A Guide to The Espresso Coffee Family


The extended espresso coffee family. Is there anything a coffee lover won’t try to add to their coffee? Not sure I know the answer to that question.

In the meantime, let me give you a better understanding of these drinks in my guide to the espresso coffee family that way you sound like a pro the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop.

How would you like to meet the first family of coffee? For a family as recognized as they are, the espressos sure can be tricky to understand for anyone new to the community. If you think they all sound Italian, you are correct.

They all originated from a shot of espresso; coffee made famous by an Italian.

All cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and macchiatos are just variations of espresso. It can be as basic as the amount of espresso or milk used to make the coffee or even what order the coffee or milk is poured into the mug.


Arguably the most famous of all the espresso family, a cappuccino is a staple in the coffee world. A traditional cappuccino has an even distribution of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. Because of its milky taste, I consider it one of the weaker espresso drinks.

The coffee comes with a distinct layer of milk foam, often referred to as dry foam. It’s large in volume but the foam is not very smooth in taste. Chocolate, cinnamon, or caramel are often sprinkled on top of the foam to add to the presentation of a cappuccino.

Cappuccino (1)


In Italian latte means milk, so a latte coffee is a cappuccino with a little extra steamed milk. So, where’s the difference, you ask? Well, the latte is topped with a smoother, silkier foam. Equally important, the espresso is mixed with the steamed milk instead of showing off the distinct layering like its brother, the cappuccino.

The fancy patterns on top of the foam give latte is distinction amounts the espresso family. Latte Art has become a worldwide phenomenon with people going to extreme ends creating unique patterns and drawings.

Latte (1)


A macchiato is often described as the closest coffee to the original shot of espresso. Think of it as the child that never moved out of their parent’s house and just tried to take over the family business, but unfortunately, a macchiato doesn’t command the same respect as an espresso.

A macchiato is a subdued espresso, diluted with a little spot of milk. Actually, in Italian the name translates to ‘stained.’ Therefore the name Caffe Macchiato literally means stained coffee. This drink has two distinct variations, the original and the latte macchiato.

Macchiato (4) (1)

An original Italian macchiato is simple to whip up. Just pour the espresso into a ceramic cup and stain the coffee with a teaspoon of steamed milk. The latter version has a couple of extra steps, I have the walkthrough here.


The sweetheart of the espresso family, mocha is a favorite of all who enjoy the kick of espresso with a little sweeter aftertaste. Mocha is poured with hot chocolate instead of the whipped foam, yum! You can mix hard chocolate with hot milk, or even add powdered or chocolate syrup to the mix. Don’t forget to top the mocha with whipped cream.

The coffee was given the name Mocha after a city in Yemen. Where coffee originally comes from.


Flat White

A distant cousin of the family, the flat white originated in Australia. The name flat white refers to the layer of foam that covers the coffee, it can be a thick layer almost two-thirds of the cup covering two shots of espresso or a slim layer topping to a latte.

Often compared to a latte and flat white has to fight for its place in the espresso family. Consequently, a latte has steamed milk and a flat white doesn’t, easy to remember, right? Made with two shots of espresso and covered with microfoam a flat white is usually a strong coffee.

Flat White (1)

Last Words

With deep roots, tough kids, and strong cousins the espresso coffee family has taken over the world one shot or cup at a time. Believe it or not, these are just the basics. The deeper you get into the roots of the family, the more interesting the drinks get. Like, the frappe, or the Americano. If you are taking a dive into the coffee community be sure to explore all the different types of coffee drinks before one of them gets you for good. I hope you enjoyed this guide to the espresso coffee family.

With that I have one last question, are you ready to join the family?

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