What is a Breve? What Makes Breve Coffee Different?

Updated on: July 6, 2023
Author: Alex DeCapri
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What is a Breve Coffee

This guide explains what is a breve, how to make one at home, its nutritional facts, and how it differs from similar coffee beverages.

Have you ever heard of a strange coffee drink called a breve?

In this article, we dive into what breve coffee is and cover all the essential aspects you need to know. From the history of the beverage to how it stacks up against other popular espresso drinks, we have you covered.

You can also expect a delicious breve recipe, along with some pro tips. Get ready to become a breve expert and power up your coffee skills!

What is a Breve?

A breve is a delicious coffee-based beverage that’s known for its rich and creamy texture, achieved by combining espresso with steamed half-and-half (half milk, half cream). 

Unlike other popular coffee drinks, such as lattes or cappuccinos, which use steamed milk, the use of half-and-half or cream in a breve gives it a distinctively velvety and indulgent flavor.

Traditionally, breves are made with a 1:1 ratio of dairy to espresso. The total drink is about 4 ounces: 2 ounces of espresso (a double shot) and 2 ounces of steamed half-and-half.

While the word “breve” is Italian for short or brief, there’s debate on whether this drink actually originated in Italy. Many believe it’s an American take on the classic Italian latte and cappuccino, creating a much sweeter and creamier drink for a specific niche audience.

This espresso-based drink also goes by the names caffè breve, breve coffee, cafe breve, breve latte, and latte breve. That’s a lot of names… arguably too many!

Breve Variations

So, how do you order a breve? It can come in several versions.

One popular variation is the iced breve coffee, which combines espresso and the rich and creamy taste of half-and-half with the refreshing chill of ice. The result is a smooth and invigorating cold coffee beverage, perfect for summer.

For those with a sweet tooth, there are numerous options to satisfy your sugar craving. One choice is the mocha breve, which adds a luscious chocolate syrup to the mix, creating a harmonious blend of coffee, cream, and chocolate

Additionally, other flavored syrups such as vanilla, caramel, or hazelnut can be incorporated into breves to provide a delightful twist and cater to different taste preferences.

These sweetened variations add an extra layer of indulgence to the already rich and satisfying breve, making it a truly decadent treat.

What is a Breve at Starbucks?

Breve Coffee at a Starbucks Coffee Shop

What should you expect to be served if you order a breve at Starbucks?

Surprisingly, “breve” is simply another way to refer to half-and-half at this popular coffee chain. You will need to specify what kind of espresso-based drink you want, whether that’s a latte, cappuccino, or flat white

Add the word “breve” in front of whatever type of drink you desire to make sure you get steamed half-and-half instead of regular milk. When in doubt, just say you want half-and-half instead of milk.

Differences Between a Breve and Other Similar Coffee Drinks

Alright, let’s get into what makes a breve different from many other popular coffee drinks, in addition to its use of half-and-half.

Cortado vs Breve Coffee

A cortado is a balanced and smooth coffee drink made of equal parts espresso and steamed whole milk. Cortados are about the same size as traditional breves, somewhere between 4-6 ounces. The only major difference is that a breve uses half-and-half instead of milk, resulting in a rich and creamy coffee drink.

  • Foam: A cortado has a thin layer of microfoam, while a breve has a thick layer of foam due to the high-fat content in half-and-half.

  • Flavor: A cortado has a bolder coffee flavor with a hint of sweetness, while a breve has a stronger sweetness with a more mellow coffee taste.

  • Culture: Cortados are enjoyed frequently in Europe, rooted in Spanish and Portuguese coffee traditions. Breves are more commonly found in American coffee culture, catering to a preference for creamier and sweeter beverages.

Gibraltar vs Breve Coffee

A Gibraltar coffee is a specialty coffee drink that is similar to a cortado, made by combining a double shot of espresso with an equal amount of steamed milk, resulting in a rich and robust flavor with a velvety texture. It is typically served in a short glass called a Gibraltar glass, which adds to its unique presentation.

  • Glassware: A Gibraltar is served in a short glass tumbler, while a breve is often served in a regular coffee cup or mug.

  • Flavor: The Gibraltar strives for a balance between the boldness of the espresso and the smoothness of the steamed milk, while the breve offers more creaminess and sweetness.

  • Foam: A Gibraltar has little-to-no foam, a stark contrast to a breve’s thick layer of foam.

Latte vs Breve

A traditional latte consists of 1-2 shots of espresso, around 8 ounces of steamed milk, and a thin layer of microfoam. The traditional breve is much closer to a cappuccino than a latte, but a “breve latte” simply means substituting the milk for half-and-half.

  • Foam: A traditional breve has a thick foam consistency that is frothy and similar to a cappuccino. A latte is more velvety and has a thin layer of microfoam on top.

  • Serving size: A latte tends to be around 8 ounces in size, while a traditional breve is only 4-6 ounces.

  • Flavor: Lattes tend to focus much more on the taste of the milk, while the espresso in a breve will shine through just a bit more.

  • Espresso shots: Lattes can come with 1 or 2 shots of espresso, while traditional breves are always made with a double shot.

Flat White vs Breve

The flat white is an espresso-based beverage made with a small amount of steamed milk and a thin layer of microfoam. It’s about the same size as a traditional breve at around 5-6 ounces.

  • Flavor: A flat white makes sure to let the flavors and boldness of the espresso shine through, while a breve’s focus is on providing an even sweeter alternative to many popular espresso-based drinks.

  • Texture: A flat white focuses on a velvety texture with a similar layer of microfoam to that of a latte. A breve has a thicker, airier foam layer due to the high-fat content of half-and-half.

Summary - Breve vs Other Coffee Drinks

No. Espresso shotsEspresso VolumeMilk VolumeType of Milk Serving Cup (Volume)CaloriesFat (g)
Breve22 oz2 ozHalf-and-half4 oz22019
Cortado22 oz2 ozWhole milk4 oz152
Latte1-21-2 oz5-8 ozWhole milk6-10 oz1405-8
Flat White22 oz4 ozWhole milk6 oz954

Breve Coffee Nutritional Facts

Breve Coffee Nutritional Facts

Is Breve Coffee Unhealthy?

Since breves are made with half-and-half, they tend to be higher in fat and calories compared to other coffee beverages that use regular/whole milk or non-dairy alternatives.

While enjoying a breve coffee as an occasional treat is unlikely to pose significant health risks for most individuals, frequent consumption of breves may lead to increased calorie intake, potentially impacting weight management, as well as dental problems (1).

It is important to consider individual dietary needs and preferences when assessing the healthiness of any coffee beverage, including breves. Choosing lower-fat milk options or exploring alternative milk choices can be viable alternatives for those seeking healthier coffee options.

Is Breve Coffee Keto-Friendly?

Breve coffee is not typically considered a keto-friendly option due to its higher carbohydrate content. The lactose in milk contributes to the carbohydrate content, which may not align with the low-carb, high-fat requirements of a keto diet. 

However, individuals following a less strict version of the keto diet or those who incorporate more carbohydrates into their daily allowance may still be able to enjoy breve coffee in moderation.

If you want to make sure your breve is appropriate for your diet, try buying sugar-free, keto-friendly half-and-half creamer or substituting half-and-half for a keto-friendly milk with added coconut fat.

How Much Caffeine Does a Breve Have?

A 1-oz shot of espresso usually has 64 mg of caffeine in it. Since breves are made with two shots of espresso, they will have around 128 mg of caffeine. This amount shouldn’t vary too much if you enjoy the traditional (smaller) breve or a breve latte, since both will use the same amount of espresso.

Breves contain about the same amount of caffeine as other popular espresso-based drinks, such as the latte, cappuccino, mocha, and flat white.

The FDA recommends limiting daily caffeine intake to 400 mg for most healthy adults. While a single serving of breve coffee falls within this limit, it’s essential to consider other sources of caffeine throughout the day. Tea, soda, energy drinks, and dark chocolate all come with caffeine!

How to Make a Breve

How to Make a Breve

Alright, now that you know everything about a breve coffee, let’s learn how to properly make this espresso drink. Don’t worry - it’s not too different from making other espresso-based drinks. Ideally, you need an espresso machine, but you can substitute this with a very strong coffee to make something similar.

Ingredients and Tools Needed

Preparation Instructions

  1. Brew a double shot of espresso. If you don’t have access to an espresso machine, prepare a very strong cup of coffee using your preferred method (more information below). Make sure to produce at least 2 ounces of espresso or coffee.

  2. In a steaming pitcher or milk frother, heat the half-and-half until it is hot but not boiling. Froth the milk to achieve a creamy texture and some foam. Use 2 ounces for a traditional breve (like a cappuccino) or 5-8 ounces for a breve latte.

  3. Pour 2 ounces of hot espresso or coffee into a coffee cup or mug.

  4. Use the pitcher to slowly pour the steamed half-and-half into the cup.

  5. Try your hand at some latte art!

  6. Sweeten with your desired sweetener if desired. (Note: half-and-half is already pretty sweet.)

  7. Optionally, spoon some of the foam on top for added creaminess and texture.

Serving a Breve

Breve coffee is typically served in a regular coffee cup or mug. The same ceramic cup you use for cappuccinos will work great. If you are making a breve latte or breve mocha, feel free to use a tall glass to showcase your beautiful (and delicious) work of art.

Make a Breve Coffee

Pro Tips:

  • Always use whole coffee beans and grind them right before use.
  • Use freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee for the best flavor.
  • Heat the half-and-half gradually to avoid scorching or boiling.
  • Achieve a velvety texture by properly frothing the half-and-half.
  • Using a proper coffee scale, experiment with different ratios of espresso to milk.
  • Adjust the sweetness to your liking by adding sweetener or flavored syrups.

No Machine? No Problem.

If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a coffee maker to make a strong coffee base. I find that using a Moka pot or French Press is the easiest way to accomplish this.

How to Make “Espresso” with a Moka Pot

To start, fill the reservoir of the Moka pot with filtered water. Then fill the smaller reservoir with very fine coffee grounds. Place the device on the stovetop on medium heat and wait until the espresso starts to fill the chamber.

Once it gets close to the top of the Moka pot, lower the heat and eventually turn it off. 

How to Make “Espresso” with a French Press

Normally, the French Press is used with coarse coffee grounds. To make something like espresso, you want to use fine grounds for a stronger flavor, but don't go too fine. 

Place 2 tablespoons of coffee into the French Press. Boil ¾ cup of water and let it cool for a bit before adding it to the coffee grounds. Wait 3 minutes 45 seconds and slowly press the plunger down. It may be harder than normal to push the plunger down due to the fine grind size.

What about frothing the half-and-half?

If you don’t have an espresso machine with a steam wand, you will need another way to froth your milk. Begin by heating the half-and-half on the stovetop, then use a handheld milk frother or a whisk to create foam manually.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a breve Dutch Bros?

A breve Dutch Bros is an espresso drink offered by Dutch Bros Coffee, which combines their signature espresso with half-and-half and Irish cream syrup, resulting in a rich and creamy drink known for its indulgent flavor.

Which is stronger breve or latte?

In terms of strength, a traditional breve is generally considered stronger than a latte. While both contain the same amount of espresso, a latte has a higher proportion of milk compared to a breve, which uses half-and-half, resulting in a less intense coffee flavor with greater sweetness.

What is a poor man’s latte, and why is it called this way?

A poor man's latte is a cost-effective alternative to a traditional latte. It is made by combining brewed coffee with milk instead of espresso. It is called a poor man's latte due to its affordability compared to a latte made with espresso. You need specialized equipment to make espresso properly, but there are hundreds of ways to brew a strong coffee. 

Which is healthier, a breve or a latte?

In terms of health, a latte is generally considered healthier than a breve. While a latte uses more dairy than a traditional breve, regular milk is used. Breves, on the other hand, use half-and-half, which has higher fat and more calories than milk. 

How is breve pronounced?

Breve is pronounced as "breh-veh," with an emphasis on the first syllable. It rhymes with the word "levy" or "heavy". The word is Italian and means “short” or “brief”.

Where is Breve coffee from?

Breve coffee does not have a specific origin as it is commonly used to refer to a type of coffee drink made with half-and-half instead of milk. However, the term "breve" is frequently used in American coffee culture, where it is enjoyed in various coffee shops and cafes as something similar to a cappuccino (with half-and-half instead of milk). Others believe that it originally appeared in Italy as an alternative to ordering a cappuccino with regular milk.

Breve coffee with a double shot of espresso

Bottom Line

There you have it - a complete guide to the breve and how to make one at home.

Breve coffee (or “cafe breve”) offers a richer and creamier alternative to other milk-based espresso beverages thanks to the use of steamed half-and-half. It’s the perfect drink if you want to indulge in something a little sweeter than normal (and aren’t worried about the calories). 

Whether you prefer to drink a traditional breve or one of its many variations like a latte breve with added syrups, this espresso drink is a great way to switch it up from your usual orders!

Alex DeCapri is a curious coffee writer and specialty coffee roaster. Currently, he is slowly making his way from the United States to Brazil in his camper van, visiting as many coffee farms as possible!

This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.

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