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What is a Breve Coffee Drink? (Plus, My Favorite Way to Make a Breve Latte)

Never heard of a breve? I got you covered. In case you are wondering what is a breve, it's a type of coffee made with half and half.
what is a breve

And if you are a coffee lover searching for that perfect combination of velvety smooth texture with rich, strong espresso, the breve is a coffee drink made for you.

I’m a professional barista with expertise in espresso and specialty coffee made with espresso. But I’ll admit that when I first learned about breve lattes, I immediately thought, ‘No, you cannot mix those’!

Then I tried it. Oh man, what a drink. 

For me, breve drinks are a delight for your soul. The creaminess inside this beverage is insane and it gives a little touch of happiness to your inner child. It’s so satisfying when you want to have a super creamy textured drink to start the day and can enjoy a breve.

In coffee shops here in Bucharest, breve lattes are in high demand and I’ve noticed that women seem to order them most often. What can I say? Women know what they like in a good coffee. 😉

So let’s get started: I will teach you everything you need to know about cafe breve. I’ll also walk you through how to make one at home.

What is a Breve Coffee?

Breve is an espresso-based coffee beverage created with half and half instead of the traditional whole milk. Referred to as just a “breve” in the coffee culture, it’s also known as half cream or half milk here in Bucharest. 

The word “breve” itself is derived from the Italian word for “short,” which indicates the drink’s espresso base.

what is a breve

As baristas and coffee fans have experimented with various ingredients and ratios to produce novel flavors and textures, the exact combination of espresso and half and half to make a “breve” drink is one of the fruits of coffee culture. 

What’s the Difference Between a Breve vs Breve Latte?

If we talk about the difference between the breve and breve latte, there is only one significant difference between the two drinks: Foam.

Breve is made with either steamed half-and-half instead of milk, but you can add it straight to any coffee drink or froth it as well.

The breve latte has foam on top while a breve is simply espresso and steamed half-and-half without pouring foam on top.

What Do You Need to Make a Breve at Home?

  1. Dark-roasted coffee beans to make espresso. We will use a strong espresso as a base. I am brewing with Lavazza Crema E Gusto.
  2. A coffee grinder. I highly recommend grinding your beans right before pulling the shots. Use an extra-fine grind size.
  3. A coffee scale to weigh your shots. Mine is the Acaia Pearl.
  4. An espresso machine – a Moka pot can work, but making this espresso drink with a machine or even AeroPress is much easier.
  5. Half and half milk and whipped cream (optional). 

“Half and half” means an equal amount of milk and cream. The cream will give the beverage a creamier texture than milk alone.

How To Make A Breve Latte

Most of you are probably wondering how to make breve coffee at home. I’ve summed up the essentials for you, so you can better understand how the preparation varies between a breve and a latte.

1. Pull an espresso shot. 

breve espresso

It can be either a single or a double shot of espresso. Two shots will change the espresso-to-milk ratio unless you add more breve to keep it the same.

2. Steam the half and half. 

what is a breve

Keep going until its texture is creamy but not foamed to stiff peaks, similar to a latte – not cappuccino. You’ll pour or spoon the foam that rises on top at the end. If you aren’t using a machine with a steam wand, you can use a separate milk frother just as effectively.

3. Add espresso to your cup.

Take a cup and pour the espresso into it. If you want to add syrups or flavorings, now’s the time to do it. Although, I personally don’t like adding sugar or other things because it masks what natural flavors the coffee has to offer.

4. Pour in the frothed breve.

what is a breve
what is a breve

Then pour the creamy frothed half and half over the espresso. 

5. Congrats! You just made a delicious breve cafe latte!

what is a breve
what is a breve

Sip it slowwwwwly and enjoy the extra-rich coffee flavor and thick, creamy texture.

How to Pick the Espresso for Your Breve Coffee Drink

Espresso for breve needs to be sharp and deep for the perfect cup. 

I typically recommend an espresso with robust characteristics such as a dark roast as it blends harmoniously with the half-and-half cream, while also contrasting deliciously with the rich and thick breve. 

The espresso beans’ origin also influences the flavor. For instance, Central and South American beans proffer a more chocolatey note, while African beans are fruitier. You should prefer whole roasted beans over pre-ground coffee, as the former is always fresher if you grind right before brewing.

Additionally, the grind size should be fine but not overly so, allowing the water to extract the flavor adequately.

In the instructions above, I mentioned I’m using Lavazza Crema E Gusto. This blend has some Robusta to add depth and astute clarity. Absolutely delicious in a latte breve.

Ultimately, a well-chosen espresso accentuates the taste of your breve coffee, so whatever you choose, make sure it’s strong coffee that can stand up to the thick half and half.

The Most Popular Breve Coffee Variations

Breve coffee, also known as “café breve,” is a uniquely American take on the traditional Italian latte, and it has inspired a number of popular variations. It’s characterized by equal proportions of espresso, milk, and half and half, which lend to its decadent body and smoother texture. 

The most popular versions of the breve coffee consider a variety of other ingredients that can enhance its base flavor profile. Starting off with the classic breve, it is a simple blend of espresso with half and half.

The absence of milk makes it a distinctly richer and creamier version of the traditional latte.

One notable variation is the flavored breve. It incorporates sweet syrups, like caramel, vanilla, or hazelnut to the coffee which gives it an inviting sweet element.

iced breve
An iced breve latte with vanilla syrup.

Then there is the iced breve, a refreshing take on the coffee that’s perfect for warm weather or those who prefer cold beverages. It follows the basic breve recipe but is served over ice (flavors optional).

Another popular version is the mocha breve. Also known as a “breveccino”, it combines the creamy breve base with rich chocolate flavors, often with a sprinkle of cocoa on top.

While the breve may be an American creation, many international breakfast beverages have also inspired breve variations. And coffee breve isn’t the only type of drink made with half whole milk, half heavy cream.

matcha breve latte
Breve matcha latte.

For example, chai breve incorporates the spicy, aromatic flavors of traditional Indian chai tea into the creamy breve base. Meanwhile, matcha breve uses finely ground green tea powder with steamed half and half for a Japanese-inspired twist. 

For something a little stronger, the Irish cream breve involves adding a measure of Irish cream liqueur, while the bourbon breve goes a bit further with a shot of bourbon whiskey.

Or for something weaker, the decaf breve is a perfect choice for those who love the taste and creaminess of a breve but prefer to avoid caffeine.

Despite the varied flavors and textures these popular breve coffee variations offer, the classic profile of smooth creaminess with the distinct espresso kick remains noticeable and enjoyed. 

What are the Benefits of Drinking Breve vs Latte with Regular Whole Milk?

Breve and latte possess distinct characteristics: One has much more fat than the other. I’ll let you guess which! 

Most people who drink breve coffee or breve lattes do it because of the half-and-half’s distinctively rich and velvety texture, which sets it apart from your standard caffè latte. The half-and-half brings a subtle sweetness that complements the bitter taste of the espresso. And if you steam the half and half, it releases even more sugar.

benefits of breve - why drink breve
Breve is thicker, heavier, and creamier.

So breve, traditionally made with half-and-half cream rather than whole milk like a latte, offers a richer texture and more calorie-dense profile. While this may translate to more calories, it also promises higher calcium content and protein, which supports bone health and muscle strength. 

On the other hand, a normal latte is made with whole milk and has less fat than a breve.

Both drinks have their own appeal based on taste preference, but lattes contain fewer calories and saturated fat compared to breve, making them slightly more heart-friendly. 

At the end of the day, caffè breve tastes better to some people. But for most, it’s too caloric compared to a latte to drink as daily morning coffee.

What is a Breve at Starbucks?

breve starbucks

A Starbucks breve combines the full-bodied espresso contrasted with the luxurious creaminess of half-and-half. When you ask for a breve at Starbucks, 9/10 times the barista will assume you mean a breve latte

If you want to try one at Starbucks, order a breve of any drink you like that’s usually made with whole milk. Customizable like all Starbucks drinks, “breves” can come in any size and be flavored with your syrup of choice.

You can substitute most Starbucks drinks with “breve” as well. The baristas will make your drink with half and half instead of the default whole milk.

TL;DR – What is a Breve? And What’s the Difference Between a Latte and a Breve?

To sum things up, a traditional latte or cappuccino is made with whole milk. But breve coffee is usually an espresso-based drink made with half-and-half (equal parts whole milk and cream) instead of just whole milk.

What stays the same is the ratio of espresso to milk. A latte made with breve or any other kind of milk has 1 part espresso to 3 or 4 parts steamed milk, with a layer of milk foam. This varies by coffee shop, but the good news is you can customize the ratio as you like at home.

On that note, I hope you followed my brewing process above and found your breve latte easy to make at home!

Caffe Breve FAQs

What exactly is a breve coffee?

Breve Coffee is a style of coffee drink made with espresso and a mixture of equal parts whole milk and half light cream. It is similar to a latte and a cappuccino but the use of half whole milk and half light cream gives it a richer and creamier taste.

How is half and half used in breve coffee?

Half and half, which is equal parts of whole milk and light cream, is used to give the breve coffee its unique creaminess and richness that distinguishes it from a standard latte or cappuccino.

Can I use already ground coffee to make a breve coffee at home?

Yes, you can use pre-ground coffee to make an espresso shot for your breve coffee. A fine grind is typically recommended for espresso drinks.

What’s the difference between a breve coffee and a regular latte?

The main difference lies in the type of milk used. A regular latte is made with whole milk, while a breve uses half whole milk and half light cream. This gives the breve coffee a richer and creamier texture.

Can I make a breve with a double shot of espresso?

Yes, you can make a breve with a double shot of espresso if you prefer a stronger coffee flavor. This is called a double breve.
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