Does Espresso Have Milk In It? Can You Add Any?

Ordering an espresso drink exactly how you want it can be a bit complicated. Does espresso come with milk or do you have to order something else to get that? Let’s find out.

Espresso does not contain any milk. It is possible to add milk and milk foam to espresso but this will turn an espresso into a latte or cappuccino. Cappuccino and latte are made with espresso and milk but the combination goes by different names. If you order an espresso, it will never contain milk.

Still confused about how this works? Keep reading below.

Does Espresso Have Milk It It?

Espresso is brewed by pushing hot water through a bed of finely ground coffee under pressure. When it comes out of the machine, there is no milk anywhere in that process. Espresso is served in small cups and usually come with a little sachet of sugar and sometimes a small cookie. If you want to use the sugar or not is up to you and the cookie is obviously eaten separately.

That’s what you get when you order a single or double espresso, just coffee. Even if you order a lungo or ristretto there is no milk anywhere. With any of those drinks, there is no milk or cream is served or included.  It’s the drink that comes straight from the machine and the only thing in an espresso machine is hot water and coffee grounds. The differences between a single and double espresso, a ristretto and lungo are the amount of grounds and water used.

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Of course while a shot of espresso in any variant doesn’t have any milk, adding milk to it is almost as old as espresso itself. It probably didn’t take more than five minutes after the first shot of espresso was pulled before someone added milk to it.

The espresso originated in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century (1901). It was intended as a way to brew coffee quicker and they succeeded in doing so since pulling a shot of espresso only takes about 30 seconds. The cappuccino was actually a thing long before that and originated in Vienna in the 1700’s (then known as a “kapuziner”)and was just coffee with milk and sugar. After the invention of the espresso, the cappuccino recipe we know now was quickly adopted to use espresso instead of brewed coffee.

The thing to understand is that once you put milk or anything except sugar in an espresso, it’s not called an espresso anymore. Once you start adding milk, it becomes a cappuccino, latte or another less well-known drink. So while there is espresso in those drinks, they go by different names. So technically there is no milk in espresso because by the act of adding milk, it turns into something different.

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Can You Add Milk To Espresso?

While espresso never has milk in it when you pull it from the machine, it’s very popular to add milk and/or steamed milk foam to espresso to turn it into other drinks. You can also use milk replacements although most of them can’t really be steamed properly.

Adding any kind of additive to an espresso shot turns it from an espresso shot into something else. As said above, milk and steamed milk are the most popular since mixing those with espresso makes cappuccino and latte which are both very popular drinks. Or you can just add milk to get a flat white.

If you want something with milk but aren’t sure what the name is exactly? If you have an espresso machine at home, just experiment and see what you like. Coffee and milk are pretty hard to screw up unless you burn the milk.

In case you’re at a coffeeshop and aren’t sure what to order, just give the barista a description of what you’re looking for. They will likely be happy to help you (as long as it’s not extremely busy), and if they’re not, look for a different place to buy coffee.

It’s also possible to add other things like ice cream (affogato) or water (americano) to a shot of espresso to turn them into other named drinks.

Here is a quick rundown of the most common drinks that are made with espresso and if there is milk in it or not.

Espresso Drinks: Which Ones Have Milk?

With many of these drinks, there is no recipe that is set in stone and interpretations can differ from person to person. The more well-known espresso drinks are pretty consistent from one place to another but the lesser known ones can differ a little more.

Espresso: The basic drink. You’ll get a small cup with 25-30 ml of very strong coffee. It’s the basic drink all the others in this list are based on. The ratio is usually around 1:2 which means 1 gram coffee grounds for every 2 grams of liquid in the cup. No milk comes in this as standard, it’s the base on which many other milk drinks are built.

Double espresso: This is simply a double shot of espresso. You’ll get 50-60 ml (1.8-2 Oz) of liquid. Double the amount of coffee grounds is put in the basket and the shot is pulled until twice as much liquid is in the cup. It’s sometimes served in a slightly larger cup but otherwise the same as an espresso.

Lungo: A lungo is made in a very similar way to an espresso except the ratio of coffee to water is different. A lungo used the same amount of coffee grounds as a single espresso shot but more water is pushed through it. That results in a slightly weaker cup overall. Just like espresso this isn’t served with milk or cream.

Ristretto: A ristretto is the opposite of a lungo. Instead of using more water, a ristretto uses even less. The same amount of coffee grounds as for a single shot of espresso is used (ground a touch finer) But only half the amount of water. This results in a very thick and very strong cup of coffee. It’s a very tiny bit of liquid but it packs a big tasty punch. Again, no milk or milk foam is included here.

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Cappuccino: Probably the most well-known espresso based drink besides espresso itself. It’s very popular and barely requires any introduction. A cappuccino is a double shot of espresso topped up with foamed milk. There is about 4 Oz of milk, steamed until the milk has doubled in size. In the cup, the layer of foam is about 1/3rd of the cup. Sometimes baristas will unleash their inner artist by making intricate patterns in the foam which makes for an amazing presentation.

Latte: A latte is different depending on where you order it. In the States, a latte is a double shot of espresso with about 10 Oz. of steamed milk with a little layer of foam on top. In Europe a latte is simply an espresso with milk.

Mocha: A Mocha is like the latte’s twin with a dark side. It’s very similar except there is some chocolate syrup or cacao powder with sugar in it. The base is a latte and what makes it mocha is the addition of chocolate. The chocolate can be added in different ways.

Macchiatto: Where the latte and cappuccino have quite a lot of milk, the macchiato only has a dollop of milk foam on top of a shot of espresso. Some coffee shops add a little more than just a dollop but never more than the amount of espresso in the cup.

Americano: An Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water added. Usually 8 Oz. of hot water is added to a single shot of espresso but if you want something stronger you can also ask for your Americano to be made with a double shot.

Cortado: This is a lesser known espresso drink and I’ve not seen it available in many places although it has become more popular. It’s made with a double shot of espresso and adding the same amount (2 Oz.) of steamed milk. It’s served in a glass. The smaller ratio of espresso to milk than a latte or cappuccino means you have a stronger coffee flavor but still balanced by the dairy.

Affogatto: Affogatto is a shot of espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream placed in the same glass. Is it a drink or a dessert? It’s more on the dessert side but if you’ve never tried it, you should at least one.

Recommended Espresso Equipment

Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:

  • Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
  • Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
  • Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
  • Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
  • Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.


Welcome to CoffeeImproved! Since falling in love with coffee, I've been on a journey to improve my morning cup day by day. That means I've tried many different brew methods, beans and equipment and experimented with all of them to find what I like. This is where I share what I've learned with you.

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