What Is a Breve Coffee? America’s Rich, New Espresso Drink

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What do you get when you take a cappuccino and add an American twist? 

One of the most decadently rich of all coffee beverages.

Breve coffee is sweeping the nation with a richer, creamier take on the espresso drinks that we’ve all come to know and love. I hate to let a craze like this pass me by, so I dug in to learn all things breve.

What’s in a Breve Coffee?

A comparison of cappuccino vs breve coffee, showing the ratios and ingredients

A breve is an espresso-based drink made exactly like an Italian cappuccino, except with half-and-half instead of milk. That means it is equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. This substitution makes for a richer beverage topped with a creamy foam.

Expect a bit of confusion when it comes to this drink, as many chains use breve to mean something that’s actually like a latte. Given the difference between lattes and cappuccinos, this means that you may get much more half-and-half, potentially overwhelming the flavor of the espresso shots. 

Why Is It Called a Breve Coffee?

What is breve anyway?

Breve is Italian for short, concise, brief, little, or curt. There is some uncertainty about how that name came to refer to a drink made with half-and-half, but here’s the best explanation I’ve found.

More fat-heavy kinds of milk don’t fluff as much when they are steamed. Since half-and-half has much more fat than even whole milk, it doesn’t rise nearly as much when steamed. Low-fat milk can steam twice as high as half-and-half!

Thus, if you were to measure out the same amount of unsteamed half-and-half for a breve and unsteamed milk for a latte, the breve would end up shorter (più breve!) after steaming. 

Despite the Italian name, the breve originated in America, and it hasn’t gained much popularity in the rest of the world.

You may see breve coffee go by any of these names.

  • Breve
  • Breve coffee
  • Breve latte
  • latte breve
  • Caffè breve
  • Cafe breve

Breve vs latte breve

At many chains, breve, latte breve, and many of the other names above will be used interchangeably, so you will likely want to clarify if you are looking for a cappuccino-style drink or a latte-style drink when you say breve.

Is Breve Coffee Bad for You?

If you are looking for a low-fat option, a breve latte is not for you. Half-and-half is made of equal parts whole milk and either light or heavy cream. It has about 4 times the fat content of even whole milk. It also has about twice the calories. 

Its rich, creamy taste makes breve a great dessert drink and an excellent option for special occasions, but it’s probably best not to use it for your daily morning coffee unless you want the additional fat in your diet.

Where Can You Get a Breve Latte?

You can go into just about any coffee shop and get a breve coffee, although they may call it a breve latte or cafe breve instead. If your barista doesn’t know what you mean, just say that you want a latte with half-and-half instead of milk. 

Most chains (and even some local cafes) will add sweeteners to a breve, much like they do lattes. Keep this in mind if you are expecting to compare one of their breves to the ones you make at home. 

Some coffee shops have started putting their own special twists on the breve coffee. I can’t tell you what your local cafe will do, but I do want to touch on how a couple of common chains are treating their breve orders.

Starbucks breve 

A Starbucks coffee shop, one of the places you can order a breve coffee

You won’t find breve coffee on the Starbucks menu, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get it there. If you ask the barista for a cafe breve or breve latte, they’ll know what you mean. On the off chance that you get a barista that doesn’t recognize the name, just tell them you want a latte made with half-and-half.

What does breve mean at Starbucks?

Don’t just order a breve at Starbucks because you will get a steaming cup of half-and-half. This deserves a special note of caution, as it is different from any other coffee shop.

Baristas elsewhere know that breve is short for cafe breve, but Starbucks teaches their baristas that breve just means half-and-half. Presumably, this is to allow breve to be used as a modifier to any drink just like nonfat or soy.

To avoid a drink that is all cream and no caffeine, just be sure to ask for a breve latte or cafe breve rather than just a breve.

Dutch Bros. breve

Dutch Bros. Coffee, a drive-thru coffee chain found throughout the US, has become a popular place to get a breve. They even added several variants of the drink to the Dutch Bros. Coffee secret menu — including the french toast breve and the islander breve.

Dutch Bros. Coffee, as with many chains, tends to use fancy names for everyday aspects of their coffee. If you see that your breve is being made with Kick Me Mix, that’s okay — it’s just the name they use for half-and-half.  

How to Make a Breve Coffee

The equipment

  • An espresso machine (or alternative, see below)
  • A steam wand or milk frother

To make breve coffee at home, you’ll need an espresso machine. You can try making it with an espresso alternative like AeroPress espresso or k-cup espresso, but the coffee flavor won’t be as strong.

You’ll also need a way to steam your milk. If your espresso machine has a steam wand, that will do perfectly. If not, you can pick up a good milk frother for less than $20. The cheap ones generally won’t heat your milk, so make sure that you get one that has a heating feature, can be microwaved, or can be used with pre-heated milk.

The supplies

  • Coffee beans (or grounds, pods, etc.)
  • Half-and-half

When picking the right espresso beans for your breve, I would suggest going with a dark roast. You can use a lighter roast, but the half-and-half can overwhelm its flavor. 

The process

  1. Make your shot of espresso (or multiple shots of espresso for a larger drink size) and add it to your mug.
  2. Steam or froth your half-and-half. If you want a more cappuccino-like drink, try to build up a larger amount of foam. For a latte-style drink, you’ll want a smaller layer of foam.
  3. Pour the milk into the cup of espresso, using a spoon to hold back the foam.
  4. Layer the foam on top of the beverage.
  5. Enjoy!

You can also add flavored syrup or some other type of sweetener if you want, but I recommend trying it without that to see if the additional richness is enough to satisfy your palate.  

Bravo for breve

I love a good cappuccino, but I’m also a fan of variety in coffee. The breve offers an exciting twist on a traditional latte or cappuccino, and it revitalizes the concept of a dessert coffee.

If you want a decadently rich beverage, I highly suggest giving breve coffee a try. If you tend to use sweeteners in your coffee, the additional richness may even be enough to make this the first unsweetened espresso beverage that you truly love. And if you want an even richer drink, you could try adding heavy cream to your coffee.

I need your help in the comments with this one because I’m still looking for which coffee shops produce the best breves. Let me know which ones you’ve tried and whether they deserve the breve bravo.

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