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What is a Breve Coffee?

I didn’t come across Breve Lattes right away in my exploration of coffee. But, there was a moment where a friend ordered a Breve Latte and I had no idea what that was.

I had to ask my friend and the helpful barista taking our order. It took only a short while for them to explain to me what it was and what they liked about it. The next time I went into my local shop, I ordered a Cafe Breve and the rest is history.

Here’s what a Breve is, what it is like, and how you can make one at home!

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What is a Breve Coffee?

Breves go by a few names. Breve Latte, latte breve, caffè breve, or sometimes just Breve. The consistent factors are what this classic coffee drink is made of. Breves are made from espresso and steamed half & half.

Half and half is half milk and half cream. What you’re probably thinking is ‘that is essentially a latte’. You’d be right!

There are some differences worth pointing out though.

cafe breve

Differences Between Breve vs Latte

Caffe Breves tend to be a bit more like Cappuccinos than Lattes. The main difference between a cafe latte and cappuccino? It’s the amount of milk used to make the drink. Cappuccinos, like Breves, tend to be made with less of the dairy (or dairy substitute) than a standard latte.

To get the effect, one aerates the milk more during the steaming process. This introduction of additional air creates a lighter, fluffy milk foam (and more of it). When mixed with the espresso, you have your cappuccino or breve (depending on the dairy used) rather than a latte.

A distinct difference between a caffe breve and a regular latte are the kind of milk. Breve drinks are made with steamed half and half (or half regular milk and half heavy cream) while lattes are made using steamed milk.

What Does Breve Mean?

The name Breve is derived from the Italian word “brevi”, which means “short”. Breves are traditionally ordered in smaller amounts like you’d see at higher end coffee shops and cappuccinos (8oz).

The use of half & half instead of 2% or whole milk makes the drink much more rich and creamy. The extra creamy foam means that you’re going to also taste more of the espresso than you would in a ‘wet’ and ‘heavy’ latte.

Merging the accentuated espresso taste with the rich and creamy-ness of the half & half makes for a much more decadent coffee drink. You can think of Breves more like dark chocolate and lattes more like milk chocolate (in terms of richness).

How to Make Breve at Home

The best way to make a breve coffee, you will need to use an espresso machine with a steam wand. If you don’t have an espresso maker, you could also use a moka pot or french press. You can get close to the effect with a milk frother as well. Frothers tend to be more obtainable for the average home barista and much easier to maintain.

Step One: Prepare your Espresso and Milk

Breves are typically (this varies from shop to shop and from preference to preference) created with a 1 to 1 ratio of half & half and espresso. The half & half is steamed and aerated to increase its volume but the amount added before steaming is about the same as your espresso shot(s).

Set aside the half & half that you will use for steaming or frothing. Also get ready to pull shots of espresso as you normally would with your home set up.

As to not let our shots ‘die’ we’ll want to time the pulling of the shot with the ending of our heating/steaming/frothing of the half & half.

Step Two: Steam or Froth the Half & Half

If steaming, you’re going to aerate for longer. With a latte on most machines, you’d aerate for 2 to 4 seconds. For a Breve, we’re going to want to aerate for 6 – 9 seconds. But, this totally depends on your machine. Play around with it, as you would, to find out what you like the best.

If you are using a frother, you’ll notice that the frother is a little bit different with half & half than it is with your standard milk. It’s not going to froth as easily.

This just means that you’ll need to froth it longer to get close to the desired effect. You should be able to achieve this with some time.

Step Three: Pull Your Shots and Combine

Now you’re going to pull your shot(s). There is no difference here as a good espresso shot is a good espresso shot. The difference in this drink comes from the half & half solely.

Once pulled, you combine the steamed half & half with the espresso just like you would a latte. With the extra aeration there’s not going to be hardly any chance for you to do latte art. But that’s okay, you after a particular feel and taste with this drink.

What Does a Breve Taste Like?

After creating your first Breve, you’re going to immediately notice that it is much bolder of a drink. You really get to taste the espresso. The foam is going to be light but rich. Even if you are a fast drinker, you’re going to be drinking this a bit slower!

Caffe Breves aren’t a revolutionary coffee beverage by any means. But they are just one more option for your morning coffee when using your at home espresso machine!

Some coffee lovers will say that there is one way and one way only for how to create a breve. The reality is that from coffee shop to coffee shop there are going to be differences. How you end up making it (and liking it!) is going to be up to you and what you find you like.

You can try making your breve with less aeration or with more espresso. I also enjoy making a latte and a breve side-by-side to really notice the differences. Experimentation is where the joy in coffee comes from!

Enjoy your next Breve at your local shop or made by you at home. You deserve a delicious treat!

Head here to learn about 19 different types of coffee drinks!

About bit of cream

Rishi and Jen are the creators behind Bit of Cream. They start each morning with a cup of coffee and are on the hunt to make that simple cup of caffeine better and brighter. Feel free to send them a message or follow along on Instagram!

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