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Espresso vs Latte: Differences Explained (With Pictures)

Espresso VS Latte Espressos and lattes are tasty, popular drinks that you can find at any café. They can even be made at home! But if you have ever been stumped by a coffee shop menu, we’re here to help. Keep reading to find out what separates a latte from an espresso!

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What is Espresso?

hot espresso shot
Image Credit: Vassamon Anansukkasem, Shutterstock

Espresso is a concentrated coffee drink measuring approximately one ounce per shot. It is made by forcing hot water through packed (tamped) finely ground coffee. The combination of high pressure, hot temperatures, and fine grind size produces espresso’s signature intense, concentrated flavors.

The espresso shot has three 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, though you can add cream or sugar.

What is a Latte?

a woman preparing cafe latte
Image Credit: Tyler Nix, Unsplash

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. Lattes combine the intense espresso with steamed milk to create a mellower, much creamier version of the bold espresso flavor. The classic latte ratio is 1/3 espresso to 2/3 steamed milk, with a layer of foam on top.

Lattes can be anywhere from 8 to 20 ounces, and you can order them with single, double, or triple shots of espresso.

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Delicious Latte Variations

When you order a latte at a coffee shop, you can customize it to your preferences. You can choose milk substitutes, raise or lower the milk temperature, or ask for no foam at all.

Another popular option is adding syrups. Most coffee shops have a wide range of flavored syrups to choose from. These include vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. There are even seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, gingerbread, and peppermint. The wide variety of options makes lattes much more customizable than espresso.

pouring milk on Red Velvet Latte
Image Credit: Mohamad Rifki Insani, Shutterstock

Does Espresso Have Variations?

Yes and no. There are fewer available options and additions, but you can customize how the shot is pulled. Do you want a more concentrated shot? Try ordering a ristretto, which is made with finer grounds and half as much water. Want a larger, less concentrated shot? Try a lungo, made with twice the water.

RELATED READ: What are the 21 different types of espresso drinks?

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Espresso vs Latte: The Differences

The major factor when considering an espresso vs a latte is the addition of steamed and lightly frothed milk. Lattes are about 60% 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 more robust taste because it’s straight coffee concentrate.

  • Rich coffee concentrate
  • No milk or cream added
  • Strong flavor
  • Small 2-3 ounce drink
  • Combines espresso and steamed milk
  • Topped with velvety microfoam
  • Smooth, creamy flavor
  • Larger 8-20 ounce drink

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!

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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