If you’re used to a cup of gas station coffee that costs less than a buck, the world of espresso beverages can be a little overwhelming. The terms are foreign and confusing, and what’s worse, no one behind the coffee bar really wants to take the time to explain them. The whole experience makes you feel like you should have had some coffee before going to get your coffee.

Everything You Need to Know about Espresso Drinks

But a well-pulled shot of espresso is a beautiful thing, and it can be used to make some incredible drinks. So let’s start with the basics, and you’ll be ordering the trendiest cup of coffee before you know it.

The Single Shot of Espresso

If you know that it’s pronounced, “espresso,” and not, “expresso,” then you’re already doing better than about half the population. To get even more in-depth, espresso is a small amount of highly concentrated coffee, made by running hot water and steam through a small, compacted amount of finely ground beans. A one-ounce shot is comprised of the heart, the body, and the crema.

Espresso is smooth and rich, and it packs a potent, intense punch. You can drink it alone, or you can add it to coffee for a jolt of caffeine. Shots of espresso also form the basis of lots of other beverages.

The Red Eye

Depending on what coffee shop you frequent, and what part of the country you live in, a red eye may be called many different things, and it has many different versions. The blanket term red eye, at least pertaining to coffee, generally means a cup of coffee with a bonus shot of espresso in it.

Red eyes, as the name would suggest, give you a boost of much needed energy after a long night, or an early morning. They also give you a more robust and intense flavor than coffee on its own. They’re perfect for people who love their coffee strong.

The Americano

The Americano is rumored to have originated in Italy during World War II, when American soldiers diluted espresso with water to give them a beverage closer to their traditional coffee. It translates simply to American coffee, so this version makes sense.

To make one, you simply pull your desired number of shots of espresso and add water to them. A coffee Americano gives you the strength of a cup of coffee, a richer espresso flavor, and less of the bitterness. Maybe you love the taste of espresso, but shots alone set you over the caffeine edge. Maybe they have you running around the office on hyper mode. The Americano is the perfect solution to get the nutty espresso taste, with a little less nuttiness overall.

The Long Black Coffee

The Long Back coffee beverage is extremely similar to the Americano. In fact, it is just a variation of it. The long black puts particular emphasis on the order in which the water and espresso are put into the cup. The long black is made by adding espresso to water, instead of water to espresso.

Adding the water first seems like it shouldn’t matter, but to you, the now espresso connoisseur, you know that it does. Adding the espresso shots on top of the water preserves the crema of the shot, and it creates a smoother, richer taste.

The Latte

In this competition of espresso-based drinks, the latte is the more timid competitor. That’s because it often relies on sweeteners, flavors, and rich creamy milk to convey its caffeinated message. The basic format of a latte is espresso, steamed milk, and just a dollop of foam. This formula leaves plenty of room for sugary sweet syrups like vanilla, caramel, and the infamous pumpkin spice.

Ideally, you want to drink a latte to experience the richness of the espresso, and the sweetness of the milk, but they have become a great way for people who don’t like coffee to be able to enjoy it too.

The Cappuccino

The cappuccino and the latte are often mistaken for one another, and it’s easy to do so. The difference is subtle, but important. While lattes involve mostly milk and a little bit of foam, cappuccinos are primarily foam.

The easiest way to tell them apart is by weight. When you pick up a cappuccino you might wonder where your drink is, but that’s because of the foam. Cappuccinos that are lighter and foamier are referred to as dry, and those that have more milk and less foam, are wet.

Use Your Espresso Knowledge to Order the Perfect Cup

Now that you know the basics of espresso and espresso beverages, you can stride into any coffee shop, and order with confidence. You’ll know when someone talks about a red eye that they aren’t referring to an early flight, and you won’t think a long black is some type of clothing. You’ll be hip to the lingo in no time, and you’ll always start your day with your perfect cup of coffee.

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