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By: Sonia Leung

From dark to light, we’ve got you covered with a run-down of popular choices available at (almost) any cafe.


This is what you would receive if you ordered a coffee, or rather, caffe, in Italy. On the strong end of the coffee spectrum, espresso is traditionally served with a glass of water on the side to offset the diuretic (pee-producing) effects of caffeine. A few ounces of hot water is run through fresh coffee grounds to extract the caffeine and flavour of the beans. A single shot of this rivals the wings that Red Bull promises. A double shot of this and you’ll taste colours.

There are two lengths at which espresso is extracted: ristretto and lungo (short and long, respectively). With a ristretto or short shot, less water is run through the grinds, producing a warmer and tastier coffee. A lungo or long shot has more water run through the beans. In a lungo shot, more tannins are extracted from the coffee, resulting in a more bitter drink.

Caffe Macchiato

Macchiato translates as “marked”.

A caffe macchiato translates to “espresso marked with milk.” If you ordered one of these, your barista would serve you an espresso with a dollop of foam on top. A caffe macchiato is different than a latte macchiato, which is what you’d get if you ordered a macchiato at Starbucks.


Just below the caffe macchiato on the spectrum of coffee is the cortado. Translating as “cut,” a cortado is an espresso cut with milk. Unlike the macchiato, which is comprised of espresso and foam, a cortado also has a bit of steamed milk to take the edge off.

Flat White

If you’ve stayed in the loop with Starbucks’ latest promotions, you’ve probably come across the flat white. Like a cortado, a flat white has espresso, milk and foam. The flat white, however, is milkier with a 2:1 of milk to coffee while a cortado’s got a ratio of 1:1.


A real barista would first prepare the steamed milk and foam when making a cappuccino. This ensures that there is time for the foam to settle while the espresso is brewed.

To make thick foam with minimally sized air bubbles, they would keep the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk.

Starting with espresso in the mug, a cappuccino would then be filled three quarters of the way up with foam, then steamed milk. Foam, of lesser density than milk, floats on top of the milk and sits above the edge of the mug.

Brief barista musing: iced cappuccinos aren’t actually cappuccinos — there’s no foam and usually are saturated in sugar and caramel and vanilla flavouring.


Probably the most ordered drink at cafes in North America, the latte is the complement of the cappuccino. While cappuccinos have a dairy ratio of three portions of foam to one portion of steamed milk, a latte is ratio of foam to milk is 1:3.

Latte Macchiato

As explained above, macchiato means marked in Italian. Opposite of the caffe macchiato, a latte macchiato is milk marked with coffee. A bit of espresso is added to steamed milk for a hint of coffee flavour. If you were to order a macchiato without differentiating between latte or caffe, the latte macchiato is what you would be served.

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