What is a Breve? Why You Have to Try This Latte Variation

This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a commission, but it won’t affect our product choices.

Table of Contents

If you drink your coffee with steamed milk or dairy, there’s a good chance that you’ve been drinking cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites, or macchiatos regularly. These drinks all come with espresso, steamed milk, and are topped with foam, each with different ratios.

But have you heard of the more elusive breve?

If your first thought was ‘What is a breve?’, you aren’t the only one. The Starbucks breve latte can seem like a confusing concoction, especially if you aren’t sure how it is made.

But we’re here to clear up the confusion. We are going to tell you exactly what a breve is, its components, as well as how you can make one at home. If you’re always on the lookout for new drinks, you’re going to love giving this one a try!

What is a Breve?

what is a breve
what is a breve

The breve definition is a good place to start. Instead of milk, a breve is made with steamed half-and-half. It is an American variant of the classic Italian latte. Like other coffee beverages, this drink is also topped with milk foam.

What about its taste and texture? Well, breve half-and-half is what makes it special. Because of the higher fat content of the half-and-half, breves have a fluffier and creamier feel than your standard latte. It is also much richer and sweeter, so many people skip adding sweeteners to their breve.

Not sure how to order this drink from a coffee shop? You can simply call it a breve or one of its other names. These include cafe breve, breve coffee, or latte breve. If your barista isn’t sure, simply order a latte but tell them to use half-and-half instead of milk.

This beverage is much creamier than a latte or cappuccino and feels indulgent without going over the top. It is also much more flavorful and complex than a basic coffee, making it the perfect choice for adventurous palettes.

What about the proportions? It’s pretty simple; equal parts brewed espresso and steamed half-and-half. Top off your cup with a good layer of that silky foam, and you have a breve. Breves also make much more foam than plain milk because it contains more fats.

The origin of Breve

The origins of the breve coffee drink may not be widely documented, but its delicious taste and creamy texture have made it a staple in coffee shops across the United States. Believed to have originated in the mid-20th century, the breve has been winning the hearts of coffee lovers with its unique blend of flavors and ingredients.

The Italian Influence: Understanding the Name Breve

The word “breve” comes from the Italian language, meaning “short”. This refers to the use of half-and-half instead of whole milk in the preparation of the drink. This unique twist on traditional coffee making sets the breve apart and gives it a distinct, creamy taste that is sure to please.

What Does Breve Mean In Coffee

In the world of coffee, breve means a brief or short drink. If you make an espresso drink that’s breve, it will be much shorter in height than other drinks because when half and half are steamed, it won’t double in height as when you’re steaming milk that has a much lower fat content. 

The higher fat content of breve milk makes it sweeter and you can easily skip adding any sugar or syrup to your breve drinks.

So what does breve mean in coffee?

It means you get a shorter drink that’s made from steamed half and half, which tastes creamier, richer, sweeter, and smoother. 

The Variation of the Breve

As any barista knows, the art of crafting the perfect espresso lies not only in the quality of the coffee beans and the precision of the extraction, but also in the personal touch added through the use of flavor syrups and toppings. One aspect that often goes overlooked in this customization process is the variation of the breve – a type of latte made with half-and-half instead of milk.

But the variation of the breve is not limited to simply the choice between whole milk and half-and-half. In fact, the breve can be elevated to new heights with the judicious selection of flavor syrups and toppings. So, without further ado, let us explore the possibilities of the breve, and present a table detailing the different variations that can be achieved through the use of different flavor syrups and toppings.

Flavor Syrups: Vanilla, Caramel, Hazelnut, Cinnamon, Peppermint

Toppings: Whipped Cream, Chocolate Shavings, Caramel Drizzle, Crushed Cookies, Cinnamon Dust

Flavor SyrupsToppingsVariation of the Breve
VanillaWhipped CreamVanilla Dream Breve
CaramelChocolate ShavingsCaramel Choco Breve
HazelnutCaramel DrizzleHazelnut Bliss Breve
CinnamonCrushed CookiesCinnamon Crush Breve
PeppermintCinnamon DustPeppermint Spice Breve

As the table shows, the possibilities for breve variation are nearly limitless. The breve truly has something for everyone, whether you prefer the sweet and creamy richness of a Vanilla Dream Breve or the warm and comforting flavour of a Cinnamon Crush Breve.

So, the next time you’re in a café, don’t settle for a regular old latte. Consider the breve version and discover the distinct flavour sensation that only this unappreciated drink can deliver.

What Is Breve Milk

Breve milk is not regular milk but consists of steamed half and half – half whole milk and half heavy or light cream. Half and half have a higher fat content – 12% – as opposed to regular whole milk, which contains 4% fat content. 

As a result, espresso beverages made with breve milk will taste richer, smoother, and creamier, and will be heavier on the palate. And you will get a thick creamy layer on top. 

Breve means “short” or “brief” in Italian and it’s best paired with short drinks like macchiatos and cortados that use less milk than a regular latte. 

Is there non-dairy Breve Milk?

You can try making a vegan breve by substituting the half-and-half with a combination of equal parts non-dairy milk (almond or soy milk), coconut cream or vegan coffee creamer. However, the taste and texture will differ from a classic breve.

Breves are often served as dessert drinks because of how rich and heavy they are. However, many people choose to drink it as their morning coffee. 

Want an ideal breakfast? We recommend a breve crepes and coffee combo. Light and airy crepes make the perfect companion to this rich and luxurious coffee and the two balance each out perfectly.

While it is often drunk without adding any sweeteners, you can add sugar or Splenda according to your tastes. Some people even prefer it flavored with syrups like toffee, hazelnut, salted caramel, cinnamon dolce, and even raspberry!

What Is Breve At Starbucks

If you’re thinking about what is breve at Starbucks, well it’s nothing other than steamed half and half! If you order a breve at Starbucks, you’ll get a cozy cup of steamed half and half. 

That’s because, at Starbucks, they take the meaning of breve milk literally. So, don’t be surprised if your breve comes without a trace of espresso in it. 

When you order a breve at Starbucks, you need to specify if you’d like a breve latte or a breve cappuccino. Then you’ll get a latte or cappuccino with steamed half and half or breve milk instead of regular milk. 

Breve vs Latte

Breve vs Latte
Breve vs Latte

The type of dairy used gives rise to a number of differences when we compare latte vs breve. The fat content of the milk used in latte vs half and half used in breve changes the whole coffee cup scenario in terms of taste, texture, composition, and calories. The serving size is another point of difference. 

Type of Dairy2% or Whole Milk or Plant-Based MilkHalf and Half
Fat ContentLowerHigher
Coffee FlavorLess IntenseStronger
SweetnessSweetCreamier with Caramel Notes
Serving Size6-20 oz (180-591 mL)5-6 oz (150-180 mL)
Calorie Count150-600 calories (depending on milk type)420 calories
Fat Content6-22 grams (depending on milk type)36 grams
Carbs15 grams15 grams
AppearanceThin Foam LayerThick Foam Layer

The latte consists of ¼ espresso, and ¾ steamed 2% or whole milk or even any plant-based milk and is topped with a skinny layer of foam.

On the other hand, breve drinks contain ¼ espresso, ½ steamed half and half, and ¼ half and half foam. 

Latte has a lot of milk and has, therefore, less of a coffee flavor and is sweet as well. 

The high-fat content in breve milk makes the breve beverage taste creamier with a tinge of caramel notes as the steaming process causes the sugar in the whole milk to caramelize and make it taste sweeter than a latte. Plus, you will get a stronger coffee flavor in a breve drink. 

Breve is served typically in a 5- or 6-ounce (150 to 180 milliliter) cup while the serving size of a latte can vary anywhere between 6 to 20 ounces (180 to 591 milliliter).

The calorie count is understandably much higher in a breve beverage than a latte, thanks to all the cream and whole milk fat. The half and half in breve have 12% fat content which is at least three times higher than the 4% fat content in whole milk used in a latte. And you can consume fewer calories in a latte if it’s made with low-fat milk. 

A 12-ounce breve contains 420 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbs compared to the same size of a latte made with regular milk has 150 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbs (source: https://heyjoecoffee.com/breve-vs-latte/)

The appearance of the two is a little different also. The latte has a thin layer of foam on top whereas the thick layer of foam on the breve drink gives it a distinct look. 

How to Make a Breve at Home

You don’t need to go to Starbucks to enjoy a good breve! Instead, make it at home and enjoy this indulgent drink as a pick me up after a hard day. 

If you have a coffee bar with the necessary equipment like a quality espresso machine, this will be much easier, but we’ll show you how to substitute things for your convenience.

What You Need:

  • 2 ounces espresso or freshly brewed strong black coffee
  • 2-3 ounces of half-and-half (or your non-dairy version)
  • A whisk or frother


  • Sweetener
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Syrups of your choice

Step by Step Guide:

  1. Make some espresso or brew some coffee. If you have an espresso machine, use it to pull two shots of espresso. If not, brew some strong black coffee.

    If you’re in a pinch you can use an automatic drip coffee maker, but we suggest using a Moka pot, percolator, or French press.
  2. Pour 2 ounces of coffee or espresso into your cup.
  3. Steam your half-and-half. If you don’t have half-and-half, combine equal parts of whole milk and heavy cream.

    You can use the steaming wand from an espresso machine. Otherwise, heat up some milk in the microwave or on the stove until very hot and use a frother or whisk.
  4. Once the half-and-half is silky and there is a decent amount of foam on top, pour the steamed dairy into your cup of coffee or espresso, holding back the foam.
  5. Use a spoon to pour or scoop the foam on top of the coffee.
  6. At this stage, you can add your sweetener or syrup if desired. You can also sprinkle a little powdered cinnamon over the foam if you want.

Your breve is ready and you can pair it with cookies, or a good coffee cake to complete the experience!

Other Breve Drinks

You don’t have to drink your breve the same way all the time. Using this drink as the foundation, you can make or order variants that are just as decadent but more exciting!

A good example is the white mocha breve, which is the typical breve but with an ounce of melted white chocolate or white chocolate syrup added to it. You can also add peppermint syrup for a Christmas-y breve or pumpkin spice syrup to infuse it with fall vibes.

Trying to beat the heat? Use cold brew instead of espresso and pour your breve over ice. 

You can also add a couple of pumps of caramel sauce or cinnamon dolce and blend your breve with ice for a thick and relaxing iced breve. The possibilities are endless so you can even come up with your custom flavor combinations!

More Questions?

Below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most about breves and how to make them.

01. What is a Dutch Bros Breve?

This is like a cappuccino but with half-and-half replacing the milk. Together with chocolate and vanilla flavors, it makes for an unforgettable drink.

02. What Does a Breve Taste Like?

A breve tastes a lot like a regular latte, but it is much richer and more flavorful. It is also a lot sweeter and dessert-like because of the cream in the dairy.

03. Are Breves Hot or Cold?

Although breves are most often made as a hot beverage, they can be served cold as well. To do so, blend with ice or serve it poured over a glass full of ice.

04. What are Breve Style Drinks?

These are any kind of coffees that use half-and-half instead of milk. You can get breve style mochas, cappuccinos, macchiatos, etc.

05. Which is Healthier- Breve or Latte?

Because of the half-and-half, breves contain more cholesterol. As a result, they are rather unhealthy. For a ‘skinny’ drink, order a regular latte with skim milk and use Splenda or go sugar-free.

In Summary

Now that you know all about this fancy and decadent drink, next time someone asks you if you want a breve, your reaction won’t be ‘what’s a breve?’ Instead, you will be able to order one easily, adding your own spin and flavors to customize your drink. 

We strongly recommend trying a breve─ it might just end up being your favorite drink!

Relevant Reads

Table of Contents