What Is A Breve Coffee And How Is It Not A Latte?

For those days when you could use something a little more decadent than your usual latte, a breve coffee is the perfect pick-me-up. Building on the simple perfection of a two-ingredient recipe, the composition of a breve coffee is similar to that of a latte in almost every way except for one key ingredient: half and half. Both drinks are made by carefully combining espresso and dairy, but the breve coffee calls for steamed half and half in place of milk, making for an extra creamy and flavorful start to the day.

To make a breve coffee at home, begin by brewing a single shot of espresso of the strongest coffee you have on hand. Opt for a dark roast if possible, since its bold flavor will balance well with the mildly sweet taste of half and half. Use the steam wand on your espresso machine or a hand-held frother and the microwave to heat and aerate your half and half. Once your dairy has warmed (take your time aerating — the higher the fat content, the longer it takes to whip up foam), pour the espresso into a tall mug, then pour the half and half over it so that the milk settles into the liquid and the foam sits on top. 

If you'd rather enjoy your coffee out in the world, there's a good chance you can get one at your favorite coffee shop. It may not be on the menu, but check with your barista and, so long as they have half and half, you can be sipping one soon! 

The international origins of breve coffee

As with lattes — and so much of coffee culture — the terminology and methodology behind this drink has roots in Italy. The term "breve" translates to "brief," referring to the short amount of time needed to steam the half and half to prepare this espresso drink. It's unclear if the breve coffee got its start in Italy, but the U.S. certainly plays a key role in its history. While Italians invented espresso, Americans are credited with the invention of half and half, which was made for the first time around a century ago on a dairy farm in Florida.

If you are wondering why you'd want to opt for half and half in your morning beverage, it's useful to know what it is exactly that makes up the two halves of this particular dairy: whole milk and cream. On its own, the amount of fat in whole milk is about 3%. Cream, on the other hand, can be up to 40% fat. In combining the two, half and half ranges between about 10 and 18% fat. If you're used to drinking lattes, you'll notice that a breve coffee is richer in both taste and texture, thanks to the cream. It's delicious, and it gives a mouthfeel like nothing you've ever experienced.

Making the breve coffee your own way

If you want to make your first breve coffee, but don't have half and half in your refrigerator or don't feel like committing to a whole bottle, you're in luck — you can make your own with just a few basic ingredients. To transform milk into half and half, just add butter.  

For those days when you aren't in the mood for espresso, but could still use a little caffeine kick and something special, you can take inspiration from breve coffee and apply it to your approach to tea, too. This method works for luxurious milky teas that straddle the line between bitter and sweet, like a chai latte or a London Fog. You'll want to select a strong black tea, such as Earl Grey, as the substitute for coffee since it has a similarly robust flavor that pairs well with half and half. 

If you enjoy the breve coffee, and you're looking for something even more decadent and dessert-like, try another Italian-inspired drink, espresso con panna, to upgrade from adding in half and half to topping your coffee with whipped cream.