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What is a Breve? Spoiler Alert: It’s A Latte, Only Richer

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Ordering an espresso beverage at your local coffee shop can be intimidating at times. Especially when you’re faced with a menu of drinks you’ve never heard of, like a breve, cortado, or flat white.

But don’t worry. We’re here to help you cut through the noise and determine which espresso drink is right for you on any given day.

And the day for a breve is one when you’re feeling a little extra. So, what is a breve anyway?

What is a Breve?

You may have heard the term Breve when ordering coffee at your local coffee shop or even Starbucks and thought, what is a breve? Do I want one?

It’s an Italian word that translates to “brief.” In the coffee world, a breve is an espresso drink made with steamed half-and-half instead of milk, giving it a rich and creamy texture.

A breve, sometimes called breve coffee, breve latte, or cafe breve, is typically made with two shots of espresso and steamed half-and-half, creating a delicious and indulgent coffee drink. It is similar to a latte but with a higher fat content due to the use of half-and-half instead of regular milk.

Some variations of the drink include adding a flavored syrup, such as vanilla or caramel, or even whipped cream on top for an extra decadent treat.

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Breve in Music

But what is a breve in music? A breve is a symbol used in music notation to indicate a note held for eight beats. It is represented by a hollow oval shape with no stem. The breve is equivalent to two whole notes or four half notes.

In modern music notation, the breve is rarely used, as it has been replaced by shorter note values such as the quarter note and eighth note. But it’s still fun to drop some knowledge on your friends while in line at your local coffee shop.

breve coffee in white mug and saucer close up with blue background

History of the Breve

So, what is a breve, and where did it come from? The breve is an American spin on the Italian latte, but its origins are vague. We know that it originated in the US because of the use of half-and-half in the beverage.

Half-and-half is a dairy product made from half whole milk and half heavy cream. It was invented in the 1920s by William A. Boutwell, owner of the Boutwell Dairy in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.

Eventually, it caught on, and other US dairies began to produce half-and-half alongside their other milk and cream offerings. The rest is history.

But you won’t find half-and-half in many places outside the US, making the breve latte a uniquely American espresso beverage.

breve coffee and latte on white spotted plate beside thin slice of chocolate cake with spoon and flowers in foreground

Breve vs Latte

What is the difference between a latte and a breve?

Regarding coffee drinks, the terms breve and latte are often used interchangeably. However, there are some critical differences between the two espresso drinks.

For starters, the main difference between a breve vs latte is the type of milk used. A breve coffee is made with half-and-half, while a regular latte is made with steamed milk. This difference in milk type results in a difference in taste and texture.

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Due to the higher fat content in the half-and-half, a breve coffee is typically creamier and more decadent than a latte. This makes it popular for those who prefer a slightly sweeter, more indulgent coffee drink.

On the other hand, a latte is generally lighter and more frothy than a breve, thanks to steamed milk. This makes it a good option for those who prefer a milder, less heavy coffee drink.

In terms of caffeine content, both breve and latte typically contain two shots of espresso; therefore, the caffeine content is identical. But, due to the difference in milk type, there are far more calories in a breve vs latte.

cafe breve in grey mug on wooden table outdoors beside potted cactus

Breve Taste

The combination of espresso and steamed half-and-half creates a smooth and indulgent beverage, perfect for those who enjoy a little sweetness in their coffee. Half-and-half is slightly sweeter than whole or low-fat milk.

One of the standout features of a breve coffee is its texture. The steamed half-and-half adds a creamy texture that complements the bold flavor of the espresso. The result is a drink that is smooth, rich, and satisfying.

The subtle sweetness of the half-and-half also helps to balance out the bitterness of the espresso, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer a milder espresso flavor.

To enhance the flavor of a caffe breve, you can add a variety of syrups such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut. This can help to elevate the sweetness and add a unique twist to the drink. You can also experiment with different types of espresso beans to find the perfect flavor combination.

barista pouring half and half into breve in white mug

How to Make a Breve

To make a breve coffee at home, you’ll need an espresso machine with a steam wand to steam the half-and-half properly.

You can make a breve at home in just a few simple steps. First, prepare the espresso shot. You can use a single or double shot, depending on your preference. Once you have the espresso shot, you must steam the milk using a steam wand. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pour cold milk into a stainless-steel frothing pitcher. Depending on how rich you want your brew, you can use half-and-half or cream.
  2. Place the steam wand into the milk and turn it on. Position the wand just below the surface of the milk to introduce air into the half-and-half. Hold it there for about five seconds and listen for the characteristic hissing sound.
  3. After five seconds, move the wand about 1/5 of an inch below the surface of the half-and-half to create a spinning motion. The hissing sound will subside. Use a thermometer and shoot for a temperature of around 150-160°F.
  4. Once the milk is steamed, tap the pitcher on a hard surface a few times to remove any large bubbles and give it a swirl to incorporate the foam.
barista steaming milk in stainless steel pitcher from above

Now that you have the espresso shot and steamed half-and-half combine them to make your cafe breve:

  1. Pour the espresso shot into a large mug or cup.
  2. Slowly pour the steamed milk into the mug, holding back the foam with a spoon if needed.
  3. Once the mug is almost full, gently spoon the milk foam on top.
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And that’s it! It’s important to note that the ratio of espresso to steamed milk can vary depending on personal preference. Some people prefer a more robust espresso flavor, while others prefer a creamier texture with more steamed milk. Experimenting with different ratios can help you find the perfect balance for your taste buds.

Breve Nutrition

A breve is a rich coffee drink that might be considered an occasional indulgence rather than an everyday coffee fix.

Regarding calorie count, a breve coffee can be quite high. On average, half-and-half contains about double the calories of whole milk. In other words, an 8-ounce breve latte can contain around 315 calories due to the higher fat content of half-and-half.

This higher fat content should be considered when ordering a breve vs latte. An 8-ounce breve made with half-and-half can contain up to 28g of fat. In many cases, a small breve coffee would be larger than eight ounces. At Starbucks, for example, a tall beverage is 12 ounces.

While a breve is a delicious treat, it should be consumed in moderation due to its high calorie, cholesterol, and fat content. If you want a lower-calorie espresso drink, consider a latte made with low-fat milk or a plant-based milk alternative.

barista creating latte art on breve latte in grey mug with espresso machine in background

Breve in Coffee Shops

You won’t find a breve on many coffee shop menus, but most baristas are familiar with the term and can turn any latte or flat white into a breve by substituting half-and-half for milk. But what is a breve at Starbucks?

At Starbucks, any drink may be converted to a breve by adding the word “breve” to the drink’s name, like cappuccino breve, latte breve, etc. They may be further customized with a variety of syrups and toppings. Some popular options include caramel sauce, vanilla syrup, and whipped cream for an uber-indulgent experience.

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Dutch Bros, a popular coffee chain in parts of central and western US, also offers a breve coffee on their menu. But what is a breve at Dutch Bros? You might miss it because they call it the “Annihilator,” made with espresso, steamed half-and-half, and various flavors such as chocolate and macadamia nut.

When ordering a breve at a coffee shop, it is essential to specify that you want it made with half-and-half instead of milk. This is because milk will not give the same creamy and rich texture as half-and-half.

The breve coffee is a delicious and indulgent drink perfect for those who want something a little different from their regular cup of coffee. Whether you prefer it with caramel sauce, vanilla syrup, or just plain and simple, the breve will satisfy your craving for indulgence.


Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters