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Espresso VS Latte: What’s The Differences?

Espressos and lattes go head-to-head as they compete for people’s attention on the menus at most coffee shops. As a result, they often top the list of the most popular coffee beverages. 

What are these drinks, what’s the comparison between an espresso VS latte, and which one should you be ordering?

espresso compared to latte

What Is Espresso?

An espresso is a small amount of brewed coffee that’s made by quickly forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee at high pressure.

To get tasty results, you need an espresso machine that applies the right amount of pressure to the coffee grinds.

Espressos are known for their intense flavors, a bit of characteristic bitterness, and the layer of crema that forms on top. At just 1 ounce, an espresso can seem tiny to people who are used to beverages that come in sizes such as 6 ounces, 8 ounces, or even larger.

Espresso Variations

Espresso can taste wildly different depending on the dose, water, and grind size. Let me break down each of those factors.

Dose – this refers to how much coffee is used to create the espresso shot, and is usually about 18-21 grams of ground coffee. It can vary depending on how much espresso you will make.

Water – obviously, if you use more water when brewing an espresso the resulting drink will not be as strong. If you pair more water with a smaller dose, the espresso will have less flavor.

Grind sizegrind size is important when making an espresso. The water has to pass through the grinds in just 25-30 seconds and extract flavor along the way, so a fine grind size is necessary.

What are the most popular variations of espresso? You will commonly find these three on coffee shop menus:

  • Doppio – two shots of espresso that give you a 60 ml drink
  • Ristretto – smaller and stronger than a shot of espresso, a ristretto has half the water
  • Lungo – espresso made with twice the amount of water

Related Reads: Ristretto VS Long Shot, Espresso Drinks

What Is Latte?

A latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. It is often served with a thin layer of milk foam on top. That creamy foamed dairy gives the drink a luxurious mouthfeel and no doubt adds to its popularity.

The exact amounts of espresso and steamed milk can vary from one coffee shop to another. When you order a latte, you’ll probably get served 1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, and that layer of foam. 

You can order a latte with one shot or two shots of espresso or more foam. The total amount of liquid in a latte is about 8 ounces.

Types Of Lattes

You can make almost endless variations of lattes. Beyond the amount of dairy and whether it’s steamed or not, some common additions are:

  • Flavored syrups – caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, or chocolate.
  • Powders – cinnamon, cocoa, white chocolate, or that ever-popular pumpkin spice latte.
  • Flavored milk – you can buy milk and creamers that infuse both dairy and plant-based products with flavors such as vanilla or hazelnut.

You can also create your own latte drink at home easily.

Related Read: Latte Flavors, Starbucks Lattes, Cascara Latte

The Differences: Espresso VS Latte

Since a latte has the same amount of coffee as espressos, the difference between these two popular drinks comes down to the additions. Lattes add steamed milk and a bit of milk foam on top.

Since lattes are about 60% steamed milk, you’ll notice an enormous difference in taste. A latte tastes more like milk or the additions you’ve added to it. 

In fact, some lattes, filled with syrups and whipped cream, don’t taste much like coffee at all.

Another difference is the size. Espressos are tiny, but a latte is usually an 8-ounce beverage. And depending on the coffee shop, it can be a whole lot bigger.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an espresso stronger than a latte?

When talking about strength in an espresso vs latte, both have the same amount of coffee, so technically they have the same strength as far as caffeine. 

Why do espressos taste stronger than a latte? Because of the reduced amount of liquid in an espresso shot, you can taste all the characteristics of the coffee. With a latte, you might taste the dairy more than the coffee. 

Adding dairy can also make the beverage seem easier on your stomach.

Is espresso healthier than a latte?

When talking about the health benefits of espresso vs latte, an espresso alone has no milk products or sugar products. On the other hand, a latte has dairy and, often, sweeteners or syrups.
 
That means an espresso comes in at 0 calories, while a latte can have hundreds of calories depending on the size and the recipe at the coffee shop.
 
When considering the health impact, you also have to calculate the calories in any added sugar or syrups and the cholesterol factor in the dairy. So it could be argued that espressos are healthier than some lattes.