The Barista Diaries: Breaking down the iconic espresso drinks  


Are you eager to change up your current coffee order this spring? It is important to be able to tell the difference between the various classic espresso drinks before you spend $6 on something new. As a Starbucks barista, I am using Starbucks beverages as models to discuss how popular espresso drinks are made, but you can definitely order most of these at your local coffee shop as well. Let’s get to it!  


A latte is arguably the most popular espresso drink ordered at coffee shops. The drink is simply steamed milk combined with however many shots of espresso you desire. For reference, Starbucks adds one espresso shot into tall-sized hot drinks and two shots of espresso into grande and venti-sized hot drinks. The same recipe applies to iced drinks except that Starbucks adds three shots of espresso in venti iced lattes. You can definitely get creative with lattes when it comes to milk and flavor options. If you need some extra sweetness, add some vanilla or caramel syrup. One of Starbucks’ trending drinks is a blonde vanilla latte, which includes vanilla syrup and blonde espresso shots, which are made with a lighter roast and a smoother texture.  


If you cannot get on board with the thick consistency or large amount of steamed milk in lattes, I recommend trying a cappuccino. A cappuccino is made with the same ingredients as a latte, but the milk is steamed for a few more seconds to create a lighter and foamier experience. If you order a cappuccino, the cup will feel very light and the beverage texture will feel airy. Although dairy milks tend to foam up the best for cappuccinos, you can replace them with oat milk or soy milk for the best non-dairy milk results.  

Caramel macchiato  

If you have not yet ordered an iconic Starbucks hot or iced caramel macchiato, you have to try one on your next coffee run. A macchiato is made “upside down,” meaning the milk is poured into the cup first and then the espresso shots are poured over top. If you order a caramel macchiato, there will be vanilla syrup at the bottom of the drink and thick caramel sauce drizzled on top of the espresso shots. Most people choose to mix this beverage up if it is ordered iced, but make sure to take a photo of it before mixing to capture the picturesque caramel drizzle and espresso shots dripping down the cup. Many coffee shops offer mocha macchiatos as well, which I have yet to try! 

Flat white  

As a barista, I have noticed that many customers have never heard of a flat white or they have no idea how it is made. At Starbucks in particular, flat whites are made with whole milk rather than the standard 2% milk that most other espresso drinks are made with. A flat white gets an extra shot of espresso in it and the shots are ristretto style, which are smaller and more concentrated. There is a feature on espresso machines for ristretto shots that pushes out less water through the grounds and results in a sweeter and richer flavor. Starbucks currently offers a wonderful spring beverage known as a honey almond milk flat white, which is made with almond milk and honey blend syrup. For all of my fellow sweet coffee lovers out there, this drink is perfect for you to try.    

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