Coffee Recipes: Latte
How to Make a Latte
Coffee lovers! Did you know you can make a barista-quality cafe latte in the comfort of your own home? Yes, all you need is a few key tools and you can make drinks that rival your favorite coffeeshop. This espresso drink is a staple in our Cauldryn Coffee Recipe series , where we teach you how to make all your favorite coffee drinks in your own home. This latte comes out perfectly creamy and topped with frothy foam. How to make a latte at home? It’s pretty simple, once you know a few tricks. Let’s get started
What is a latte?
A latte is a coffee drink with espresso, steamed milk and a layer of foam on top. What’s the difference between a latte vs a cappuccino? A cappuccino has equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foam (⅓ each). A latte has ⅓ espresso and 2/3 steamed milk, with a thin layer of foam on top. Oh, and a macchiato is just espresso with a thicker layer of foam on top. (Here’s a chart that breaks it down.)
One special thing to note about a latte is the type of foam you want to get. You want the milk to get to an almost “wet-paint” like texture, which baristas call microfoam. It can be tricky to get to that texture without a steamer, so we’ll show you how to approximate it with some various tools you might have on hand.
First, let’s talk espresso
You’ll need to make espresso for a latte: simply strong coffee will not do! This means you’ll need the following:
- Espresso roast coffee: The roast is important to get the right dark, bitter flavor. Also make sure to use a fine grind on the espresso when you make it.
- Espresso machine, manual espresso maker, or Aeropress: There are several ways to make espresso. We use an espresso machine, which sits on a countertop. Or you can use a small manual espresso maker: it’s cheaper and portable! For the cheapest option, you can use an Aeropress; go to our Aeropress Espresso recipe for more.
Milk to use for cafe latte
The best milk to use for a cafe latte is whole milk. Why? Whole milk froths the best because it has the highest milk fat. You can also use 2% milk and it works fairly well, but you lose a bit of the richness. The most important part about the milk: make sure it’s as fresh as possible! Milk that’s getting closer to its expiration date does not foam as well.
Can you make a vegan latte? Yes! The best non-dairy milk for a latte is oat milk: it froths up the best and has great flavor. Go to How to Froth Milk for some notes on the particulars of working with non-dairy milk.
How to steam milk with an espresso machine (perfect latte)
The tool you need to steam milk? An espresso machine with a steamer! This makes the most perfect micro-foam with the creamy “wet-paint” like texture that you need for a latte. Steaming the milk also adds a sweet creaminess to the flavor.
The downside? Espresso machines can be pricey. Here’s the espresso machine we use: it’s middle of the road price-wise and works great. If you want to make a perfect latte, this is the best way to do it. But you can do it by simply frothing milk with a whisk: see below! Here’s how to steam milk for a latte:
Hold the steaming wand just below the surface of the milk until it doubles in size. This makes foamy froth.
Move the wand lower near the side of the pitcher to create a spiral vortex. This makes the silky smooth microfoam bubbles and wet-paint texture that’s characteristic of a latte.
Steam until the milk reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit: use a thermometer or judge by when your hand can’t hold the pitcher for more than a few seconds. Go to How to Steam Milk for more details!
How to froth milk: without an espresso machine (cheater method!)
Now, you don’t need an espresso maker with steamer to make a great latte at home! You can simply heat and froth the milk, which makes it nearly as good. There are a few different tools you can use to froth milk for a latte. We cover these in detail in the post How to Froth Milk, which we recommend reading before you start. Here are a few great tools for the home barista for frothing milk:
- Handheld milk frother. Don’t want to spring for an espresso machine? A handheld milk frother is cheaper and works well. It gets the milk extremely frothy, so it’s easy to make a macchiato or cappuccino. A perfect latte is a little trickier, but you can follow the tips below to get a great drink.
- French press. If you have a French press for making coffee, it’s great for making foam! It makes a nice frothy foam with bubbles a little larger than the frother.
- Whisk. A whisk works too! This handy tool whips up the milk pretty well: it also has a bit larger bubbles and generates a little less foam than the other methods.
A latte cup is helpful!
A latte cup can be nice for making lattes at home. Why? This cup is designed to hold exactly the right volume of espresso and foam!
How to make a latte at home!
Once you’ve got your espresso and your tools, you can get to the good stuff! The most important skill to learn is frothing the milk: outside of that, it’s a breeze. Again, we highly recommend reading How to Froth Milk before you start. Here’s how to make a latte at home:
- Make the espresso using an espresso machine, espresso maker, or Aeropress.
- Steam the milk (espresso machine method): Use the notes in the section above to steam the milk and create microfoam.
- OR, heat the milk on the stovetop then froth it. A temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect: that’s where the milk is hot to the touch but not simmering. Then froth using your desired method until the milk is frothed into small, even bubbles. Wait for 30 seconds to 1 minute to allow the foam to incorporate a bit into the milk so that the drink is creamy enough.
- Overall, experiment to find the method that’s right for you. Everyone has different equipment and different desires for their latte. Play with the method until you find what’s right for you!