Brewing Guides

What Is Magic Coffee? (& How To Make It At Home!)

Melbourne – the coffee capital of Australia – has a secret that not even the rest of Australia knows. That secret, is Melbourne magic coffee. Are you keen to discover the answers to questions like “what is magic coffee?” and “how to make a magic coffee?”. Well, you’re in luck because we’ve decided to spill the tea on magic coffee.

Sit back and relax while we answer every question you’ve ever had about magic coffee including what is a magic coffee, what goes into one, and how to make this delicious coffee drink at home. Once you’ve read this short guide, you’ll be able to treat yourself to a magic coffee every day of the week.  Let’s get started!

What is magic coffee

What is Magic Coffee? 

A magic coffee is a double ristretto shot pulled into a 160ml cup or glass and then topped up with steamed milk. It only has a very thin layer of microform on top and the result is something similar to a flat white but stronger.

Magic coffee is an espresso-based milk coffee that has three main components. Compared to a latte, magic coffee has a stronger coffee flavour that makes it perfect for an afternoon pick me up.

Originating in Melbourne, magic coffee is a must-try when you visit the famous city. This is because you’ll be somewhat hard-pressed to find it outside of Melbourne. And if you try to order magic coffee outside the Victoria borders, you’ll most likely just get a puzzled look from the barista. 

Fret not though – even if a trip to Melbourne isn’t on the cards, you can make it yourself at home. If you’re looking for the magic method for a magic coffee, you’ll find that further down. But first, here’s what’s in it.

1. Espresso

This one’s a given. The basis of any coffee, even a magic one, is espresso. However, the espresso in a magic coffee is special – it’s referred to as “ristretto”. Ristretto is a short shot (less water) of espresso that’s been “restricted”. Due to less extraction from the coffee grinds, ristretto is a shot that’s smaller, more concentrated, and slightly sweeter compared to standard espresso. You’ll need two ristretto shots in your magic coffee.

2. Milk

Magic coffees use milk. The milk used for making magic coffee should have a silky, velvety, and glossy texture with only a tiny amount of microfoam. You might find the texture of the milk quite similar to a flat white. A bonus is that the silkier texture makes it better for latte art.

If you’re vegan or just don’t want to consume cows’ milk in your magic coffee, you’re in luck. With some alternative milks, it’s difficult to create enough froth for drinks that depend on it e.g. cappuccinos. With magic coffees though, you don’t need much foam at all, so alternative milks work great.

3. Cup Size

While a regular flat white is usually served in 200-220 ml cups, magic coffee is served in a 160 ml cup that better fits the shorter ristretto shots and silky milk without much froth. In short, magic coffee is a smaller and stronger-tasting flat white.

If you want the taste to be even stronger, you can ask the barista to only fill it up three-quarters of the way. This can be the solution for when you’re having a coffee craving and looking for a quick caffeine fix yet you don’t feel like having another large latte to fill you up.

Magic Coffee vs Piccolo

Both magic coffee and piccolo originated from Australia, contain ristretto shots, and a thin layer of foam. However, there are some differences. One is that while magic coffee uses two shots of ristretto, piccolos use just one. 

Another difference is how they’re served and the amount you get. Magic coffee has a bigger serving size with its 160 ml cup whereas piccolos are served in 90 ml cups. People usually drink magic coffee in a ceramic cup with a handle and saucer, meanwhile piccolos are typically served in a small demitasse glass.

Magic Coffee vs Flat White

Flat white first appeared on Australia’s menu in 1983. The main difference between magic coffee and flat white lies in the coffee to milk ratio. Magic coffees have a double ristretto shot and contain about 130 ml of milk, while flat whites usually have around 150-200 ml of milk and a single espresso shot. 

The different ratio of milk and use of ristretto is what makes magic coffee have a different (magic) flavour profile. Magic coffees have a stronger (yet not bitter at all) taste compared to flat whites. Yum!

What is a Ristretto Shot?

“Ristretto” is an Italian word that can loosely be translated to “restricted” or “narrowed”. It’s a short shot (i.e. half as much water) of higher concentrated espresso coffee, meaning the barista pulls only the first portion of a full-length espresso shot. It’s made with the same amount of coffee grinds as espresso, but the yield is stronger and slightly sweeter than espresso because the grinds aren’t extracted for as long. Typically a fine grind size is used to maximise flavour and strength.

Comparison Chart

Here’s a table that covers the key differences between magic coffee and some of the other most popular coffee varieties: 

DrinkEspresso Milk Cup Size
Flat White One espresso shot 150-200 ml of milk200-220 ml
Latte Espresso shot – number depends on the size of the latte300 ml of milk220 ml
Piccolo One ristretto shot 100 ml of milk90 ml
Cortado Two ristretto shots60 ml of milk 150-200 ml
Magic CoffeeTwo ristretto shots 130 ml of milk160 ml

How to Order a Magic Coffee

Is there a secret spell you should utter when ordering a magic coffee? As long as you’re in the confines of Melbourne or at the very least near its border, you shouldn’t have any trouble simply asking for “a magic”. Ask for “magic coffee” and you’ll give away the fact you’re a tourist immediately – after all, you seldom order a “latte coffee” or cappuccino coffee”.

If you just can’t wait until you’re in Melbourne to try a magic, it’s still possible to get your barista to make you one no matter where in the country (or world) you are. Just ask your barista to make a double ristretto flat white with less milk. That is basically what magic coffee is.

How to make a Magic Coffee at Home

Now we’ve answered the question “What is magic coffee?”, follow this magic coffee recipe and you never have to worry about the barista giving you a confused look again!

What You Need To Make A Magic 

  • Espresso machine with a milk steamer (or a separate milk steamer)
  • Finely ground coffee 
  • Your choice of milk
  • 160 ml ceramic cup 

If you don’t have an espresso machine, it is possible to make the ristretto shots using a moka pot or french press, although you may not get exactly the same results as with a machine. You can then use a standalone milk frother.

Magic Coffee Recipe 

Here’s what to do:

  1. Brew your ristretto shot – to make a ristretto at home, fill a double basket and pull two shots as you typically would. Let it extract for 15-20 seconds to achieve 30-40 ml instead of going for 30 seconds to achieve 60 ml like how you normally extract a double espresso.
  2. Froth and bring texture to your milk – start steaming your milk in a jug with the wand just under the milk’s surface. Heat it until you have a thin layer of foam only, then quickly submerge it to avoid making too much foam. To get a smooth and silky texture on your milk, froth it until the temperature reaches 60 degrees.
  3. Pour the milk over your ristretto – the ideal cup to use for magic is a 160 ml rounded cup. Pour your milk over the ristretto shots until the cup is full. If your cup is larger, make sure to measure the amount of milk you are adding to get the ratios right. 

Your homemade magic is done and ready for you to drink! Breathe in the welcoming aroma, have a sip, and let it bring a smile to your soul. 

Magic Coffee FAQs

Now that you know the basics of how to make a Melbourne magic coffee, let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions.

What is the best grind for magic coffee? 

Use the same grind size that you use for espresso – a fine one.

What are the best beans for magic coffee?

Use high-quality beans to make your magic coffee taste even more special. If you want your coffee to be distinctly milder but more aromatic, a good idea is to use Arabica beans. However, pretty much any type of coffee can be used for magic.

How do you serve a magic coffee?

Traditionally cafes serve magic coffees in a 160 ml ceramic cup. If you’re making it at home and only have larger mugs, then simply measure your milk before heating to make sure you don’t add too much. 

See more coffee brewing guides here

Sophie is a barista and coffee enthusiast who has owned and ran a coffee truck in her remote community since 2017. She wants to cut the jargon and make brewing coffee enjoyable for everyone.