Coffee Drinks

Written by Sarah Provost
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The wide variety of coffee drinks available today results from cultural imports from around the world, as well as innovations driven by the coffee craze of recent years. What's the difference between caffe latte, cafe au lait, and cappuccino? Is an espresso the same as a demitasse? Here are some definitions of the primary varieties of coffee drinks.

In America, the coffee most often made at home is drip coffee. Heated water is allowed to pass through ground beans, picking up the soluble flavors as it drips. Espresso coffee is prepared differently, and is the basis for most other coffee drinks such as cappuccino and cafe latte. For espresso, the coffee is more finely ground, almost a powder. It is then compressed, and hot water is driven through it by means of steam. The resulting drink is much darker and more intense, and if served by itself, is presented in a smaller cup (a demitasse).

One part espresso is combined with three parts steamed milk to create a caffe latte. One serving of espresso topped with steamed milk and froth is a cappuccino. Cafe au lait is one-third drip coffee and two-thirds steamed milk. Cafe Americano is espresso diluted to drip strength with hot water.

Innovative Coffee Drinks

In addition to these traditional drinks, the new breed of coffee shops are coming up with new variations almost weekly. Flavored coffee was the first innovation, sometimes resulting from beans infused with flavors such as cinnamon or hazelnut, and sometimes from the addition of a flavored syrup to regular coffee. Frozen coffee drinks followed, often combined with chocolate or other flavors. These days some coffee shops offer drinks such as "steamies," which are steamed milk combined with flavored syrups, that contain no coffee at all.

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