A couple of years ago, my sweetie and I had big plans to open a coffeehouse in downtown. We wrote a business plan, talked to bankers and accountants and suppliers, took classes ... and then God sent us a baby instead! So we put our plans for a coffeehouse on hold. But all that planning provided a pretty comprehensive education on coffee and espresso and espresso-based drinks. I thought I'd share with y'all some of the terms you're used to seeing in your local cafe and define them for you. (These are all Italian terms.)
Espresso - hot water is quickly (less than 30 seconds) forced through a "cake" of finely ground coffee beans resulting in a much more intense flavor than traditional drip coffee.
Caffe Latte - a single shot of espresso combined with steamed milk. Usually a 3:1 ratio, milk to espresso.
Caffe Mocha - a latte with chocolate syrup added.
Macchiato - stronger than a latte, it's a single shot of espresso topped with a dollop of frothed milk.
Cappuccino - espresso, steamed milk and frothed milk in equal parts.
Frappuccino - Actually, not Italian at all! This is a Starbucks trademark, identifying their blended, iced espresso-based drinks.
While we're on the subject, I'd like to point out a common misconception about the caffeine content in coffee. The assumption is that the darker the roast, the stronger the coffee, so the higher the caffeine level. Not true! Actually, the darker the roast, the more caffeine is destroyed by the exposure to high heat.