For many people, drinking a cup of coffee is an important morning ritual. Some people like to drink their coffee black or down a quick shot of espresso to get them going, while others like to add milk and sugar. Some people like to take their coffee sweetened with chocolate powder or flavored syrups. A foamed milk topping to create a latte is a very popular addition for espresso coffee drinks. But what are the main differences when it comes to the latte vs café au lait? While a café au lait is a similar coffee beverage to a latte in that there is milk added to the coffee, a café au lait is not quite as foamy as a latte.
So, next time you’re trying out a new espresso drink to make at home or heading to your favorite coffee shop to order your morning drink, which one of these two should you order? We’ll take a look at some of the main differences between these two popular milky coffee beverages to help you figure out which one might be your preferred option to drink when it comes to getting your caffeine fix.
Origins and Recipes: Latte and Café au Lait
There are many different options to consider when it comes to ordering your espresso-based drink. If you drink coffee on a regular basis, you might already know just how difficult it can sometimes be to choose between the two most popular milky coffee drinks. The variations between the café au lait and the latte go further than simply what is in them. There is plenty of variety with both beverages, making it difficult to understand exactly what they are since many coffee shops use different terms to describe these drinks, or even change up the recipes. There are several variations of each of these drinks depending on where you are.
What is a Café au Lait?
What is café au lait? A café au lait is a common coffee drink made with just milk and coffee. However, while it can be made with espresso, it is often made with strong drip coffee or coffee that has been brewed in a French Press.
What is a Latte?
A café latte is another hugely popular coffee drink today. It is made with espresso coffee, steamed milk, and microfoam. The espresso is usually stronger compared to French Press or drip coffee, but the latte contains more milk in comparison to the amount of espresso, which weakens and dilutes the espresso to create a drink that is smooth and easy to sip on. The latte art that most people associate with this drink is another key factor to define a latte. Unlike making a café au lait, making a gorgeous latte with latte art takes a lot of skill on the part of the barista to create fun designs from the foam that is sitting on top of the drink.
While it may have originated in Italy, the latte has quickly become a coffee beverage that is very popular in the US, particularly in New Orleans. While some people think that adding as much milk as possible to your espresso drink will make it taste better, it’s worth bearing in mind that adding milk will dilute the espresso taste. But some people do prefer an extra-large latte with a lot of milk added.
If you want to make a latte for yourself, it’s recommended to use an espresso machine that is semi-automatic or fully automatic that allows for steaming milk. Use a fine ground coffee to make your espresso and a milk frother to make microform.
How to Make Latte
While a latte is a popular drink that you will be sure to find available at your local coffee shop, making a latte at home can be simpler and easier than you might think. To make a latte, you will need around 4oz of hot espresso, 8oz steamed milk, and one tablespoon of medium ground coffee.
Begin by heating your milk frother to the right temperature and steaming your milk for around 30-40 seconds, or until it is the right temperature to dissolve sugar. Then, use an espresso machine to make 4oz of hot espresso, which is poured into your cup first. To make this, you will need a level tablespoon of medium-fine ground coffee.
To make the milk, preheat 8oz of a milk of your choice to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour your steamed milk over your espresso.
Café au Lait Origins
The café au lait is a drink with a long history; it was first introduced in the seventeenth century in France. The term ‘au lait’ in French translates to ‘with milk’, so this refers to a coffee drink with milk added. Traditionally, this is a beverage that is made with coffee that is freshly brewed with added hot milk. Hot coffee, milk, and a French Press is all you need to make a café au lait that tastes great.
While it’s typically made by adding hot milk to freshly brewed coffee, some coffee shops use espresso powder or even instant coffee to make café au lait to avoid wasting leftovers from the previous day. If you’re making café au lait like this, it’s recommended that you use coffee grounds that are ground to a medium-fine level and a milk café for steaming the milk.
How to Make Café au Lait
To make a café au lait, you will need around 1tbsp of medium-fine ground coffee, a quarter of a cup of steamed milk, and water.
Begin by pouring around 8oz hot water into a French Press. Then, add a level tablespoon off coffee into the French press and swirl it around slightly to encourage the coffee to settle. Pour around half of the hot water into your cup and put it in the microwave for around twenty seconds until it is hot. Then, carefully and slowly push the plunger into the French press to filter the coffee and pour the coffee into your mug. Add around 3z of warm milk and stir it gently until it is uniform.
The Main Differences Between These Two Drinks
This is a popular question among people who drink coffee and figuring out what makes these two drinks different from one another is not always easy. But while both these drinks are made with a combination of espresso and milk, there are some main differences to consider when it comes to what goes into them and the resulting drink.
Color: Despite popular belief, lattes aren’t much lighter in color than a café au lait. However, if you add flavored syrups to your latte, as is a popular option, this will lighten up the color of your drink by enhancing the amount of foam on the top.
Temperature: A café au lait is made with hot milk, rather than the steamed milk that is added to a latte, which often makes it warmer compared to a latte as there is more contact time between the liquid and the glass or mug.
Quantity: A café au lait contains less milk and more espresso compared to a latte, so less steam is needed to make foam, which makes it faster to prepare. While the volume of milk that is used in both these drinks doesn’t vary a huge amount, the latte will typically contain more as it’s often made with whole milk rather than skimmed milk, which is a more popular choice for a café au lait.
Flavor: Since they expect to taste two different flavors, it can sometimes be difficult for people to really taste how a latte and a café au lait differ. However, there are some subtle differences, especially when it comes to the texture, and since a café au lait uses less milk compared a latte, it is often stronger.
Strength: The caffeine content in a latte and a café au lait does not vary a huge amount, since this is based on the amount of espresso in each drink, which is basically the same if both made with espresso. If the café au lait is made with drip coffee or French Press coffee, it may have slightly less caffeine in comparison to a latte. But whether you drink a latte or a café au lait in the morning, both are likely to give you the energy boost you need to get going.
Texture: While the latte and the café au lait are quite similar drinks, one of the biggest differences between the two is the texture. Lattes tend to have a lot of foam on top, which leads to a creamier consistency compared to a café au lait.
While they might seem similar at first glance, a side by side comparison of the latte and café au lait shows that these two drinks actually have quite a lot of differences, with mostly different ingredients to create a tasty and energizing coffee drink.