In a world of complex espresso drinks promoted by Starbucks (gingerbread latte, etc), it’s important to remember the fundamentals of espresso drinks, those oft-overlooked beverages that offer some of the best coffee drinking experiences around. Here’s a nice overview of several that I found over at Munak’s blog:

Listed below are some of the other wonderful beverages that can be made with the help of your espresso/cappuccino machine. One basic rule applies… if you’re making a hot drink you should use a warmed cup or glass. Either warmed on top of the machine or under warm water so that the beverage remains hot.

Basic Espresso – A small 1 to 1 1/2 oz. shot of pressure brewed Italian coffee. A cup of espresso requires between 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 grams of ground espresso coffee and should only be brewed into a preheated cup. Espresso is used as the coffee base in many of our favorite coffee drinks. Properly brewed, an espresso will feature a layer of rich crema on the surface.

Espresso Ristretto – Use the same preparation method as a basic espresso except dispense only 1 oz. (or less) water through the espresso grounds with an extraction time of 18 to 20 seconds. Ideally, the grind is adjusted slightly finer; however the slow extraction can be accomplished by tamping or pressing the coffee with extra pressure. This process yields an intense espresso flavor.

Espresso Lungo – A single serving of espresso, “pulled long” to yield a larger serving. Dispense 2 to 3 oz. of water through the espresso grounds with a longer extraction time of 25 to 40 seconds.

Espresso Con Panna – A single espresso topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

Espresso Macchiato – A shot of espresso stained or “marked,” with a large dollop of frothed milk.

Espresso Romano – A shot of espresso served with a fresh lemon peel twist. Italians do not claim this, but it is often served in the United States. Purists, however, believe the lemon interfers with the subtle flavors of the espresso.

Espresso Lachino (Wet Cappuccino) – Espresso topped with approx. 50/50 foamed milk and steamed milk.

Basic Cappuccino – A 6 oz. cappuccino is: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 frothed milk. To layer the milk and espresso, it is necessary to allow the freshly frothed milk a few moments to rest and thus separate (foam on top and milk on the bottom). Brew the espresso into a 3 oz. stainless steel pitcher (ceramic or glass will absorb too much heat from the espresso). Pour the steamed milk into the bottom third of the cup. Pour the espresso slowly into the steamed milk. Spoon frothed milk on top to fill the cup. Done in this order, the espresso should settle between the milk and the foam. Properly frothed milk should be approximately 150º F to 170º F. The temperature is a matter of personal preference and may be slightly hotter or cooler. The frothed milk from the top of the steaming pitcher is spooned on top to “cap” the cappuccino and retain the heat.

Classic Italian Cappuccino – It is particularly common in Italy, and more and more in North America, to see a cappuccino made with espresso topped only with frothed milk. This is a classic cappuccino. Top 1-1/2 oz. espresso with 1-1/2 oz. to 2 oz. foam. Very similar to an Espresso Machiatto.