What’s a Cafe Breve?
A Cafe Breve is a creamy, delicious twist on a classic espresso drink. While there are a few intricacies to the drink, you can easily distinguish it by the milk. Instead of regular milk, a Café Breve is espresso and half & half (or half milk/half cream) The half & half creates a richer flavor and texture, especially after it’s steamed and produces some microfoam.
About the Cafe Breve
|Coffee : Milk Ratio||1 : 1|
|Type of Milk||steamed & microfoam|
|Cup||four-ounce or larger cup – preferably glass|
|Supplies||espresso, half & half|
|Sugar or Added Flavors||optional|
|Notes||if you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a Moka Pot, AeroPress, Cezve, L’OR, Nespresso, or “no-machine-needed” espresso coffee sticks|
A Breve Isn’t Always a Cafe Breve
If you’re a bit confused about what a Café Breve is, you’re not alone. That’s because the drink is relatively new. It’s an American twist on a latte. However, it’s also reminiscent of a cortado, a flat white, and even a Vienna Coffee. What also muddies the water is the Starbucks’ interpretation.
Café Breve – traditional – one part espresso, one part steamed half & half with partial microfoam
Breve – Starbucks – if you order a “Breve” at Starbucks, you’ll get a cup of steamed milk
Breve Latte – Starbucks (and other cafes) – a latte made with steamed half & half instead of milk
Mocha Breve – the traditional beverage with the addition of one-part hot chocolate
Fuzzy Coffee Math
When you order a Breve Latte or any Caffe Latte at Starbucks and similar coffee shops, there’s no precise ratio of espresso to milk (or half & half) as it’s sized based.
For example, a Starbucks short or tall Breve Latte starts with one shot of espresso unless you specify otherwise. However, a short is 8 ounces, and a tall is 12 ounces. So, the amount of steamed milk varies accordingly.
How To Make a Café Breve
Ordering a Café Breve might be tricky, but the beverage is one of the easier espresso drinks to make at home. All you need is espresso and half & half. The steamed and foamed milk-cream combination adds a subtle sweetness to the drink. So, even if you like sweet coffee drinks, try your first homemade breve before you add any sugar or syrups.
There’s a two-part process to making a Breve. Start with either step, but your goal is to have the espresso and steamed milk ready to go simultaneously.
1. Prepare 1-2 shots of espresso – if you don’t have an espresso machine, scroll down for espresso-making options. You can even use espresso coffee sticks – no machine required. Brew your espresso into your serving cup. Be sure to use a large enough cup or mug to accommodate the milk-cream combination.
2. Steam your half & half – for a traditional Café Breve, you’ll want to use equal parts of espresso and half & half. So, one shot = one ounce. But if you want it more like a Breve Latte, use more half & half.
>> Creating microfoam – when you’re steaming the half & half, the goal is to create a small amount of microfoam for the top. So, tilt your container and position the steam wand about halfway into the liquid. You’ll end up with two layers – the hot, steamed milk at the bottom and thick, foamy (almost whipped cream-like) froth at the top.
>> Because you’re using half & half, you don’t need a steam wand or electric frother. You can use a handheld milk frother that you can get on Amazon for under $10. Alternatively, you can use a jar with a lid to thicken the liquid by shaking it. The key is to heat the half & half first to just under boiling.
The Power of Half & Half
You’ll find that half & half will create microfoam quickly. It’ll be shiny and beautiful because of the higher fat content.
Once you have microfoam, slowly tilt your container over your cup of espresso. The steamed milk from the bottom will pour out first. Give the espresso and steamed milk combo a gentle stir. Then, take the same spoon and dollop the microfoam (that was left behind) on top.
Mocha Breve Alternative
To kick up the rich beverage even more, you can always add a layer of hot chocolate. So, you’d have equal parts of espresso, half & half, and hot chocolate. Give the combination a little stir and finish with the remaining microfoam.
Differences Between Café Breve and Other Espresso Drinks
If you’re a coffee aficionado, you know that most espresso-based drinks are relatively similar. They typically vary by one ingredient or just a slight change in technique.
Take the Cappuccino and Cortado, for example. They’re almost identical, but the Cappuccino has one part of dry foam (or froth) on top, whereas the Cortado is just espresso and steamed milk.
One Ingredient Stands Out
A Café Breve is easy to distinguish, though. It’s a standout as it uses half & half (or a 50-50 combination of milk and cream) instead of milk. You could compare it to an Espresso Con Panna, which is an even richer drink. The Con Panna is half espresso, and half whipped cream.
Spillin’ the Beans Espresso Making Alternatives
A Cafe Breve is made with equal parts of espresso and half & half, while the Breve Latte is made with more half & half (1:2 ratio or higher)
Frequently Asked Questions
A Cafe Breve is an espresso-based drink made with equal parts espresso and steamed half & half with a touch of microfoam on top.
Not necessarily. A Cafe Breve uses equal parts espresso and half & half, while a Breve Latte is more half & half-heavy. It could be anywhere from 1:2 parts espresso and half & half to 1:8.
While the drinks are similar, a Latte is made with steamed milk, and a Breve uses steamed half & half. Also, a Caffe Latte has more milk.