Making Espresso Drinks at Home with Ease

If you’re a regular at coffee shops, a lover of lattes, or just a general espresso enthusiast, then there’s a good chance you’ve thought about buying your own espresso maker.

Maybe you already own a fancy espresso machine or a stovetop pot, and now you’re wondering, what next?

Maybe you don’t either, but you love lattes and you really want to make your own at home.

Either way, I’m here to help. Today, I’m going over how to make basic espresso drinks from the comfort of your home. 

How to Make Espresso

In order to make espresso drinks, of course, you have to be able to make espresso.

In order to do that, you need either a stovetop espresso pot (also known as a moka pot, or as an Italian coffee maker), or an espresso machine. Stovetop pots technically make an espresso substitute – they make strong coffee that passes for espresso. They’re more budget-friendly than automatic and semi-automatic espresso machines, but you do need the latter to make legitimate, coffee-shop-grade espresso, as they use higher amounts of pressure to slowly extract the espresso from the grounds, resulting in delicious espresso, complete with a small layer of crema.

Whichever espresso-making contraption you have, your first step to making that deliciously bitter drink is to grind your coffee beans very, very finely, as powder-like as you can get it.

If you have a stovetop espresso pot, you need to set it up and make your espresso. Unscrew the main sections apart from each other, add water to the bottom of the pot, place the funnel and filter back into place, add your grounds in the filter, and screw everything back together. Put the pot on a stovetop and wait for the top to fill with espresso.

If you have an automatic or semi-automatic espresso machine, follow the directions that came with the machine, or look up a video specific to your model to learn how to make the best espresso with that particular machine.

How to Make an Americano

This is the easiest of all the espresso concoctions, since its only ingredients are espresso and water.

First, make your espresso. The amount of espresso you want to make depends entirely on the size of drink you want to end up with. For reference, a typical 12oz americano you buy at a coffee shop has two shots – or about 2-3oz – of espresso in it. A large, 20-oz size has 4 shots of espresso in it.

All you have to do to finish the drink is to add boiling hot water, so I recommend experimenting on your own to figure out the strength that you personally like. Try starting with two or three shots, and add water until it tastes good to you.

To make an iced version, fill your cup with ice before adding your espresso, and then use cold water instead of hot.

How to Make an Affogato/Espresso con Panna

If you order a drink at a Starbucks – like a frappucino, for example – and you order it affogato-style, they’ll pour a shot of espresso over the top of the drink. Other coffee shops might do the same, only adding whipped cream and maybe a drizzle of caramel or chocolate over the whole thing.

However, a true affogato is very different, even more delicious, and very much a dessert:

      1. Start with a scoop or two of the ice cream of your choice (I recommend starting with Vanilla Bean, and putting it all in a small bowl or large cup).
      2. If you desire, add toppings (some caramel syrup, perhaps? or chocolate chips?) to your ice cream.
      3. Make a shot of espresso (one shot is standard, but you can make more for a stronger coffee taste).
      4. Pour that shot of espresso over the top of your ice cream.
      5. Enjoy!

Espresso con panna is very similar to an affogato, but a little less dessert-like. Instead of ice cream and ice cream toppings, start with a generous dollop of whipped cream, and pour the shot of espresso over that.

How to Make Lattes, Mochas, & Cappuccinos

Lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos are all super similar and therefore made in super similar ways. In order to make the hot versions, you do need to be able to froth or steam your milk, so you do also need a milk frother.

I’ll start with lattes. A plain latte consists only of milk (typically 2% or whole milk by default, but you can make it with whatever milk you want) and espresso, but you can add flavored syrups for flavoring at will.

The amount of flavored syrup you want to use really depends on your personal preference, but for reference, a small 12oz size at a coffee shop typically uses 3 pumps of flavoring, and a large 20oz uses 5. I personally prefer significantly less, so experiment!

The amount of espresso you want to use is also personal preference, but – again for reference – a typical 12oz latte has only one shot, while a 16oz and 20z use two. I prefer to use a minimum of 2 shots, and I use 3 if it’s a larger cup.

  1. First, add any flavoring you want to your cup.
  2. Next, start making your espresso.
  3. While you’re waiting for your espresso to be ready, heat and froth your milk. You want to make at least a little froth if you can as well (perfecting this takes time and practice). [Note: If you are using a handheld, cheap milk frother that doesn’t heat the milk, start the process with this step and prep your milk first!]
  4. Add your espresso to your flavoring, swirling the cup to milk the two together.
  5. Add your hot milk, and top it off with a bit of foam. I recommend stirring it all together, though if you have a fancy frother and are able to make nice froth in a pitcher, you might want to try your hand at latte art, and stirring would mess that up.

The only differences between a latte and a mocha is that a mocha uses chocolate – often a chocolate syrup – instead of flavored syrup, and is often topped off with whipped cream. So, it’s very easy to make a mocha yourself as well – just follow the steps above, add chocolate syrup as your flavoring, and top it off with whipped cream if you desire.

Cappuccinos and lattes are even more similar than lattes and mochas are. The only difference between a cappuccino and a latte is the amount and type of milk foam in the drink.

The milk in lattes is mostly just steamed and hot, and there’s only a bit of foam – typically about 1/4″-1″ at the top of the drink. The milk foam is also frothy, thick, and dense, which is what makes latte art possible.

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, consist of about about half coffee/steamed milk, and half super foamy, lighter foam. Making cappuccinos correctly takes a high-quality milk frother or steaming wand, and a lot of practice getting that consistency correct. You’ll most likely end up with a cross between a latte and a cappuccino the first few times you make it, but after you experiment and figure out how to let the milk aerate enough to get foamy milk foam, you’ll get it.

How to Make a Breve

Like cappuccinos and mochas, breves are essentially lattes, with one little twist. The only difference between a latte and a breve is that breves are made with half-and-half instead of milk.

So, the base ingredients you need are espresso and half-and-half. Just like with lattes and cappuccinos, you can choose to add flavor as well.

  1. First, add any flavoring you want to the bottom of your cup.
  2. Next, make your espresso and add to the cup.
  3. Steam/froth your half-and-half.
  4. Add half-and half to the cup, and stir.

And that’s it! Enjoy!


What’s your favorite espresso drink? Have you tried making it – or any of these at home? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below!

8 Replies to “Making Espresso Drinks at Home with Ease”

  1. I never knew the difference between latte and cappuccino. Here I found a brief explanation. So, the main difference is in foam. Have you got any tips on how to make the best foam if you don’t have a steamer? I would appreciate it a lot. Thanks.

    1. Hi Ola,

      Unfortunately, you do need some type of milk frother or milk steamer to get hot steamed milk. I have seen some claims online that you can make foam for iced drinks by shaking milk in a water bottle or similar container, but I have no idea if that actually works or not, and it definitely wouldn’t heat your milk – I also wouldn’t recommend putting anything hot that you want to drink later into a cheap plastic water bottle. A better alternative would be to invest in at least a cheap hand frother (which costs about $10).

      But, if you want enough control over the foam to make it latte or cappuccino foam, you definitely need a more advanced milk frother.

  2. I must confess that I prefer a latte to an espresso due to the fact that espresso is often too strong for me and also too small a quantity. Just a couple of sips and it is all over and when bought from a coffee shop like Costa or Starbucks etc. an espresso works out much more expensive than a latte when quantity is kept into consideration.

    I only ever once had the real affogato at a restaurant in Westfields shopping centre, London. I really liked it. However, I found that it is hard to find a restaurant that offers the true affogato.

    1. Very fair points! I’m not a huge fan of plain espresso myself either – I usually at least need to add water and make it an americano. Espresso con panna is good, but still not very sweet.

      And hopefully now you can make your own delicious affogato from home! 😀

  3. Great article! You made making the perfect cup of specialty coffee sound so easy! I wasn’t even done reading the article and I was already shopping for a milk frother/ steamer. I’m going to book mark this and visit it often.
    Any articles on how to make the pretty images in the froth?? LOL I’m sure those are not easy. I can’t wait to get my frother and try some of these out.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jamie! 😀 That’s what I love to hear!

      And I don’t have any articles on making latte art… yet. But thanks for the idea for a future article! 😀 Latte art is tough, and requires both a good frother, a decent pitcher, and a LOT of practice! I will look into making a post – and possibly a video – in the future on the subject, so stay tuned for that!

      Thanks again!

  4. Hi Jade!

    This post makes me miss the days of traveling to new cities and discovering new restaurants staying at them late for a dinner coffee, or more preferably an espresso!

    I absolutely LOVE affogato. I do not currently have the stove top pot or an espresso maker but now I’m considering it to treat myself.

    Recently I’ve been making a cup of French press coffee with extra creamy oat milk froth on top! It’s been delicious!

    1. I know! I miss that too, so much! That’s one of the first things I’m going to get back to doing, once things are back to normal.

      I love affogato too, and I’m surprised I haven’t made it for myself here at home – I have all the equipment; the only thing I’m actually lacking at this point is the ice cream!

      French press is always fantastic, and I keep hearing about oat milk, but I haven’t tried it yet – apparently, I really need to get some of that too!

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