Breve Coffee: What It Is & How To Make One

Kirkland Gee
July 26, 2023

What is a Breve Coffee?

A breve (Italian for “short”) is another member in the family of espresso-based drinks that are popular in cafes across the world. In most cases, say with a latte and a cappuccino, the differences are primarily in the amount of milk used. However, a breve is unique because it’s made steamed half-and-half instead of milk, creating a creamier, richer texture than a comparable latte. 

What is the Difference Between a Breve Latte and a Regular Latte?

When we talk about a cafe latte, we’re usually looking at a drink between 10-16 ounces, made with espresso and milk. The only thing the term “breve” tells us about a drink it’s that it’s made with half and half instead. 

So you can have a “breve latte,” or sometimes you’ll find a cortado made with half and half, as well. Breve is not a description of the drink’s size or dairy ratio, but is instead a difference in ingredients. 

What is the Origin of the Breve Latte?

The breve is a classic Italian coffee drink, dating back as far as the 15th century, by some accounts. It is a drink designed at a time when many coffees were darkly roasted, and people felt a need to make that dark coffee more easily drinkable. In addition to basic cream and sugar, they began to add the richer half-and-half to make it even sweeter. 

Breve is the italian word for “short,” which is hard to explain, as the drink is not any “shorter” than a cafe latte—as it uses the exact same amount of dairy. It is a complex, rich way to enjoy a dairy-based coffee drink, and we’re going to teach you exactly how to make one. 

How to Make a Breve Latte

The most popular size for a breve is a breve latte. For this recipe, we’ll be making a 10 ounce breve latte. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose your espresso. This will determine most of what you taste in your drink, so it’s important to get this right. 

What Ingredients Are in a Breve Latte?

Making a breve latte is incredibly simple. All you need is a shot of espresso and some steamed milk. You can add other ingredients, which we’ll talk about a little later, but those two things will get you well on your way.

Recommended Coffees for Making a Breve Latte

Generally, you’re going to want something more medium, even pushing dark roast to balance the sweetness and richness of the half and half.

If you use something too light, you’ll end up with a weird, acidic mess of a drink that doesn’t taste very good. We’d recommend something like the Monarch from Onyx Coffee, as it has some of those sweet, dark chocolate undertones while retaining some fruitiness from the original coffees.

If you prefer something a little darker, you could try Midnight Oil from Blanchard’s. This won’t have any of that fruity sweetness, but it can balance out the half and half of the breve and create a rich, complex flavor.

Tools Needed to Make a Breve Latte at Home

There are a few different ways you can make a breve at home. Ultimately, all you need is to be able to make:

  • A concentrated coffee (think espresso, but we can also do something similar with an Aeropress and a Fellow Prismo)
  • Steamed half-and-half (which we can also create without a proper espresso machine)

The easiest way to make this drink is with a traditional espresso machine. This will get you both the espresso and the ability to steam the half and half. However, these can be highly expensive and not reasonable for the average at-home coffee drinker.

If you do have an espresso machine, you can follow these basic steps. 

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making a Breve With An Espresso Machine

Once you’ve chosen your favorite espresso, we can get to work. 

  1. Weigh out between 16-18 grams of your chosen coffee (depending on your preferred espresso recipe)
  2. Grind it at a very-fine grind setting that works for your espresso maker into the portafilter (Optionally, you can use a WDT Tool to more evenly distribute the grounds
  3. Tamp the coffee into the portafilter with enough pressure the flatten the bed and leave no room for channeling
  4. Brew your espresso! For a breve, you’ll want a traditional espresso ratio of 2:1 (32-36 grams of water out, depending on your initial dose)
  5. Measure out 8 ounces of half-and-half into a steaming pitcher and begin steaming on your machine
  6. When steaming, you want the get the temperature between 140-160℉. This will pull the most sweetness out of your drink without burning the half-and-half
  7. Also, if you’re used to steaming whole milk, you will need to aerate half-and-half a lot more in order to achieve the same texture. The more fat in your dairy, the more you air you need to incorporate when steaming.
  8. Once your shot is pulled and half-and-half is steamed, you can pour your drink and enjoy!

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making a Breve With an Aeropress

If you don’t have access to an espresso machine, no worries. We have another option. You can achieve a very similar drink with just an Aeropress and the Fellow Prismo attachment, as long as you have a grinder that can go fine enough. (Obviously, you can use pre-ground coffee for this as well—just have it ground at a local cafe for espresso instead of buying it from the grocery store).

  1. As with before, you’ll start by weighing out your initial dose. For this, you can follow this recipe from Handsome Wade.
  2. Once you’ve brewed your shot, you can “steam” your half-and-half in the microwave!
  3. Pour your 8 ounces into a cup, and heat it in 15-20 second increments until the temperature reaches 140-160℉.
  4. Once you have your dairy up to temp, you can just froth it using a basic milk frother
  5. Pour your half-and-half over the coffee, and enjoy!

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