What Is A Breve Coffee? Our Guide To The Creamy Breve Latte



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Breve coffee is among the richest specialty coffee drinks you can order at cafes, aside from a cup of whipped cream (hmm…delicious!).

Also known as a breve latte, cafe breve and coffee breve, the breve coffee drink is also surrounded in a little mystery and confusion too.

So exactly what is a breve coffee? This is the question we will answer in full for you here.

In this guide to the creamy breve latte we explain exactly what makes up a breve coffee, how to order a Starbucks breve latte and even how to make breve coffee at home with our step by step cafe breve recipe.

Hot breve coffee in glass cup on table.

What Is A Breve Coffee Drink?

Breve coffee is an espresso based coffee drink made with espresso and steamed half-and-half milk.

For those not familiar with half and half, it is a dairy product made up of half whole milk and half heavy cream.

The half-and-half is what gives the drink its rich mouthfeel and flavor, and what distinguishes it from a traditional latte.

Essentially, breve coffee is a small latte made with half-and-half. For this reason it is often called a breve latte.

The main difference between caffe breve vs latte is that unlike a classic latte which is served in a 8 – 12 oz glass (or larger), a breve latte is typically served in a smaller 5-6 oz cappuccino cup or Gibraltar glass.

What Does Breve Mean?

Breve in Italian means “short” or “brief”. But the term breve in America today typically refers to half and half milk.

So how did breve become associated with half and half milk?

Let’s look a little closer at the likely history of this specialty coffee.

History Of The Breve Latte

Despite the Italian name, we can confidently say the espresso drink doesn’t originate from Italy.

In fact Italians don’t traditionally make coffee drinks with half and half and it is difficult to find an equivalent product to half and half in Italy.

So although breve coffee is a firmly American creation, the Italian term breve is used instead of half-and-half.

This is both consistent with coffee culture’s preference for Italian terms (e.g. cappuccino, latte) and easier to say.

It possibly references the shorter size of the drink when compared to a latte – leaning on the Italian definition of breve being “short”.

While the origins of the very first breve coffees aren’t fully known, they likely go back to dairy farming regions in France or Upstate New York.

Dairy farmers have long used heavier milks and creams in their beverages and foods, along with plenty of butter on almost everything. 

The history of half-and-half is much more definitively established.

William A Boutwell was the first to widely market half-and-half outside of traditional dairy farming regions.

Boutwell Dairy was based in Lake Worth Beach, Florida and sold half-and-half from 1927 to 1956. The Dairy was a small operation with only 100 cows on 5 acres.

The use of half-and-half became much more widespread by the late 1960s and early 1970s, with Betty Crocker recommending it for cream puff pastries in the Revised Betty Crocker recipe book from the 70s.

It is now a popular choice for coffee drinkers who don’t enjoy drinking black coffee and prefer a simple dairy milk to sweeter creamers.

Graphic displaying make up of a breve coffee with espresso, half and half and foamed milk.

Breve Coffee Pronunciation

The term itself can be pronounced either “breh veh” or “Brev ay.” The former is more accurate to the actual Italian word, while the latter is a more Americanized pronunciation.

The American pronunciation may be appropriate even if it’s not the classiest, considering this is an Americanized version of a traditional Italian beverage.

There are many ways to order a breve coffee, with “breve coffee,” “cafe breve,” “breve latte” and plain “breve” all being options.

Breve coffee or cafe breve are the most traditional ways to request the beverage, although breve latte will eliminate any potential confusion.

Some baristas may mistakenly add half-and-half to brewed coffee if you order a breve coffee, and just breve can be uncertain at cafes where the term is primarily used as a modifier rather than an actual drink.

What Is Breve At Starbucks?

As with many coffee terms (macchiato being another), Starbucks has it’s own definition of breve. So what does breve mean at Starbucks?

Starbucks uses breve not as a beverage but rather as a modifier, using the term to mean half-and-half instead of another milk option (e.g. 2 percent, whole or soy).

As a modifier, Breve can be added to a plethora of beverages: coffee mistos, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and even Frappucinos can be made breve at Starbucks.

Expert Tip: When ordering a breve coffee at Starbucks, the request would be for a breve latte.

The proper order would be “[size] breve latte” (with modifiers interspersed). Of course, you can just tell the barista what you’d like and they’ll translate it into Starbucks lingo.

Starbucks latte in disposable cup on table.

How To Make Breve Coffee At Home

Making a breve coffee at home is easy if you already craft lattes, and it’s relatively doable even if you aren’t set up for lattes or other espresso beverages.

For breve coffee, you should have the following items:

Suitable Substitutions

If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can substitute strongly brewed coffee.

An Aeropress, extra-strong French press or concentrated cold brew (warmed up) can suffice.

If you don’t have a steam wand, the half-and-half can be heated on your stove or in the microwave and then frothed with a handheld milk frother.

Alternatively a standalone electric milk frother can heat and froth your milk at the same time.

Step 1 – Steam Your Milk

The increased fat content of the cream in the half and half will make frothing microfoam more difficult, and even experienced baristas sometimes have trouble.

Use a little more milk than you would for a latte because not quite as much froth will develop, but try to create at least some microfoam on top.

Steam between 6 and 12 ounces to begin with, depending on how large you want the latte.

Expert Tip: You won’t need as large a drink as your latte thanks to the higher fat content in half and half – which makes for a higher calorie, more filling drink.

Step 2 – Pull The Espresso Shots

Pull your shots of espresso. Most lattes are made with a double shot because so much milk is used, and the ratio for breve latte is no different.

Use a double shot for the first breve, and add another shot if you find that the rich cream weakens the coffee flavor a little too much.

Expert Tip: Always use espresso coffee beans as they carry more flavor through the milk. See our reviews of the best espresso beans.

Step 3 – Sweeten The Coffee

Breve lattes usually aren’t sweetened as the half and half is naturally sweeter.

However if you want to make a vanilla breve latte, caramel breve or irish cream breve, now is the time to add your sugar, sweetener or flavored syrup to the coffee.

Step 4 – Pour The Half And Half Into The Coffee

Pour the steamed half-and-half over the espresso in your latte mug.

Pour slowly or use a spoon to prevent too much foam from getting into the mug.

Allow just a thin layer of foam on top. A latte traditionally has less foam than a cappuccino.

Tips For How To Make Cafe Breve Latte Art (Optional!)

Creating latte art is done by pouring milk over a thin layer of foam.

Once you’ve poured the milk and a thin layer of foam, begin making your latte art design. One of the easiest images to create is the leaf.

Pour several circles just below the center of the mug, working your way down toward the bottom of the mug.

When you have only a little milk (or room) left, drag a thin stream up through the centers of the circles.

When done correctly, each circle will push the others upward and the stream will cut the circles into leaves.

Sip and enjoy your breve latte!

cup of coffee latte with latte art on wooden table with spoon and espresso portafilter

How To Make A Vegan Breve Coffee

Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a true vegan breve coffee, for what makes a latte breve is the inclusion of half-and-half dairy.

You can create a vegan breve latte with a similar texture, however.

To make a vegan breve coffee, soak almonds for 1 – 3 hours in water.

Drain the water and blend the almonds. Resoak them briefly in hot water to warm them, and drain the water.

Add the blended almonds to the espresso, and add water until the beverage has your desired texture. 

A high-end blender is likely needed to get the almonds smooth enough. The drained water makes for good homemade almond milk.

Calories In A Breve Latte

Now the bad news…

Half-and-half is made with part heavy cream and part whole milk, although the ratio isn’t always 1:1.

Most half-and-halfs are 10 – 18% fat and have about 40 calories per ounce.

At 40 calories/ounce, an 8-ounce breve coffee would have approximately 240 calories. A 16-ounce breve would contain approximately 560 calories.

This allows for 2 ounces of espresso in each latte, and it doesn’t include any sweetener.

For comparison, the same sized lattes made with whole milk would have 112 and 262 calories respectively. Skim milk would further reduce the calorie count to 60 and 140. 

Coffee with 2 tablespoons of half-and-half would have 40 calories, and a light coffee with extra half-and-half might contain 80.

Reducing Calories While Enjoying A Caffe Breve

Both cappuccinos and cortados can be made with half-and-half, and may serve as good alternatives to breve lattes if you want the same texture but fewer calories.

A breve cappuccino would have approximately 120 – 140 calories, and a cortado 60-80.

The calories for these beverages differ slightly because they incorporate more foam than lattes.

Cafe Breve Frequently Asked Questions

Is Breve Coffee Hot Or Cold?

The default is for breve coffee to be served hot (or warm), but it can also be made cold. To make an iced breve latte, pour espresso and cold half-and-half over ice.

What Is The Difference Between A Latte And A Breve Coffee?

A breve coffee is a latte made with half-and-half instead of milk. Lattes and breve coffees are both made out of espresso and dairy. Lattes are normally made with whole, 2 percent or skim milk. Breve coffees are made with half-and-half.

What Is Breve Coffee?

A breve coffee is a rich specialty coffee drink made with espresso, steamed half and half and a thin layer of foamed milk.

Enjoy Your Breve Coffee

Whether you make breve coffee only on special occasions, once a week or regularly because you burn enough calories, this is a rich and delicious beverage to include in your rotation of coffee drinks.

Now you know what a breve coffee is why not order one at a café, or make this breve coffee recipe at home. You’ll likely have a new favorite way to drink coffee.

More Coffee Brewing Guides

If you found this breve coffee brew guide helpful, here are some more great coffee drink guides.

Find more brew guides here or find out more in our Know Your Coffee Series.

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glass mug of breve latte with text what is breve coffee.
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Rachel Rodda

It's no surprise that as a former barista and founder of Creators of Coffee, I'm obsessed with all things coffee. I love to share easy and delicious coffee recipes, expert brewing tips and helpful coffee gear reviews with my fellow coffee lovers!

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