“Breve” is one of those coffee terms that gets thrown around so much, it makes you wonder if anyone really knows what it means. Order a simple “breve” at two different cafes and one might serve you steamed half-and-half with espresso while the other gives you just the half-and-half.
So what is a breve? How do you make it? And if you’re not the barista type, where can you get one that’s both accurate and good?
What Is A Breve?
In it’s purest form, a breve is one or two shots of espresso poured into steamed half-and-half (half milk and half cream) and topped with a thin layer of foam.
The breve is most popular in the United States, though it is inspired by the Italian drink known as caffè latte. Even its name—“breve”—is Italian; it means “brief.” But while Americans like their breves at any time of day, Italians prefer their caffè lattes in the evening.
This is because breves have a creamier, more dessert-like taste than those drinks made with milk. The 10% to 12% fat in half-and-half adds a sweet taste and a thicker, more velvety texture. A breve is a drink that is meant to be sipped and savored.
Breves also have less of a coffee flavor than other drinks that include espresso, because half-and-half tends to weaken espresso flavor. For this reason, most cafes and baristas prefer to use medium- to dark-roast espresso in their breves. The richer taste cuts through the half-and-half much better than a light roast.
If you’ve never heard of a breve before, you may still be familiar with the drink. Other names for the breve include latte breve, breve coffee, or cafe breve.
What Is The Difference Between A Breve And A Latte?
“Latte breve” and “breve” may be synonyms, but there’s an important distinction between a breve and a latte. While both drinks include espresso and a foam top, a latte is made with milk and a breve is made with half-and-half.
Tastewise, a properly made breve typically has less of a coffee flavor than a latte. This is because the thicker half-and-half weakens the espresso in a way that milk (or soy, almond milk, or oat milk) is not able.
Breve At Dutch Bros.
At Dutch Bros., “breve” is used to distinguish half-and-half over milk.
Though it’s possible to order a classic breve with espresso and steamed half-and-half, most of the cafe’s breves are more unique. That’s why the Dutch Bros. menu includes a variety of breves like a macadamia nut breve, 6-shot Irish Cream breve, and breves with flavors like vanilla and caramel.
Breve At Starbucks
Like Dutch Bros., Starbucks defines “breve” a bit untraditionally. Ask your barista for “a breve, please” and you might be surprised to receive a funny look and a cup of steamed half-and-half. This is because at Starbucks, “breve” is used as a modifier and simply means cream or half-and-half.
If it’s a true breve that you are after, then you will need to order a “latte breve.” Doing so will signal to the barista that it’s really half-and-half with espresso and a foam top that you want.
Other popular Starbucks options include a macchiato breve and a mocha breve—those traditional drinks made with half-and-half instead of milk.
How To Make A Breve At Home
If the variations at Dutch Bros. and Starbucks have your head spinning, you’re not alone. Fortunately, breves are simple to make at home—as long as you have the right tools and ingredients. You’ll need espresso, half-and-half, and a tool for steaming and foaming.
- Start by steaming your milk to just under your preferred temperature, keeping in mind that milk and cream continue to heat for the first minute or so off of the steamer.
- As you’re steaming, use the steaming wand to produce a bit of foam. The foam can be as light and bubbly, or as thick, as fits your personal taste.
- Just before you add the steamed half-and-half to your mug, add your espresso. Most baristas aim for a 1:3 ratio of espresso to half-and-half. Too much half-and-half will hide the chocolatey goodness of the espresso, but too little will give your breve a weak taste.
- Once you’ve combined your espresso and steamed half-and-half, add a thin layer of foam to the drink’s top.
Think you would prefer a cold breve? Simply combine your espresso shots and cold half-and-half, and pour over ice.
A breve—known also as a latte breve, cafe breve, or breve coffee—consists of espresso and steamed half-and-half. This distinguishes it from a traditional latte, which is made with milk instead.
Inspired by the Italians but made popular by Americans, breves have a weaker coffee flavor than lattes. This makes a breve the ideal drink for the person who prefers a warm velvety texture and a slightly sweeter flavor profile.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Chai Breve?
If you order a “chai breve,” you will receive a drink that includes chai tea with half-and-half (instead of milk). It can be made hot or cold, and some cafes—such as Dutch Bros.—even add additional flavors like white chocolate.
What is a Mocha Breve?
A "mocha breve" is a traditional mocha drink that is made with half-and-half instead of milk. In other words, a mocha breve is comprised of chocolate syrup or powder, a shot or two of espresso, and half-and-half (either steamed or over ice).