Matt Westenburg Talks Espresso

Sometimes it feels like you need a dictionary to understand the menu at your local coffee shop. There are all kinds of ways to brew coffee and even more possibilities for each type of brew. Espresso drinks are some of the most popular among coffee consumers. Here’s a breakdown of what makes espresso different and the differences between espresso drinks.

Espresso vs. regular brewed coffee

Espresso is made with the same beans as regular coffee, but you have to use finer coffee grounds. Fine grounds are important in espresso because it uses a different brewing technique. The coffee grounds are tightly compressed and the hot water is forced through them under high pressure. Espressos have a much stronger flavor than regular brewed coffee, so if you’re planning to make espresso drinks it’s important to get the right equipment.

Matt Westenburg

Steamed milk

Baristas make steamed milk by heating it with a steam wand. The steam wand causes the milk to spin as the temperature rises. A thermometer on the device lets you know when to stop steaming. Since the steamed milk is heated more evenly, the bubbles are smaller and more uniform. This gives steamed milk its silky texture.

Frothed milk

Frothed or foamed milk is also heated with a steam wand, but there’s an additional step. The wand also injects air into the milk, which creates small, foamy bubbles. The heated milk is mixed well, adding air into the milk. The air creates all those small, foamy bubbles that float on top of your coffee. Foamed milk is more dense than steamed milk, but both are used in many espresso drinks.


Cappuccinos are made of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk. In order to be called a cappuccino, the milk has to be poured over the espresso. If the espresso is poured over the milk, the drink is called a latte macchiato. Dry cappuccinos have more foam in them. These drinks have the same texture as a traditional cappuccino, just with more foam and less steamed milk.

Matt Westenburg


Lattes have a lot of milk compared to other espresso drinks. Made mostly with espresso and steamed milk, there’s only a small amount of foamed milk added to these drinks. Some baristas artistically pour the top layer of foam into latte art for additional flair.

Macchiatos, Mochas, and Americanos

Macchiatos have an intense coffee flavor. These drinks are made with a shot of espresso topped with foam. A mocha is a sweeter drink made with espresso, chocolate, and steamed milk. An Americano is made from hot water and a shot of espresso.

Espresso drinks are some of the most popular among coffee consumers, but few people know the difference between a cappuccino and a macchiato. Next time you visit a local coffee shop, you can order with confidence now that you understand espresso drinks.