Your Guide to Everything Espresso, Part 2

This week, we continue our guide to espresso with explorations of the macchiato, cortado, and cappuccino.  So pull yourself a shot of espresso and dive right in.  Not sure how to because you missed the last Weekly Roast?  Click here for a description of the basic espresso and Americano.

Cafe Macchiato

Of all the espresso drinks, the cafe macchiato has the least milk.  Macchiato means “spotted” or “stained,” and the beverage is espresso topped with a “spot” of milk, usually foamed.  It can be either short (a single shot of espresso) or long (double) and is served in a glass or ceramic demitasse.  

Also called the espresso macchiato, the cafe macchiato is for those who love the taste of espresso but want to balance that out with a touch of sweetness.  Traditionally it is an afternoon espresso drink, the counterpart to a morning cappuccino.  To make one, pull a shot of espresso and top it with 1-2 teaspoons of steamed milk and/or foam.



A cortado is half espresso and half steamed milk.  Unlike the Americano and macchiato, the cortado isn’t Italian - it originated in the Basque region of Spain, and its name comes from Spanish.  Cortado means “cut,” and the goal is to have the creaminess of the steamed milk cut the acidity of the espresso.  For that reason, there is little to no foam, which is characteristic of Spanish beverages, and any there is will be blended into the rest of the milk.  

To make a cortado, slowly pour steamed milk over your shot of espresso.  Typically, this will be in a gibraltar glass, which is why the drink is also called a gibraltar.  Cortados are meant to be leisurely sipped, so take your time and enjoy.    


A cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam.  In preparation, milk and foam are added incrementally to the espresso, creating a larger crema and lighter brown color than in other espresso drinks.

There are two different stories behind the origin of cappuccino’s name.  The first has to do with the drink’s appearance from the top of the cup - the crema-surrounded white foam resembles the shaved heads of the Capuchin monks within their light brown habits.  The other is that cappuccino means “little cap” in Italian, and the beverage is a microfoam-"capped" espresso.

One tricky part of cappuccino preparation is producing the foam.  To do so, when steaming the milk, hold the tip of the steam wand near the surface of the milk.  Keep it there until half the milk has become froth.  Then, to infuse the espresso with the steamed milk and foam, hold the milk pitcher about three inches above the cup, and pour in a vertical, circular fashion.  This will ensure that the milk blends with the espresso.  The froth will be last to leave the milk pitcher, crowning the cappuccino with delicious foam.

The basic cappuccino has two variations on the ratio of steamed milk to microfoam.  A wet cappuccino has more steamed milk than foam, while a dry cappuccino has just the opposite.

Visit The Weekly Roast next week for the rest of our favorite espresso drinks.  In the meantime, feel free to practice your milk steaming ;)