What is Café Breve? (With 5 Tips to Make it at Home)


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The world of coffee is expanse and with just a combination of coffee beans, milk, sugar, and a little bit of pizzaz —you can create so much more than your standard brew in the morning.

In fact, there’s no denying that there’s a huge niche of coffee drinkers that love the smoothness and silkiness of dairy products added into their cup. Some like to add a bunch of spices and syrups until their drink no longer tastes like coffee —they’re just here for the hit of caffeine. Others love the balance and contrast between the flavors.

If you’re the latter and love creamy coffee drinks, then you might want to consider adding café breve to your coffee arsenal. This beloved American drink hits all the right spots when it comes to having the fullness of the coffee and the richness of dairy.

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Why is it called Breve?

Café breve, or breve for short, is an espresso-based coffee that uses half and half instead of milk. 

Half and half refers to the portion of half whole milk and half heavy cream. Compared to the normal milk, half and half have a thicker texture and have a fuller mouthfeel. Half and half also contain a higher fat content. Think of it as slightly diluted cream.

The beverage is called breve due to its composition when made. The word breve comes from the Italian language that loosely translates to the characteristics of being short, little, brief, or concise.

Café breve is usually served in a small, cappuccino cup. It’s made with a shot of espresso and equal parts of both steamed and frothed half and half that are concisely poured to highlight the distinction between the layers.

Focus What is Breve? With 5 Tips to Make it at Home

Origin and History

The exact origin of café breve is hard to pinpoint since this beverage didn’t become quite as popular as the other creamy coffee counterparts.

The reason being? Well, one of them is that this drink contains a whopping 600 calories per serving. In comparison, other coffee beverages of that size roughly average at about 150 calories.

But what we know is that breve coffee started gaining its name in the coffee industry a little after the creation of cappuccino. If you can recall, cappuccino is a famous drink in Italy that is made almost the same way as breve but with standard milk instead of half and half.

It is known that café breve is sort of the Americanized version of cappuccino where the standard milk is switched to half and half to better suit the heavier palate of Americans.

While it hasn’t become quite as famous as its original counterpart and other milky drinks such as the latte and macchiato, the café breve is still a coffee shop staple in many parts of the world, especially in the US.

What Does a Breve Taste Like?

A classic breve is usually a shot of espresso with half and half topped with foam. There is no sugar, sweetener, or syrup added to it unless you specifically asked your barista.

Since café breve is essentially coffee with cream and milk, the taste is similar to that of a latte and cappuccino but generally less sweet, creamier, and richer. Expect to have a stronger and fuller flavor of coffee if breve is traditionally made without any sugar or flavorings.

For some coffee shops that serve non-traditional breve (with added coffee syrups and whatnot), the only main distinguishable thing of breve is its texture. In simpler terms, think of it as cappuccino but with a bigger amount of rich foam.

What is the Difference Between a Latte and a Breve?

In the realm of milky coffee, the latte is almost the baseline of these types of drinks. Both latte and breve are espresso-based drinks with dairy in them for their signature creamy taste.

The main difference between a latte and a breve is the type of dairy that is mixed with the espresso. For a latte, it’s a portion of steamed milk with some of its foam. On the other hand, breve uses half and half with a lot of foam.

As a result, breve is much creamier than a latte. The equal parts of cream and milk make the fat content of breve higher, which gives it a fuller and thicker mouthfeel when compared to a latte.

5 Tips to Make the Perfect Breve at Home

Focus What is Breve? With 5 Tips to Make it at Home

Getting the perfect cup of breve every morning doesn’t equate to hitting the nearest coffee shop at your place. Making café breve at home is quite easy as long as you know how to properly do it.

Here are some of our tips to make a barista-level breve at home:

1. Have the Right Equipment to Start

A lot of beginner coffee lovers wonder why their drink isn’t at Starbucks level even if they use the same beans, syrup, etc. Because aside from having quality ingredients, your equipment also needs to match what you need to make a certain drink.

The most basic equipment that you should at least have is a coffee machine and a steamer/frother. For making a café breve, milk steamer/frother is a must for you to be able to aerate your half and half and get that silky texture.

But that doesn’t mean that you need top-of-the-line equipment to make good coffee. There are other alternatives that you can use to achieve the same results although it will be more time-consuming.

Instead of using a coffee machine for your espresso, a Moka pot will do. If you don’t have a steamer/frother, you can microwave your half and half and whisk it until it reaches your desired consistency.

2. Use Good Half and Half Milk

The half and half that you’ll use will make or break the flavor of breve. There are some brands of store-bought half and half that are specifically made for barista-use —it’s a great option to buy that.

If not, look for a half and half that has a percentage of fat that goes anywhere between 10-12%. You can use half & half creamer from any brands you want. Here’s a link to Amazon.

You can also make your own half and half by simply mixing half a cup of milk with half a cup of heavy cream.

3. Be Patient in Steaming and Frothing your Milk

Café breve takes a lot longer to make compared to a latte or cappuccino because half and half need more time to aerate. If your half and half aren’t properly steamed and frothed, your drink will be quite heavy.

Texture and mouthfeel are important when making breve. Take your time in steaming your half and half and make sure that it’s well aerated.

4. Follow the Right Ratio

Making a cup of breve is all about accuracy. Too much espresso will make your coffee unbearably bitter since it doesn’t have any sugar or syrup in it. Too much steamed half and half and your drink will simply taste like milk. Too much foam and you’ll have undiluted espresso with an unpleasant mouthfeel.

The right ratio is equal parts of espresso, steamed half and half, and foam.

5. Make It Your Own

The greatest benefit of making your own coffee at home is that you can customize it perfectly to your taste. A breve is a solid beverage to start for creamy coffee lovers.

While it is not traditional, you can still customize breve to suit your taste. Normally, a shaving of chocolate goes on top of the foam for decorations and added hit of flavor. But you can use your syrup and other coffee flavorings such as vanilla or caramel to your taste especially if you want to add a bit of sweetness.

FAQ’s About Breve

1. What does Breve mean at Starbucks?

Café breve isn’t on the Starbucks menu. In fact, Starbucks has a different interpretation of what breve is.

If you go to your Starbucks partner and order a “breve”, they will simply give you a cup of steamed, foamy milk —no espresso or whatsoever. That’s because Starbucks uses the term breve to refer to the act of replacing a milk product on their coffee with half and half.

That’s why if you order coffee from them and ask to replace milk with half and half, you’ll see a “B” marking on your cup which stands for breve.

To order a café breve at Starbucks, you can essentially ask for a standard latte and switch out the milk with half and half. Or you can simply ask the barista for a “breve latte”.

2. Is Breve Better than a Latte?

This depends on your coffee preferences. If you prefer coffee with a much creamier texture without sacrificing the taste of espresso, a breve will suit you better than a latte. But if you want your coffee iced, a latte will be a better choice.

The caffeine content for both drinks is almost the same. But if you’re counting the calories, a standard serving of café breve clocks at 500g, compared to a latte which is around 200g.

3. Is Breve Hot or Cold?

Technically, you can make any coffee drink hot or cold to your preference.

But if you want to enjoy the taste and the creamy texture of café breve, it’s best if you serve it hot. That’s because iced half and half don’t really hold their texture and body well so you’ll lose some of the fullness of the coffee.

Still, if you want some iced breve, just add some ice cubes to your cup before you pour the steamed half and half. Wait for a bit for the ice to do its thing, then consume immediately.

Don’t skip the steaming portion of your half and half just to make your drink cold because it won’t get to the texture that you want for your breve. Nor stick it to the fridge for you to drink later cold because the half and half won’t be as good when it comes to the mouthfeel.

There you have it! Like this Article? You Might Also Want to Read: What is a Flat White Coffee & How to Make it?