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In this article, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about the art of making a perfect latte.
Let’s dive straight in!
What Is A Latte?
The term caffè latte comes from the Italian language, and translates to “coffee and milk.”
And that’s exactly what this drink is – espresso coffee with steamed milk.
But hang on, isn’t a cappuccino also espresso and steam milk?
Yes, it is. In fact, the latte, as well as the cappuccino, flat white and macchiato (to name a few) all use the same two ingredients. But, they differ in terms of ingredient proportion and potency.
And, of course, because of this the final results taste different – even though the ingredients are the same.
Now onto a quick history class.
Coffee and milk has been a traditional part of breakfast in Europe since the 17th century. But the term caffè e latte was first used in the English language in 1867, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Europeans have been drinking this variant of coffee for centuries. But, the version we know today was introduced in the United States sometime in the 1950s. And it took another 30 years or so for it to become as popular as it is today.
The base of a classic latte is espresso, which requires a very finely ground coffee. For comparison, your grounds should be around the same size as table salt.
For the ultimate flavor, freshly ground coffee is the best. So if you own a grinder, you should always grind your coffee fresh. Or, there’s always the option of running by your local coffee store.
Generally, you can make this type of coffee with practically any kind of beans.
That said, medium to dark roasted beans are the best choice for making espresso. They’re porous – which means flavor can be extracted from them in a short time frame. And since espresso is the fastest of any brewing method, this is an important quality.
They also have balanced acidity and strong notes like chocolate, caramel and nuts, all of which go well with milk.
For a latte, the coffee to milk ratio is 1:3, with the espresso usually being a double shot. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can use a single shot instead with the same amount of milk you’d use for the standard double-shot.
But what if you don’t own an espresso machine?
Brewing methods like the AeroPress, moka pot and the French press can all give you a cup of rich espresso-style coffee. Sure, the final result is not the same, but it comes pretty darn close.
Two thirds of a latte consists of milk.
But not just any type of milk.
Ideally, you should make a latte with whole milk. It has a high fat percentage and makes a rich and creamy foam. 2% milk will also do a nice job of making foam, but it won’t be as rich.
Most importantly, the milk should be fresh.
The closer it is to its expiration date, the harder it is to foam.
Vegans, don’t fret!
You can also enjoy a nice plant based latte. Both oat and almond milk easily foam with a good quality milk frother and give your coffee a great taste.
Soy, coconut and quinoa can also work, but they’re a bit more difficult to foam.
An espresso maker with a steam wand will give you the perfect microfoam.
Otherwise called velvet milk, microfoam is smooth and shiny with miniature bubbles.
The ideal temperature for steaming milk is 150°F. Anything higher can burn the milk. Anything lower, and you might reduce its natural sweetness.
The best way to make microfoam is to hold the wand half an inch below the surface of the milk.
The warmer it gets, the higher the foam will be. As that happens, keep lowering your wand so that it stays about 0.4 inches away from the surface of the milk.
Once the pitcher starts to become hot to the touch – it’s done. For the perfect microfoam, you want to aim to turn it off just a moment before it becomes too hot to hold.
When you’re done, give the pitcher a firm tap on the counter. This will get rid of any large bubbles created. Place one hand over the top of the pitcher as you’re doing this to prevent any milk splashing out.
Obviously, not everyone has an espresso machine at home.
It’s no surprise, considering that these appliances are quite expensive.
But you don’t need an espresso maker with a steam wand to make a good latte. Instead, you can use other brewing methods like the moka pot or AeroPress for getting concentrated coffee.
And for the milk?
Just use a frother!
The final result is not the same, but it’s almost as good.
Out of all the tools that you can use to make frothed milk, a standard milk frother is definitely the simplest. It’s fast, easy, and it makes the frothiest foam bubbles.
An automatic milk frother works on the same principle. You add milk to an electric jug that has a small whisk frother inside, and works at the press of a single button.
And then there’s a manual milk frother. It’s like a carafe with a plunger handle that you pump up and down vigorously until you create frothy milk foam.
How To Make A Latte
The art of making latte can easily be mastered.
It’s pretty straightforward. The only thing you need is patience – and a steady hand.
That, and the following ingredients:
- 18g ground espresso (0.6 ounces)
- 250 ml fresh milk of your choice (8.4 ounces)
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, just follow these steps:
- Make the espresso using an espresso machine. If you don’t have one, you can use the AeroPress, French press, or a Moka pot. You can even make a decent latte with a Nespresso machine.
- Steam or froth your milk using any of the above methods you have available.
- Pour the milk over the espresso. Do it slowly, while keeping the pitcher high above the cup. Then, as you reach the second half of the cup, lower the pitcher closer, and drag it across the top to finish so that the milk foam sits on top of your coffee.
And you can just as easily make an iced latte by switching the hot milk for cold foam made from cold milk, and adding ice cubes.
The Basics Of Latte Art
Behind every good latte art lies a great microfoam.
For that reason, you need a steam wand for this. Unfortunately, a frother won’t give you those fine miniature bubbles that are necessary for latte art.
When pouring your foamed milk into the coffee, do it slowly and evenly at a fairly high distance from the cup, in a circular motion. This will cause the espresso and milk to continuously mix.
As you reach the second half of the cup, lower the pitcher closer to the cup. This layer will not mix, so it’ll create a distinctive line between the milk foam and coffee.
From here, you can drag the pitcher across the cup, forming different shapes.
- Espresso machine
- Milk frothing jug
- 18-21 g freshly roasted coffee beans finely ground
- 120-150 ml milk
- Brew a double shot of espresso
- Pour it into a glass tumbler
- Steam your milk to create a microfoam
- Gently pour the foamed milk over the espresso
There’s always more to say about making a latte.
Here are the answers to some questions I had when I first started working on my latte game.
What’s The Difference Between A Latte And A Cappuccino?
While these two types of coffee are made of the same two ingredients, they differ in proportions.
A cappuccino is made of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. A latte, on the other hand, is ⅓ espresso and ⅔ steamed milk, so it has a less intense flavor.
How Much Caffeine Is There In A Latte?
An average latte is made with a double espresso shot, which has around 60 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the type of coffee beans you’re using.
This might come as a surprise, given the fact that a latte tastes milder than other coffee drinks.
But, it actually has just as much coffee and caffeine – it just has more milk.
Can You Make A Decaf Latte?
There’s no reason why you couldn’t drink your favorite coffee drink late at night.
Just switch your beans to decaf.
See You Latte!
As you can see, whipping up a homemade latte is a piece of cake!
While an espresso machine with a steam wand will give you the best results, you don’t have to own a fancy appliance to enjoy your favorite cup of coffee.
There are plenty of brewing and milk frothing alternatives that will give you awesome results.
Trust me, you probably won’t notice the difference.
And, if you want to experiment further with your coffee, learn more about my favorite latte variation – a caramel latte!
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