Latte vs. Breve: Differences and Similarities

latte in a red cup

Whether you’re a latte enthusiast who just found out about breve coffee or are a casual coffee drinker looking for information on each beverage, knowing how the two compare to each other is crucial.

Latte and Breve are both coffee drinks with espresso at the bottom layer and a thick layer of foam at the top. The middle, however, varies because there’s only steamed milk in the middle section of a latte, whereas the same is replaced by half and half in Cafe Breve.

In this article, you will learn more about Latte and Cafe Breve, including why they are called what they’re called, what the advantages of each area are, and what drawbacks you might need to consider when ordering one at your local coffee shop.

Latte: A brief overview

Latte is shorter mainstream verbiage for an Italian coffee drink called “Caffe latte.” Latte means “milk,” so it really is just “coffee and milk” in Italian. With the fanciness stripped from the word, it is clear that this drink features milk and espresso (i.e., liquid coffee essence). However, the drink is structurally different from other coffee beverages that also include milk.

In a latte, the top of the cup is foamy, which might make one mistake the beverage for a cappuccino. However, most people who have latte and cappuccino can tell the two apart. 

This is usually by the consistency of foam, which is a latte backed by a deep layer of milk. Steamed milk makes up the middle layer of a latte, and a shot or two of espresso sits at the bottom.

Pros of Lattes

While Lattes have the same shot of espresso at the bottom as a cup of Breve, it is different from the latter in how popular it is, its preparation difficulty, and calorie contents. This gives lattes the following advantages:

Easier to make

Making a latte is pretty easy, and most coffee machines come with pre-programmed settings for latte beverages. Since the drink is pretty straightforward to make in that you just need to add milk above a layer of espresso before frothing the top, one can even make the drink with an espresso maker or any gadget the froths milk. This leads us to the second benefit.

Simple requirements

Making a latte is simpler, and you do not need complicated or specialized machines for the process. Most cafes are equipped with what it takes to whip up a latte. If you’re brewing a cup at home, you don’t even need to get items you don’t already have. Milk and coffee grounds are all you need aside from a frother.

Harder to mess up

Finally, the last advantage of the standard lattes compared to the breve variety is that lattes are harder to mess up. If the topmost layer is not too frothy, you end up with a cappuccino., not that bad. Comparatively, messing up a breve leads to a bad-tasting beverage.

Cons of Lattes

Since lattes don’t include half and half and are co-opted by novice coffee makers, they have the following drawbacks compared to Cafe Breve.

Not as smooth

While lattes are relatively smooth, they aren’t as smooth as the breve variety. They’re also not as sweet usually though it is possible to adjust sweeteners to offset the discrepancy in taste.

Too common, doesn’t indicate high quality

Those who like specialty coffee can tell two cups of the same drink apart by bean origin, espresso texture, and after taste. Most people, however, cannot tell the difference between premium coffee and mid-tier coffee. 

The fact that latte is overexposed means you cannot be sure you’re getting served by someone who has mastered coffee making or by an average fast-food worker with a youtube connection. 

Comparatively, coffee drinks that are not as widely known act as their own quality-check. The fact that someone knows how to make a breve latte automatically indicates their expertise.

Breve: A brief overview

Breve is short for Breve Latte though it is referred to as cafe breve by those trying to make it sound more Italian. The drink, however, is American in origin and replaces milk with half and half.

If you have even a passing interest in coffee, you know that a half and half is a barista-made coffee beverage additive that replaces milk in most coffee drinks that use it. When you order a half and half at a cafe, you’re not really getting half and half, you’re getting “milk” coffee where milk is replaced with “half and half.” 

The term refers to half milk and half thick cream. From cooking cream to milk cream and whipped cream, a variety of different creams are used to make half and half. The most common one is thick whipped cream.

Breve leverages a similar replacement, albeit in a latte. It is technically still a latte, so comparing it to lattes would entail measuring the pros and cons of this specific type of latte with the common milk latte.

Pros of Breve Coffee

While Breve may feature the same amount of foamy thickness at the top as a latte, the drink is quite different from the latter. The niche knowledge required to make it alongside the delicious richness of the half and half at its heart give it a few advantages:

Qualifies for expert knowledge

At least currently, Breve coffee isn’t as widely known as cappuccino and classic lattes. This makes the coffee name somewhat of an insider term. You can use it to test whether the person you’re getting coffee from knows coffee beverages well. 

More importantly, you can rest assured that whenever you get Breve upon ordering it, you’re getting a beverage crafted by an expert, someone who knows more than just cappuccinos and lattes.

Smoother than the average latte

Since Breve uses half and half, it is thicker and hence smoother to consume. The roughness of espresso is further mellowed by the presence of cream. 

However, the type of cream used is relevant as a coffee creamer mixed in water can qualify as a “half” in a half and half as much as whipped cream. For best results, I would recommend using a thick cream like Trader Joe’s Shelf Stable Whipping Cream Cream. You can also use pre-made half and half like Happy Belly Half & Half.

Sweeter than the average latte

While relatively neutral-tasting creams can be used for a breve’s half and half, most people opt for a regular thick cream that is sweet on its own. Its addition to the drink makes Breve sweeter than a standard latte. But if you add less sugar in a breve and more in a latte, the difference in sweetness will not be as vast.

It can be dairy-free without tasting too different

Because a latte consists of a huge serving of plain milk, replacing it changes the taste of the drink. Let’s suppose you switch from milk to soy milk because you’ve decided to go vegan. You’ll definitely notice the difference in how your latte tastes. 

This difference is not as prominent when you go from consuming Breve with a regular half and half with a breve featuring non-dairy creamer and almond or soy milk. Yes, you can still tell the difference, but not as much.

Bonus Pro: It can be a backup drink when you’re running out of milk

Finally, there’s a very specific advantage to breve latte, which may never apply to you. Still, it’s worth mentioning in case you end up with half the milk you need for a latte. You can make a breve with half the milk required for a latte! That’s why you can switch to making Breve lattes and save milk if milk is running out or use extra cream if you have too much in your fridge.

Cons of Cafe Breve

Being known to fewer people and containing calorie-dense contents means that this coffee beverage has a few serious drawbacks worth watching out for.

Heavier in calories

While cream can whip up the taste of your latte, its presence also means that you’ll end up consuming more calories than you need. Half a cup of milk contains 52 calories. Half a cup of cream crosses 200 calories! 

A standard latte, consequently, has one-third the calories in a breve latte. My advice would be to avoid replacing your daily latte with a breve coffee and to have Breve only on weekends or special occasions.

Harder to make

While messing up a latte gets you a very “latte” latte or a cappuccino, messing up a breve coffee gets you a coffee drink with a burnt half and half. 

That’s why you should err on the side of colder half and half compared to an overheated beverage. And if you’re not making a breve latte yourself, this disadvantage doesn’t even apply because baristas usually know what they’re doing.

More obscure, not available everywhere

In the instance that your barista has no idea what he is doing, you’re likely going to get a confused look in response to ordering a breve coffee. If that’s the case, simply say, “replace milk in my latte with half and half, thanks.” Knowing what to say allows you to get a breve coffee anywhere a latte is served, provided they’re well-stocked on cream.

Final Thoughts

A standard latte and a Breve Latte share several similarities and differences. If you prefer smoother-tasting coffee, then you should go for a Breve, but if you’re more health-conscious yet still want a foamy coffee beverage, then you should choose a regular latte. Ultimately, taste is subjective, and as long as you know what each drink is, you can choose what you prefer.

Sources

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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