The Tip Jar - Hot Drink Breakdown

Tuesday October 28, 2014 // By Landon Christensen

PortafilterSauce…then espresso? Espresso… before milk? Building drinks can be a daunting task at times, especially when trying to decide what order to add the necessary elements of a specific beverage. Not to mention that everyone seems to have a method that fits them best. Don’t be overwhelmed with all of the “you should’s” and “don’t do’s” out there. I’m going to break down some of the most common hot drinks you might find in a shop. Yes, I realize it is not entirely extensive, but it is a good foundation for those who are just learning. Also, I’m assuming you know how to properly pull a shot of espresso and steam milk. If not, please check out these tutorials - pulling espresso and steaming milk, before continuing.

Some of the most common drinks I’ve seen during my time at various shops and cafes are: macchiato, cortado, cappuccino, latte, mocha and hot chocolate. These are the ones I am going to break down for you. Again, this is the way I prepare them as a barista. I am in no way stating this is the “right way” to do it, if something works better for you then go for it! Also, for all of the beverages that are not size specific I will be referring to a 12 ounce. Now then…

The macchiato, which may be the most misconstrued of all, is a small, 2 ounce drink that is composed of 1 ounce espresso and marked with 1 ounce milk foam on top. You mean a macchiato isn’t 24 ounces and smothered in caramel?!?! Technically, no... The term “macchiato” is Italian and literally means stain or mark. The key here is to create foam with your milk without compromising its natural sweetness. It should be thick enough that it will lay on top of the espresso without sinking through the surface.

The cortado, my personal favorite, is typically 4 ounces composed of 2 ounces espresso and 2 ounces steamed milk. With these mirrored portions there is an excellent blend of espresso and milk, with neither overpowering the other.

A cappuccino is a 5 ounce drink that can be prepared with either a single shot or a double shot. If you are preparing a single cappuccino, you would would use 1 ounce of espresso and 4 ounces of steamed milk. If a customer orders a double, use 2 ounces espresso and only 3 ounces of steamed milk. Occasionally, you will hear someone order a “dry” cappuccino at some point in your career, this simply means introducing more air into the milk when steaming.

The latte is a bit of a wildcard when it comes to preparation and size. I’ve seen lattes range from 8 ounces all the way up to 24 ounces. If you are doing a flavored latte the sauce or syrup should go in first so you can mix it with the espresso. When doing a flavored latte, maintaining a ratio of flavoring across all sizes is of utmost importance, that way you can make consistently flavored drinks, small or large. For a 12 ounce latte I typically will use 1 ounce of syrup which gives me a ratio of 12:1. This might not work for your shop so experiment with different ratios until you find one that works well for you. After the flavor is added, add your espresso. Again, I’ve made single, double, triple and even quad shot lattes before. It will vary from customer to customer. Double shot is a good starting point and if the customer asks for something different, then go from there. Once the espresso is added then you can pour your milk. This is where latte art comes into play, which will be discussed at a later time.

A mocha is similar to a latte, but is made with a chocolate sauce as a base with the espresso plus any other flavor your customer may want. I’ve made white chocolate mochas, vanilla mochas, hazelnut mochas and peppermint mochas, which are great around the holidays. For a 12 ounce mocha I would still use 1 ounce of sauce, if your customer does ask for an additional flavor I would recommend using only about ½ ounce so that chocolate remains as the predominant flavor. Add the sauce first then the espresso, then thoroughly mix the two together. The temperature of the espresso will help melt the sauce, making it easy for them to integrate. After that’s done you can add the milk and garnish the top with chocolate powder if you choose.

Lastly, hot cocoa, which can easily be turned into a steamer. A steamer is simply steamed milk with syrup or sauce added for flavoring. These are both great options if you are seeking caffeine-free menu-items for kids. For a 12 ounce cocoa or steamer, I would add 3 ounces of sauce or syrup. Next, pour in approximately 1 ounce of steamed milk to help melt down the sauce for better integration. Then, add the remaining steamed milk, if you do this carefully you can even achieve latte art in a hot cocoa - that’s sure to impress your customers!! Again, 3 ounces may be a lot of flavoring for you, so find out what tastes best to you!

Be sure to check out the video for this breakdown, which you can find here. Also, we’ve got a graphic showing the individual drinks and their portions here. This should be enough for you to get started! If you have any other questions or would like an explanation of a specific drink that’s not covered in this blog, please feel free to contact us via email or call us toll-free at 1-866-776-5288!


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