Be Your Own Barista

After months of hinting and maybe an impressively large coffee bill, you finally convinced your significant other to splurge for that espresso machine you’ve been eyeing. Now’s your chance to show the world exactly how well you would have done as a barista in another life—but wait, you’ve never made espresso before. Never fear, we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to espresso and the most popular at-home drinks to brew.


Let’s begin with the basics: espresso is a drink but also an Italian brewing method. Following the instructions that come with your new appliance, you should have a drink that you can sip alone—though it might be a bit too strong for some people’s tastes because traditional espresso is a 1:2 coffee to water ratio versus coffee which is a 1:15 ratio.


Next up is the Americano. Similar to the espresso, an Americano involves adding more water. To create this drink at home, brew your espresso shot and add two shots of hot water. If you’d like a bigger drink, continue adding one part espresso to two parts water. Americanos are great for those who want the purely espresso taste but also more volume.


One of the most popular espresso drinks in America, a latte is made of one part espresso and three parts steamed milk (the guide on your machine should also explain how to create steamed milk). Most coffee shops add a layer of foam, and baristas use this canvas widely to show off their latte art, which is a newer feature of this classic drink.


Created in the 1990s and named for its color, the cappuccino is another American favorite. Once you’ve mastered your espresso pour and steamed milk, the cappuccino is your next challenge. A cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk and milk foam. Ideally, the perfect cappuccino pour will be smooth, creating three distinct layers.


The most complicated on our list but a very popular order is the macchiato. Originating in Italy, the macchiato is the first flavored drink we recommend at-home baristas try. American macchiatos combine espresso with a flavor shot (usually caramel or vanilla) and a “stain” of milk foam on top. Some prefer a bit of steamed milk as well, but this is where individual taste takes over. The defining part of a macchiato is its foam spot resting on top of the drink.

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