Cafe Latte is arguably the staple of any modern coffee shop or cafe. And with such a wide array of flavors to choose from, why wouldn’t they be? Every coffee lover has had a latte at one point, but there is a lot more to them than first meets the eye.
Lattes are incredibly technique-heavy and require an experienced barista. Unlike brewing methods that create coffee only, lattes combine brewing espresso with steaming milk. Milk is well-known as a temperamental ingredient, which makes achieving the perfect latte even more of a feat!
If you have been searching for the ultimate guide to making the perfect latte, look no further. As a barista of many years (and a big latte fanatic), I am here to teach you how to make the creamiest, frothiest, most flavorful latte you have ever had. Let’s go!
What is a Cafe Latte?
A drink is considered a latte when it contains a base of one or two shots of espresso, several ounces of steamed milk, and a layer of foam. Even the amount of each of these components matters!
Lattes require more steamed milk than foam. This is what sets them apart from cappuccinos. Add too much foam, and your latte will turn into a cappuccino. They often blend all the ingredients together to create an even distribution of flavor while cappuccinos have distinct layers. No hate to cappuccinos, but we’re attempting a latte today, thank you very much!
Most people who order latte will add flavored syrups to create unique combinations. Personalization is also done by using various types of milk. Although both 2% and whole milk are common, alternative milk choices such as almond and coconut milk have risen in popularity. Every time I try to order an oat milk latte, the barista sadly informs me that oat milk is such a popular order that they have none left!
What is great about lattes is that they are pretty standard around the world. No matter where you travel to, you can find a cute and trendy coffee shop, order a latte, and it will taste pretty similar to lattes you normally get.
How to Make Latte?
While nearly every latte contains the exact same ingredients, the technique you use to brew a latte can vary widely. Here is a recipe to make the perfect latte every time:
What you need
- Espresso machine
- Burr coffee grinder
- Steam wand
- Steam mug with a spout
- Coffee beans of preference
- Milk of preference
- Flavored syrup (optional)
Steps to Follow
- Using the burr grinder set to the finest option, grind the coffee beans.
- Pack the beans into the portafilter’s basket, leaving them slightly rounded. Tap the portafilter firmly but gently on the counter to settle the grounds
- Using a tamping rod, press into the coffee grounds to pack them into the portafilter basket.
- Place the portafilter basket into its secured position on the espresso machine. Place two espresso shot glasses under the spouts and pull the lever to begin the brew
- While the espresso shots are being pulled, fill the steam mug 2⁄3 of the way full with your milk of choice.
- Place the steam wand inside the mug. The wand should be a centimeter above the bottom of the steam mug. For best results, hold the mug at a 45° angle tilted toward the espresso machine.
- Turn on the steam wand and slowly raise the wand until it is about 2 centimeters below the top of the milk. Hold this position for three seconds.
- Place the steam wand back into the bottom of the steam mug and wait for the steam wand to automatically turn off.
- Pour the freshly pulled espresso shots and any flavored syrups into the serving cup.
- Pour the steamed milk into the serving cup until it is 2⁄3 of the way full.
- Once the serving cup is 2⁄3 of the way full, pull the steam mug closer to the serving cup and slowly pour the steamed milk while moving ir from side to side. This should create white ripples in the coffee.
- Move the steam mug perpendicular to the ripples while pouring to create a while foam line cutting across the ripples. This will create a flower design.
- Add any garnish you prefer and enjoy.
Ultimate Guide to Make the Perfect Latte
If you are reading this, you are probably thinking, “I know what a latte is!” but have you ever really stopped to think about its individual components? A latte is only as good as its individual parts. In order to create the perfect latte, we need to master every ingredient. Let’s start with espresso.
Espresso is the base of the caffe latte. True espresso can be made using an espresso machine only. The espresso machine works by heating up water and pushing the pressurized steam through a basket of tightly packed, finely ground coffee beans. The result is a rich, creamy espresso, perfect for a latte – or just on its own.
If you don’t have an espresso machine you can try alternative methods to make espresso. Moka pot coffee is one of my favorite brewing methods because of its rich, strong taste. It is as close to espresso as I have ever brewed at home! Combining Moka pot coffee with steamed milk can create a wonderfully aromatic latte.
Because the brewing methods are distinctly different, Moka pot coffee cannot be considered espresso. This does not mean that it can’t be used to create wonderful lattes, when added to steamed milk, however! This does not mean that it can’t be used to create wonderful lattes, when added to steamed milk, however!
Read this guide on how to make the perfect espresso using an espresso machine and without a machine.
Steamed milk is created with a steam wand that is often attached to an espresso machine. Many steam wands can be purchased separately as well. To create steamed milk, pour your milk of choice into a heat-safe container with a handle. Most baristas prefer steam mugs.
Dip the steam wand all the way into the milk but be sure not to touch the bottom of the milk’s container. Leave about a centimeter or two of room between the bottom of the container and the steam wand
Next, turn on the steam wand. Once it is turned on, the wand will inject steaming hot air into the milk, creating pressure and bubbles that will rise to the surface. The wand not only heats the milk but froths it as well. Slowly pull the steam wand to the top of the milk container but be careful not to go above the surface of the milk.
When the wand is about one centimeter from the surface of the milk, the sound will change to an unpleasant ripping noise. It is hard to miss and is probably the worst part of steaming milk.
Hold this position for about three minutes. This will create tiny pockets of air that will turn into foam. If you prefer a little more foam on your latte, hold this position for longer. Once the foam has been created, you can slowly dip the steam wand back into the bottom of the milk’s container and let it sit there until the steam wand automatically turns off.
Unfortunately, there is no way around the sound that baristas lovingly refer to as the “death screech.” This is the loud ripping sound the milk makes as it steams. It is, however, a good indicator of how well the milk is steaming. If you hear the death screech for more than half of the time it takes the milk to steam, it will probably taste sour.
Angling the milk container slightly will help eliminate the death screech. Try using a 45° angle. This angle will also maximize the amount of foam your steamed milk produces.
Various milk alternatives will differ in the way they steam. Coconut milk is a lot thinner and requires less time to steam than half and half, which will emit the death screech practically the entire time it is being steamed. Soy milk in particular is fun to steam because it creates a beautiful froth due to its thicker texture. Part of the fun of making lattes is experimenting with milk alternatives.
Steaming milk to create foam does have a trick to it, and it has nothing to do with the barista or their technique. The more fat the milk has in it, the better it will foam. This is why serious baristas almost exclusively use whole milk to make lattes
.While we all love steamed milk, not all of us have access to a steam wand. There are a few at-home methods to create a similarly frothy beverage. If you have access to a french press, this can be a good way to create foamed milk.
The small holes in a french press’s metal filter allow pockets of air to enter the milk. To create foam with a french press, pour in the hot milk and pump the filter up and down until the desired amount of frothy goodness has been achieved.
One of the biggest differences between a latte and a cappuccino comes down to the pouring methods. Cappuccinos contain a lot more foam than lattes and also have very distinct layers of espresso, steamed milk, and foam.
A barista can achieve these layers by scooping the foam into the serving cup instead of pouring it in. Lattes are much simpler to create. Their ingredients can be poured directly from the steaming pitcher into the espresso. Because the foam is much lighter than the milk, most of it will remain on top.
Lattes are more forgiving than cappuccinos. While a cappuccino needs distinct layers, it is okay if some of the foam mixes in with milk and espresso. So while the perfect latte will have a perfectly white foam layer on top, if it is a little browned by the espresso, it can still be considered a latte.
What is the difference between a latte, a cappuccino, and an americano? Lattes, cappuccinos, and americanos are easily confused. They are prominently
displayed on the menu of nearly every coffee shop and can taste similar if you don’t know what you are looking for. The biggest difference between the three of them is the technique used to make them.
Both lattes and cappuccinos are made of espresso, milk, and foam. They use nearly identical processes to create the espresso and the steamed milk. The first difference arises when the espresso and steamed milk are combined.
Cappuccinos have distinct layers of espresso, milk, and foam, whereas lattes do not. Lattes allow the mixing of all three ingredients to distribute the flavor evenly in every sip. While latte ingredients can be combined and even stirred, a drink only qualifies as a cappuccino when it has distinct layers and a larger amount of foam than milk.
Cappuccino ingredients are combined differently than lattes to get the layered effect. First, an espresso shot is pulled and milk is steamed. Then, milk is slowly poured into the espresso while the barista holds the steamed milk’s foam back with a spoon. Once the desired amount of steamed milk and espresso has been achieved, the barista scoops the foam and gently places it on top.
The difference between a cappuccino and a latte can be distinguished just by holding the cup. Because foam has a lot of air, a cappuccino will feel significantly lighter than a latte. The heaviest out of the three drinks is the americano.
The americano is also the most different. It does not require any milk, although many add it for taste. Instead, the americano combines espresso with hot water. It is the perfect drink for people who don’t like creamy tastes or for people who are watching their health.
The first step to creating latte art is having a well-steamed cup of milk. The thickness of
steamed milk is what allows lattes to hold a design. It doesn’t matter how good your art skills are if your milk steaming skills are lacking.
To create a latte flower, slowly pour steamed milk into the cup filled with espresso. When the cup is half full, close the gap so that the steamed milk you are pouring is closer to the espresso. This will begin to create some contrast in color.
Once you start to see the white pop against the coffee instead of mixing into it, move the cup from side to side gently. This will create a zigzag pattern with a rippled base. Then, pour the steamed milk in a straight line perpendicular to the ripples. It is important to keep the milk close to the espresso cup while pouring so you can get distinctive lines.
A well-made caffe latte is a mouth-watering and delicate experience. It’s no wonder why latte is so popular around the world.
There are, of course, cultural variations in how the espresso is pulled and what kind of milk is used, but ultimately lattes can be a reminder of home when traveling abroad.