What Is a Breve

What Is a Breve

Do you love to drink a mug of creamy morning coffee? 

If you answered yes, you would be thrilled to hear about the topic of this article: the breve. 

So what is a Breve? The breve is an espresso drink that simultaneously satisfies a craving for caffeine and decadence. Read on to learn more!

What Is Caffè Breve

A caffe breve is not a coffee drink for individuals who are on a diet or are trying to curb their fat or caloric intake. Since a breve is made with steamed half and half instead of milk or a lighter dairy product, it is much richer and has more fat than almost any other coffee beverage. As you undoubtedly know, half and half is a blend of half whole milk and half light cream.

Despite being higher in fat, a breve is not usually as high in sugar or caffeine as different espresso-based drinks you can order. 

Traditionally, a breve is made unsweetened, without sugar or flavored syrup. However, if you like your drinks to be extra creamy and sweet, you can ask for the syrup to be added to your breve. Beware, though, that especially with additional sugar, this is not a diet drink for those who are trying to lose weight! 

The typical ratio of espresso to half and half may vary depending on your location. In most places, a 12-ounce traditional latte comprises 2 ounces of espresso and 10 ounces of steamed milk. A 12-ounce latte breve would be the same ratio but with half and half instead of milk.

However, many coffee shops offer larger lattes, either 16 or 20 ounces. In these cases, the amount of espresso stays the same, and there is more dairy product added to dilute the coffee. If you order a 20-ounce breve, you still get the same amount of caffeine as a 12-ounce breve or latte.

What Is a Breve

What Is the Difference Between a Latte and a Breve?

The primary difference between a latte and a breve is the type of dairy that goes into a drink. Lattes are made with whole milk, reduced-fat and non-fat milk, and a slew of dairy-free “milk” options. On the other hand, a breve is always made with half and half.

Caffe Latte has a final thin layer of milk foam on top of the coffee drink.

The difference in dairy products used to construct breves and lattes will significantly impact the nutritional facts of each version of the drink. By weight, whole milk is only about 3.25% milk fat and contains around 8 grams of fat per cup serving. The specific percentage of fat will vary based on the diet and health of the cows, as well as its bottling process.

Half and half, on the other hand, are made of equal parts of whole milk and light cream. As a result, it has a much higher milk fat percentage, around 11%, and nearly double the calories per cup of liquid. This number is much higher than whole milk but less than heavy cream.

This difference in fat content will result in a breve having more calories and grams of fat than a cafe latte. It will be richer in taste and texture and have a creamier mouthfeel than a latte made with whole or reduced-fat milk. As a result, you may find that it is more filling than your usual latte and that you are not quite as hungry for breakfast.

Caffe Latte

What Does Breve Mean in a Drink?

In most places, a breve refers to an espresso-based coffee drink made with half and half instead of whole milk. It has come to be known by multiple names, including a caffe breve, breve latte, or a coffee breve. Baristas and coffee professionals understand these terms to refer to the same beverage. 

Like many other coffee-related languages, the term breve comes from Italian. In Italy, breve means brief, short, or concise. However, the original meaning of the word has become separated from what the beverage is. 

Despite borrowing an Italian word, breve is decidedly a North American concoction. What other country besides the United States would deign to take an already rich and indulgent drink and make it even more luxurious? 

Although breve typically refers to a latte made with half and half instead of whole milk, a barista can apply this substitution to any of the espresso drinks and call them breve. For example, a cappuccino made with half and half would be called a breve cappuccino. One could also easily make a macchiato breve or a cortado breve, or even a flat white breve.

Depending on what type of beverage you are asking for breve, the milk may be steamed slightly differently, with more or less foam sitting on top of the espresso.

Is Breve Just Half-and-Half?

Is breve just half and half? Not exactly! According to tradition, breve combines half and half and espresso coffee. However, there can be slight variations in this drink. Sometimes, breves are made with light cream or heavy cream. These variations will provide an even richer and creamier result. 

In a pinch, if you don’t have bottled half-and-half, you can combine half-milk and half-cream to get the job done.

While there have been many recent developments in alternative kinds of milk that allow customers to order lattes and cappuccinos dairy-free, made with oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and macadamia nut milk, it is not possible to make a breve without its primary ingredient: high-fat dairy.

Breve is mainly made of half and half, but the concentrated espresso that goes into the drink also contributes warm, chocolatey, toasty, and caramel-like flavors and aromas. Since there are usually only two ingredients in a breve, it’s essential for each of them to be of as high quality as you can afford. 

A breve made with pre-ground beans and cheap dairy will be tasty and satisfying. However, the same drink made with specialty, freshly ground coffee, and local, grass-fed dairy will be transcendent.

What is a Starbucks Breve?

If you were to walk into any Starbucks and order a breve, the barista would be trained to make you a hot, creamy espresso beverage, just like the ones described in this article. However, breves are not nearly as popular or well-known as their older Italian siblings, the lattes and the cappuccinos. 

Your barista should be familiar with how to make a breve. However, if you need to clarify your order, you can explain that you would simply like a latte made with half and half instead of milk. At Starbucks, customers can modify and personalize their beverages to their hearts’ content.

Since a breve typically only comes with two espresso shots and no flavoring, be sure to ask the barista if you want to add more espresso or a flavor shot like vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut. If you’ve never had a breve, we recommend trying one with no modifications first!

How To Make a Breve at Home?

Now that you know all about what is a breve and how to order one at a coffee shop, it’s time to learn how to make one in your home kitchen! For your equipment, you will need an espresso machine and a milk frother (if there is not one attached to your device). Without these tools, making a breve will be difficult to impossible. 

First, start with your favorite coffee and pull a double shot of espresso, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For even better flavor, you can grind the coffee beans fresh as well using a spice grinder or coffee grinder. If you prefer your breve stronger or weaker, you can use more or less espresso, depending on your personal taste. 

Put about 5 ounces of half and half into a milk pitcher or cup with tall sides. Use the milk frother to heat up and aerate the dairy. After about 30 seconds, you should have a warm, creamy, and slightly frothy base to pour into your espresso. Be careful not to heat your liquid past 160 degrees Fahrenheit, or it will scald. 

Once your espresso is in your mug of choice, slowly pour the hot half and half into it, swirling it to mix as you pour. With some practice, you can start making latte art such as hearts, rosettas, tulips, and swans with your half-and-half, like professional baristas.

Just like you can order an iced latte at a coffee shop, it is possible to make a breve iced, too! If you want to make an iced breve, take your double shot of espresso (about 2 ounces of liquid) and combine it with 5 and 7 ounces of cold half and half. Pour the mixture over ice, stir it with a reusable straw, and enjoy!


Did you enjoy learning about the American cafe breve beverage? Would you ever try one yourself? Let us know in the comments below! If you found this article helpful, please share it with other coffee lovers in your life who you think need to know all about this espresso-based drink!

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