Coffee Guide: Explainer

Espresso Explainer: What's That Drink You Just Ordered?

Americano. Italiano. Cortado. We break it down.

By Kelly Clarke February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

Think you know your cortado from your Italiano? Katie Prinsen, the woman behind Prince Coffee—Kenton’s espresso and stroopwafel café—sets us straight.

Pomo 0317 espresso drinks 1 gimbh3

Image: Amy Martin

1. Espresso

Small coffee beverage—between 1 and 4 ounces—extracted using very high water pressure. “It seems basic … but I always get customers asking for a ‘16 oz espresso,’ meaning there is still some confusion out there.”  

2. Americano

A shot of espresso floated on top of hot (195 degree) water. Some people prefer to stir in the creamy foam on top of the shot (called crema) before drinking.  

3. Italiano*

Basically an Americano served in a cappuccino cup—that’s just enough water to open up all the wonderful flavors of the espresso without making it too large of a drink. Ideal for busy baristas to sip behind the bar.

Pomo 0317 espresso drinks 2 kuympm

Image: Amy Martin

4. Cappuccino

The best espresso drink there is: espresso topped with milk steamed at exactly 135 degrees (any hotter and you lose milk’s natural sweetness), and milk foam.

5. Cortado/Gibraltar

They’re both a slightly smaller cappuccino. The Gibraltar was named after the Libbey Gibraltar brand tumbler it was first served in at SF’s Blue Bottle Coffee, while cortados are typically served in any glass. In general, East Coasters order cortados; West Coasters, Gibraltars.

6. Latte

A milk-based coffee beverage of any size, served between 150 and 155 degrees with a thin layer of foam up top.

7. Flat White

Thought to have originated in Australia or New Zealand, it’s the same size as a cappuccino but with milk prepared like a latte, served at 150 degrees.

* Rumor has it, this drink originated in Portland—perhaps at Sterling or Barista.

Filed under
Show Comments