When you grab a coffee at the local café or coffee shop, do you typically order a latte? Lattes are one of the most popular hot beverages in the United States, and for good reason. While the standard latte is delicious, there are also tons of variations including seasonal varieties that people tend to get pretty excited about. But did you know there’s no reason to head to the coffee shop each time you want a latte? If you’re under the impression that you need an espresso machine to make this drink, it’s time to think again.
Here we’ll take a look at how to make a homemade latte without the help of an espresso machine. Let’s face it, the espresso machines are pretty pricey so not every person has one handy at home. And to satisfy those with a variety of appliances, we’ll also touch on making a latte at home with the espresso machine and a standard coffee machine.
What Is a Latte?
If you’ve never had a latte before, then it’s important to start with the definition of this style of drink. Lattes are typically thought of as a hot drink but in reality, you can order hot and cold lattes at most coffee shops. That also means you can make both types at home. A traditional latte is described as a coffee-based drink that is made from steamed milk, milk foam and espresso. If you want to break down the description further, the word latte means "coffee and milk" in Italian. It stems from caffè e latte.
The science is in the ratios of espresso to milk. It needs to be just right to get the perfect results. A latte should be made up of 2/3 steamed milk, 1/3 espresso and then a very thin layer of foam on top. This layer is called "microfoam".
As you can imagine, a latte will taste stronger and bolder than a standard coffee simply because you’re using espresso as the base.
What Is an Iced Latte?
So, what's the difference between a standard latte described above and an iced latte? The iced latte is made with espresso, milk and then some sort of sweetener. Rather than steaming the milk, it is frothed so that it stays cold. While iced lattes can be enjoyed year-round, they are especially refreshing during the summer months. And just like the hot version, you can make an iced latte at home.
How Do You Make a Latte at Home?
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, it’s time to dive right in and make a latte at home without any sort of espresso or coffee machine.
The first step is choosing the right coffee. You want to choose a coffee that is very strong and bold in terms of the roast. This can be instant coffee or any other way you make your coffee, such as a French press. A French press is a great option for those who want to be able to use freshly ground coffee beans - which will give a richer, bolder, and more layered flavor profile. But if you’re in a rush and you want to keep things simple and cost-effective, instant coffee will still work.
Once the coffee is made, fill the cup to the 1/3 mark. Now it's time to create the milk foam. While it may look fancy and confusing, in reality, you can make this quickly at home without any sort of machine. Simply pour milk (you can use non-fat or 2% milk) into a glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid. Now you're going to start shaking it, without stopping, until you see that it is foamy looking. This typically takes 30-60 seconds. You can even do this while heating the water for your coffee.
Once you've created enough foam, take the lid of the jar and place it in the microwave. You want to heat it for a few seconds, just to the point of warm, not hot, and then take it out. Gently scoop the warm foam on top of your coffee and enjoy your creation.
The whole process from start to finish should only take a couple of minutes. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll even be able to make a fresh latte in the mornings, despite being in a hurry for work.
How Do You Make an Iced Latte?
If you’re craving the cold version of this drink, it is just as easy to create at home. Again, you want to start with bold strong coffee and then pour it over ice in a cup. The cup should be full of ice so that it does a good job cooling the coffee. When pouring in the coffee, remember that it should only be to the 1/3 level, as you need to leave lots of room for the milk. It is recommended to use milk not coffee creamer, as the creamer tends to be too thick and fat for a latte.
Because iced coffee can taste a bit stronger, many people prefer to add a sweetener. You can use something like sugar, honey, or a liquid sweetener.
As for the ratios, you want to use one shot of espresso (in this case coffee), 8oz of milk and 1oz sweetener.
How to Make a Latte with an Espresso Machine
So, how could an espresso machine make life easier when it comes to making a latte? It helps in terms of the espresso and the steamed milk (depending on the machine). You’ll be able to make fresh espresso at home – which will taste better than coffee. And then you can use that same unit to steam the milk (heat and froth it) and pour it on the latte.
Many espresso machines give people the option to choose the cup size too, so you’ll be able to do one, two or three shots of espresso. This is perfect if you want to make a large latte that you can take with you on the go.
When shopping for an espresso machine, some of the features worth looking for include:
- The ability to choose the cup size
- A built-in coffee bean grinder
- A built-in steamer/frother
- The unit is easy to clean after each use
- It is compact and won’t take up too much room on the counter
- Easy to use
There are a variety of home espresso machines now that rival the functionality of those found in coffee shots.
How to Make a Latte with a Coffee Machine
Having a coffee machine can also make the latte process a little faster, smoother and garners better results. You can purchase the standard drip-style coffee machine that allows you to brew strong coffee or a single brew machine wherein you can purchase bold or espresso k-cups or pods to use in it. It will come down to your personal preference, how many cups of coffee you want to brew at once and how much versatility you need.
When it comes to how to make a coffee latte with the machine, you just use all the same steps as before.
How to Dress Up Your Latte
Once you perfect the art of making lattes at home – both hot and cold – you’re ready for the next step which is dressing them up. This is where you can tap into your inner creativity and make some incredible flavor concoctions.
Some of the best ways to change up the flavor are to change the coffee or espresso you are using, choose a flavored liquid sweetener and add various spices.
A few lattes you may want to play around with and try to recreate at home include:
- Pumpkin Spice
- Irish Cream
- Buttered Rum
- White Chocolate
Many of these are available year-round so you can sample them in a coffee shop first, but others are more seasonal offerings.
Besides imparting flavor in the latte, you can also get creative with the toppings. You can always add a light dollop of whipped cream, shaved chocolate, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, chocolate, or caramel syrup and so forth. You can end up with a work of art by the time you finish making the latte.
What Time of Day is Best for a Latte?
The final tip is when to enjoy a latte. The good news is that there is no right or wrong time of the day for a latte; instead, it comes down to what you’re in the mood for. It may be the drink that gets you started in the morning, your mid-afternoon boost or something special to sip on after dinner. It should be noted that lattes tend to have a lot of caffeine in them since you’re using a strong coffee, so keep that in mind if you’re affected by caffeine.
By using each of these tips and getting to know what a latte is and what fun ingredients and elements can be added to it, you’ll become a pro latte maker in no time.