Everyone loves a latte, and if Starbucks’ numbers are anything to go by, coffee consumption is only going to keep going up in the years ahead.
You don’t have to just settle for the world’s favorite milky espresso drink though.
If you’re ready for something a little different, there’s a tantalizingly tasty coffee treat called the breve. It takes the delicious taste of a latte or a cappuccino, and then catapults it to a whole new level.
What is a breve though, and how can you make one at home?
In this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about this seriously luxurious drink.
(If you want to explore more of my coffee content, take a look at the home brewing guide I have elsewhere on the site!)
What is a breve coffee?
The breve goes by a number of different names:
- Breve latte
- Cafe Breve
- Breve Coffee
The word “breve” means short in Italian. No surprise then that this is an espresso-based milk drink that shares a lot in common with lattes and cappuccinos.
There’s one essential difference between these types of coffee, however.
Rather than using frothed milk (as you would with a latte), for breve milk you instead steam half and half (ie cream and whole milk).
As you’d expect, the end result is a similar, but far richer drink. It’s so rich, in fact, that you’re unlikely to need any sweetener with it.
It’s the kind of drink that works amazingly well as an after-dinner coffee. As they’re so fatty and strong, I like to save them for when we have guests round.
If you’re looking to amp up your usual milky espresso drink, you can consider the breve to be the natural next step.
Breve vs Latte
The use of half and half versus milk is the main difference between the latte and the breve, but it doesn’t stop there.
You’ve got a lot more flexibility when it comes to the size of a latte, for example.
If you want to make a large latte, no problem. If you want to increase your intake without exploding your waistline, you can just make a skinny version.
Lattes are all about the smoothness, and work well with additional flavorings and syrups.
The breve is a little purer than this though. It only really works with its base ingredients, and serving up a big size is asking for trouble in terms of calorie intake.
The breve is best thought of as an occasional treat. It’s a drink that’s rich and creamy, and sits somewhere between a latte and a cappuccino.
Where did the breve originate?
This one’s a little tricky to pin down.
About all we know about the breve’s origin is that it started off life in the US. It’s essentially an Americanized version of the classic Italian latte.
It’s been a bit of a quiet phenomenon though, and hasn’t slipped as comfortably into the general coffee conversation as the latte and the cappuccino have.
The good news is that it’s very easy to explore this corner of the coffee world yourself.
In the next section, I’m going to explain how you can make a breve in your own home kitchen.
How to make a Breve
Assuming you’ve got access to an espresso machine, there’s very little else you need to try this drink out. All you’re missing is the half and half ie the secret ingredient.
(If you don’t already have an espresso machine, you might want to take a look at my buyer’s guide to the best semi-automatic espresso machines. There should be something in there that will work for your kitchen!)
You’ve got a couple of options when it comes to sourcing the breve’s secret ingredient.
First of all, half and half is readily available from most stores. If you’re buying it pre-made, go for a high quality option.
Alternatively you can make it at home yourself very easily. Again though, buy the best quality whole milk and cream that you can get your hands on.
(Oh, and if heavy cream proves just a little too heavy for you, try a light cream next time…)
Regardless of how you get your half and half, always make sure you’ve chilled it well in the refrigerator beforehand. It just won’t foam up properly otherwise.
While you’re steaming the half and half, aim for a temperature of between 160 and 170 degrees. That’ll obviously be a lot easier if you’ve access to a thermometer.
Here are the instructions for brewing up a breve:
- First, make your espresso shots. Pull one or two depending on how strong you want your drink to be.
- Foam the half and half using either a dedicated streaming wand, or the one built in to your espresso machine.
- Once frothed, pour the mixture into your cup and add a little of the foam onto the top.
- Next, slowly, pour your espresso. Do it slowly enough and the froth should gently rise above the espresso.
That’s it! As I say this is a very simple process, but it’s important you pay proper care and attention while executing it.
Are Breves bad for you?
Well, let’s be honest here, anything that combines cream and milk isn’t going to be particularly good for you.
You’ll inevitably increase your cholesterol, calorie and fat intake by drinking these, so they’re best reserved as a special treat. You really don’t want to start chugging your way through these all day, every day!
There isn’t really a healthy alternative to the breve either, as you’ll lose so much of what makes the drink such a uniquely delicious experience.
As with all things in life, moderation is the key here.
I love a breve, but I wouldn’t have more than one a day. I recommend you either have one at the start of the day, or have one when you’re relaxing after a hard day’s work and a tasty dinner.
At all other times, stick to either a skinny or a regular latte for a reasonably similar experience.
There you go! Now you know what a breve is, and you’ve got all the information you need to experiment with making them yourself.
Just remember, it’s all about the quality here. Use great coffee, buy high quality milk and cream / half and half, and make sure the dairy’s nicely chilled before starting the process too.