A café latte is a hugely popular coffee shop drink that most of us have probably tried, or at least heard of. The phrase ‘café latte’ literally translates to ‘coffee milk’. While there’s no set way to make a latter, it usually involves pouring steamed milk over a shot of espresso. Some people like to add a light layer of foam on the top and add sugar or flavored syrups. Due to a higher proportion of steamed milk compared to other coffee shop beverages, lattes tend to have a flavor that is milder and sweeter.
A single or double shot of espresso is the base of any latte, whether you’re going for a standard latte from Starbucks or a homemade skinny vanilla latte. The espresso is mixed with several ounces of steamed milk, resulting in a creamy and thick drink that has a more subtle flavor of espresso. For most lattes, the espresso to steamed milk ratio is around 1:2, before adding a layer of foam on top.
Since lattes have become more and more popular over the past two decades, the preparation of this drink varies a lot. There have been a lot of alterations to the latte and both hot and cold versions, such as an iced vanilla latte with vanilla extract. Hazelnut is another popular flavor, along with caramel.
Latte Vs. Cappuccino and Macchiato
The latte is not the only espresso drink that is prepared with steamed milk. Cappuccinos and macchiatos all have steamed milk and foam added, but each one is prepared differently for a unique texture and flavor. In addition, the different collection of components added to each means that they are different in terms of nutritional value and caffeine level too.
Compared to a cappuccino, a latte contains a much larger amount of steamed milk with a thin foam coating on top. Cappuccinos are made with a pretty much equal amount of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. The espresso and steamed milk are combined in a cappuccino, meanwhile, they are blended in a latte. Due to the lower amount of milk and more foam content compared to a latte, a cappuccino tends to have a much stronger espresso flavor.
Another espresso drink made with steamed milk is a macchiato. This is traditionally made by combining a shot of espresso with a small splash of milk. However, there are alternatives available, including the latte macchiato, which combines an espresso shot with a glass of hot milk. Since this drink is usually made with a smaller amount of milk, a macchiato has a much stronger espresso flavor than both a latte and a cappuccino.
Latte Vs. Mocha
Mocha is an espresso drink that is made in a very similar way to a latte. However, one different ingredient in this drink is a small amount of hot chocolate. Some people mistakenly believe that a mocha is caffeine-free; this is not the case, a mocha contains one or two shots of espresso depending on how strong you like it, along with a small amount of hot chocolate syrup before the steamed milk and milk foam are added.
Latte vs. Espresso
The main difference between a latte and an espresso is the addition of steamed milk and milk foam. Lattes are around sixty percent steamed milk, so they are a much larger drink compared to an espresso. Typically, an espresso shot is around 2-3oz, while 8oz is the smallest size of latte usually available.
In short, cappuccinos are made with an equal amount of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, while lattes have more steamed milk than espresso and a small amount of foam on the top. Macchiatos, on the other hand, are made by adding a splash of milk to your espresso shot.
A few decades ago, coffee was first made into visual art in Italy, the birthplace of espresso and espresso drinks such as the latte. However, it’s American coffee shops that have ultimately made latte art so famous. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, cups of coffee with patterns created from the milk foam became popular in the US, and the popularity quickly spread around the world. By the 2000s, latte art was booming in the Nordic countries and Australia, and currently, Asia is seriously loving latte art, with baristas from Asia coming out tops in the world latte art championships – yes, that’s now a thing!
The appeal of latte art has only grown as consumers become more and more aware of coffee, with customers demanding high-quality coffee more often these days. Professional latte art is hard to perfect, and some of the main qualities to look out for include definition and symmetry of the pattern, high contrast between the art and the coffee, and a glossy sheen without any obvious bubbles. If you want to start making your own latte art, you’ll need to learn how to make a great espresso and microfoam milk that is silky smooth.
The two most classic and popular latte art styles are a leaf or a simple heart shape. Some more experienced baristas might create a tulip or a swan in your cup. Latte art is often created with free pouring; a technique that involves pouring the steamed milk from a certain height onto the espresso, while blending the milk foam and crema with pitcher movements. An etching pen can be used afterward to complete the pattern.
Making Lattes at Home
If you love lattes and want to make your own at home, the good news is that you don’t need to get a professional standard espresso machine in your kitchen to achieve this. Making a latte at home is simpler than you might realize, and you don’t need any expensive or sophisticated tools to do it.
1. Make Coffee or Espresso
The first step involves making an espresso shot or a strong coffee with any coffee brewing method that is available to you such as a portable espresso maker or Moka pot. If you are brewing coffee rather than espresso, make around two to three ounces of strong coffee.
2. Create Your Milk Froth
If you have an automatic milk frother at home, use this as normal to make steamed milk for your latte. But don’t worry if you don’t have one, you can make milk froth by heating milk on the stove or in the microwave. Then, whisk it in a basin or shake it quickly in a glass jar until it has doubled in size.
3. Combine the Two
For the final step, fill a glass or mug around halfway with your espresso or coffee. If you like latte with flavored syrups, add your favorite syrup in at this point. Pour your hot milk in while using a spoon to hold back the foam until the very end, when you should spoon it onto the top of your coffee. And, your latte is ready to drink!
How to Make Iced Latte At Home
As lattes become a more and more popular drink, the iced version is also growing in popularity. If you like to drink your latte cold, the good news is that this is even easier to make at home than a regular hot latte. Coffee shops like Starbucks make iced lattes with just a shot of espresso, ice, and cold milk poured on top, so if this is what you are trying to emulate, it can easily be done. Just be sure to add the ice to the espresso first to allow it to cool a little before adding your milk. As with a hot latte, for a simple vanilla iced coffee recipe, you can add vanilla syrup or flavoring before adding your cold milk.
How do you make an iced vanilla latte at home? Follow these steps:
1. Make Coffee
Firstly, make a strong coffee following the same steps as you would if making a hot latte, using your espresso maker, Moka pot, or another way of brewing coffee.
2. Add Ice and Flavorings
Add some ice to your coffee, along with your favorite vanilla flavoring. The easiest way to get that sweet vanilla flavoring is with a coffee syrup. You can buy these in most grocery stores, online, or from coffee shops.
3. Add Milk
Pour over your favorite milk and your latte will be ready to drink. You can use regular dairy milk, or for a skinny version, use 1% milk for a skinny vanilla latte. Plant-based milks also work particularly well if you are vegan or simply trying to reduce your dairy intake.
If you want a more indulgent and creamier version of the vanilla iced latte, blend milk, ice cream, sugar, and espresso together before pouring into a large glass filled with ice to enjoy.
If your favorite coffee shop drink is a latte, then you’re going to love making this milky coffee drink at home. No matter how you like to brew your coffee, making your own lattes for the morning is easier than you think.