your own home.
These are the faves. I don't have to tell you that there are many more "milk based coffee drinks" out there, but we'll work with the standards.
| Latte |
Just a big bowl of hot milk, with a lil' bit of coffee to flavour.
Latte: This is a wildly popular drink in North America. Large quantity of milk, small quantity of coffee. Something the Italians might serve to their children.
It is a great introductory drink, the coffee is softened almost to the point of non-existence and it is topped by just a whisper of foam. Very approachable, perfect for non-coffee drinkers and and the warm milk crowd.
Café au Lait: The French version of a latte. Big and Milky. Something to dip your croissant in, to linger over or to wake up with. It is made with steamed milk and double strength, dark roast coffee in a 50:50 ratio. 50% steamed milk, 50% coffee. Foam is generally not a feature of this drink but I won’t tell if you don’t tell. Float a little foam on top if you want.
Typically served in a large bowl or anything that you can wrap your hands around in a loving embrace. Espresso is not a feature of this drink and so it could also be called a Poor Mans latte. Easily and inexpensively made with only a few simple instruments. See the Steaming Milk for Newbies section for more details.
| Mocha |
Lots of chocolate, llots of milk, ots of whipped cream, little bit of coffee.
Mocha: Considered by many to be the gateway drink of the espresso world. A lot of people get hooked and stay hooked on these things. Ya got your chocolate, ya got your sugar, ya got your fat, and did I say you got your chocolate?
You make a mocha with quality chocolate syrup (think Guitard or Godiva, not Nestle Quick), coating the bottom of your cup. Use about an ounce worth of sauce for a 12oz drink, plus or minus to taste. Brew the shots of espresso on top, give it a quick stir, add steamed, lightly foamed milk on top of that and then the coup de grace is a generous pile of whipped cream to finish your arteries off…I mean your Mocha.
Use the same amount of coffee as you would for a latte. If you’ve got a steamwand that can really move the milk add the chocolate sauce to the milk before steaming so that the two mix a little more thoroughly. Some have been known to skip the chocolate sauce and just steam chocolate milk with good results. Nothing beats some really fine chocolate.
I don’t drink these because I wouldn’t want to seem weak or anything and I’m afraid I might like them.
| Cappuccino |
The quintissential, "accepted' milk based espresso drink - when done right.
Cappuccino: The undeniable classic and darling of the espresso world. It is the perfect example of milk and coffee done right. The cup itself should hold 5 to 7oz and no more. Sharing the space in the cup in one-third proportions is one shot of espresso, one-third steamed milk, topped by one-third foam.
This is the first coffee of the day. The espresso is softened by the steamed milk and also mingles with the voluptuous foam. That first sip is coffee wrapped up in and permeating the foam, which adds texture and mouthfeel followed by some soothing steamed milk. Everything is in balance. The coffee is not overwhelmed/smothered by the milk and there is enough foam to enhance the cup but not so much that I have to dig to find the coffee. A true traditional cappuccino is a white cap with a ring of dark brown crema at the edge. The above picture although lacking the ring nicely shows the proper proportion of foam to steamed milk and espresso.
Espresso Macchiato: An espresso macchiato is espresso with the corners rounded off by a little bit of milk. The classic is a shot of espresso with a dollop of foam on top. Macchiato means “marked” and the dollop of foam marks the surface of the espresso.
Personally my preference and the common preparation here on the West Coast is the shot of espresso marked with not just foam but a little bit of that steamed/foamed milk combo added to fill your demitasse cup. Use approximately a 1:1 ratio, half of your espresso cup is filled with espresso, the other half filled with your steamed and foamed milk.
A Note on Milk Drinking Times
That macchiato I just described? That's the drink to have at around 10am, after that it should be espresso and espresso only - be the CoffeeGeek. Feel the CoffeeGeek. Live the CoffeeGeek!
Yes, it's true: milk in quantity should not be consumed with coffee after about ten although this might come as a bit of a shocker for some. I'm not talking your drip coffee here, mind you - if you want to live the espresso lifestyle, listen to the choir.
The cappuccino is the first cup to linger over with your morning cornetti; the macchiato gets to be the encore performance with a little less milk around mid morning. After that it is all about espresso for the rest of the day. Latte? That's training wheels for the uninformed, unwashed. Mocha? I'd rather have some tiramisu with an Americano. Café au lait? Only in Paris, and only with my morning baguette.
To drink a milk based espresso drink after mid morning is considered gauche, very poor form. To drink a milk based espresso drink with your meal, don’t. It’s just wrong. You’ll see people crossing themselves.