What Is A Breve? All You Need To Know About Breve Coffee

Maybe you’ve heard “breve” thrown around at a coffee shop.

Someone in front of you might have ordered a “cafe breve” or you might have heard a barista say “breve cappuccino!”

But, what is a breve?

Is it a specific drink? Or is it an add-on like vanilla syrup?

From the origins to the variations, I’ll give you everything you need to know about breve coffee.

Let’s get to it!

What is a Breve Coffee?

cup of breve coffee

A breve coffee, also called breve latte or caffè breve, is an espresso based drink made with half-and-half instead of regular milk.

That’s really the only difference between regular espresso drinks and breves.

Breve is an Americanized version of the latte, which is traditionally made with whole milk. Half-and-half is made with half heavy cream and half whole milk. 

Each coffee shop has a slightly different take on breves. Some shops will steam their half-and-half as they would whole milk, giving it a rich velvety texture that makes it perfect for lattes. Other shops foam their half-and-half so it has a thick layer of foam on top like a traditional cappuccino.

Ask your local barista about how they make their breve coffee and adjust your order to your taste.

Breves are typically considered a variant of a latte, but you can add half-and-half to any espresso drink. Cortados are especially tasty with half-and-half and are healtheir than breve lattes because they use less half-and-half. 

Because of the high-fat content of half-and-half, breves will be heavy and rich. They are perfect for cold winter mornings when you want a hot latte. Usually, you don’t need sweetener in a breve because of how creamy half-and-half is. But you can still add syrup to make your breve a real treat.

“Breve” means “short” in Italian. That’s because half-and-half is denser than regular steamed milk and doesn’t create as much foam. Breve coffees are based on Italian lattes, but it was the Americans who thought of using half-and-half. This coffee beverage is still mostly consumed in the United States.

How to make Breve

espresso machine pouring coffee into a cup

Making a breve coffee is actually super simple. It’s as easy as making a latte. That’s because a breve is just a latte made with half-and-half instead of regular milk.

Ingredients

Because breves are espresso-based drinks, they’re incredibly easy to make. To make a breve, you’ll need just two ingredients:

  • Espresso
  • Half-and-half

That’s it. Just two ingredients to make a breve.

The type of coffee doesn’t matter too much here. Breves can be made with any coffee as long as it’s an espresso. That being said, because half-and-half is super rich and creamy, a stronger espresso will shine.

That means darker roasts or coffees with a thicker texture and chocolatey finish are perfect for making breves.

If you want a flavored breve, you’ll also need your favorite flavored syrup or other sweeteners.

Process

First, you’ll need either one or two shots of espresso. This is up to your personal taste and desired size of your drink.

I like to shoot for a 1:3 espresso to milk ratio in my breves. Half-and-half is super rich and creamy, so adding too much of it can mask the taste of the espresso.

That means for a 16oz breve, add two shots of espresso.

Second, you’ll need to steam your half-and-half to your preferred texture.

Traditional American breves are made with light milk foam similar to the texture of milk in a caffe latte. You’re aiming for milk that is textured, but not bubbly.

If you want a breve cappuccino, texture your milk a little more so that there’s more foam on top.

Finally, combine your milk and espresso. That’s all there is to it!

Expert Tips

  • The high-fat content of half-and-half means that it can boil easier than whole milk. When steaming half-and-half at home, keep in mind that steaming it for too long can boil your cream and turn your coffee drink sour.
  • When ordering a breve in a cafe, make sure you and your barista are on the same page. As I said earlier, each shop does coffee breve a little differently. If you want a breve latte, make sure your barista knows that you want a latte made with half-and-half. They don’t mind when you clarify what you mean.
  • On a similar note, you can ask your barista for any espresso drink as “breve.” I used to have plenty of regulars who would order a breve cafe-au-lait.That just meant they wanted brewed coffee with steamed half-and-half. Another common one was “breve hot chocolate” or “breve mocha.”
  • Breves can also be made cold! These are even easier to make. Just add cold half-and-half to your espresso shot and pour over ice. This is a great summer coffee drink when you want a rich and creamy iced latte.

What is Breve at Starbucks?

starbucks coffee on table

Breve at Starbucks doesn’t refer to a drink made with espresso and half-and-half. Instead, ‘breve’ refers to just half and half on its own.

When ordering an espresso drink with half and half at Starbucks, make sure you add your espresso drink to breve. For example, order a “latte breve” or a “breve cappuccino” at Starbucks to make sure you get espresso coffee.

Ordering just “breve” at Starbucks will get you a full cup of steamed half-and-half with no espresso!

FAQ

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and answer a few direct questions about breves.

What is the difference between a latte and a breve?

A latte is traditionally made with whole milk. A breve is made with half and half.

The higher fat content of half and half gives the breve a richer and heavier flavor and texture.

Is a breve the same as a flat white?

Not quite, the milk is the main difference. Flat whites use whole milk while breves use half and half.

It is possible to order a flat white breve coffee.

What is healthier, a breve or a latte?

If you’re counting calories, a latte is a much healthier option.

Because of the high-fat content of half and half, breves can be over 600 calories.

If you generally avoid high-fat drinks, you should choose a breve as a treat instead of as your daily drink.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, everything you need to know to make or order a breve.

A breve is a great variant on a traditional latte, using half-and-half instead of whole milk. It’s a rich and creamy espresso drink.

It’s easy to make, too. All you need is espresso shot and half-and-half.

But don’t forget that any espresso drink can be made “breve.”

Just getting into making espresso drinks? Check out our guide on how to use a milk frother to make great foamed milk at home!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.