How to make a Perfect Latte at Home (with or without an espresso machine)
A cafe latte consists of a strong espresso shot and two-thirds of frothed milk, making it a perfect combination of flavors. When made well, lattes can feel like warm hugs that wrap us in silky, sweet, coffee-flavored goodness.
Fortunately, lattes are easy to make at home. You only need a few ingredients, and you are good to go. If you’re patient and prepared to put in a little effort, you don’t even need an espresso machine. Let’s go through how to make a latte at home.
What you need
- Coffee beans (espresso beans work best)
- A latte glass or cup
- An espresso machine (ideally, with a steam wand)
- If you don’t have an espresso machine, an alternative brewing method like a French press or AeroPress
- Additional toppings and syrups (optional)
At a Glance
Whether you’re brewing your coffee with an espresso machine or not, your latte ingredients will be the same. They are as follows:
Coffee Beans (for espresso brewing)
The main ingredient of every latte is coffee. Without coffee, a latte is just milk. You can grind your coffee beans if you have a coffee grinder, or you can buy a pre-ground coffee at a local coffee store.
If you have a local coffee store that roasts its own beans, it is usually the best way to go. Most of the time, it will be fresher than the pre-ground coffee you’ll find at the grocery store. As the latte is an espresso-based drink, dark-roasted espresso beans will be best. Medium-dark roasted beans make the best espresso and will add a distinctive flavor to your latte and enrich it with crema. Check out the best espresso coffee beans here.
With most of your latte being milk, the type of milk you use will have a significant effect on the flavor. Although whole milk will give the richest taste, there are alternative types of milk you can use.
Skimmed, semi-skimmed, long-life milk, soy milk…all of these will work. I personally go for whole milk because you get richer and creamier consistency and that whole flavor
If you’ve ever tried to create a latte with plant based milk, you’ll agree that its much harder when compared to whole fat milk. (1):
A Latte Glass or Cup
A typical latte glass is 240ml (or 8oz). Getting a glass or cup of coffee this size will help you to measure the ideal amount of milk that you need to pour.
An Espresso machines (ideally, with a steam wand)
If you own an espresso machine, it will certainly be easier to brew coffee for your latte. Better machines also have a steam wand, which steams milk to the ideal temperature. If you don’t have a machine, this article will explain how to make a latte regardless.
You can brew an extra-strong pot of coffee with a dark roast instead of making espresso in a machine, but the flavor will not be the same.
Additional Toppings and Syrups (optional)
Although a well-made latte provides sweetness on its own, some people feel the need to augment it. The most popular latte additions are cinnamon, chocolate, and flavored syrups.
How To Make A Latte With An Espresso Machine And Steam Wand
Now that you have everything you need, let’s go through the simple latte recipe. If you have a coffee machine and a steam wand, here’s what you do:
1. Preheat your cup
Preheating is a small step, but it is very important. If you don’t preheat your cup, your shot of espresso will go cold while you steam and froth your milk.
Most espresso machines have a cup warmer. If you don’t have one on your machine, fill your cup with hot water and let it sit for a minute while you prepare your shot of espresso. Once your cup has warmed up, move onto step two.
2. Pull a double shot of espresso
For each latte that you want to make, brew a double shot of espresso and pour it in your latte glass. If you prefer a weaker coffee flavor, brew a single shot.
3. Froth your milk
Put your milk of choice in a frothing pitcher and steam it using your machine’s wand. For regular milk, the ideal temperature is 150°F. If the temperature rises above this, it may burn the milk, which will reduce the milk’s natural sweetness and ruin the flavor. Ideally, you’ll want to hold the wand about half an inch below the surface of the milk so that you end up with mostly hot milk and a little froth on the top. (2)
Pour the steamed milk into your glass. Take your time with this and try not to splash or spill any of the hot milk or espresso. (3) You want to pour slowly so that the milk pours first, and the froth follows at the end of the pour.
Once you start to get more confident, you can play around with a little latte art.
With your cup in an angle, start by pouring your milk in from a height. As the cup is nearly full, let that silky milk just fall off from the jug, appearing at the center. Then finish by cutting through and lifting the jug.
Don’t worry, if you don’t pick it up quickly. While expert baristas make latte art look easy, you’ll soon realize it takes plenty of practice. Keep at it!
How To Make A Latte Without an Espresso Machine (or milk frother)
If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can still make a ‘pretty decent’ latte. As you won’t have the 9 BAR of pressure you need to brew genuine espresso, you will need to use a different brewing method that can produce strong coffee. The stronger, the better. You can use a French press or an AeroPress, but if you have it, a Moka pot is your best bet. Once you’ve decided on your brew method, this is what you do:
1. Brew a strong black coffee
As we’ve already pointed out, a Moka pot works best. If you’re using another brewing method, however, it might be worth double brewing your coffee to make it stronger.
On the other hand, you may just make a really strong pot of coffee with a dark roast, but the flavor will be slightly different.
2. Froth your milk ‘DIY style’
To heat your milk and create a froth ‘DIY style,’ you take a microwaveable jar or pot that has a lid and half fill it with milk. You then tighten the lid and shake it as much as you can while holding it tightly. This agitation should froth the milk. You then need to microwave it for 30 seconds.
We go into more detail on how to froth and steam milk without a steam wand in this guide – check it out.
3. Pour your milk
You should now have hot and frothy milk. You will need to use a spoon to hold back the foam as you pour the hot milk over your coffee. After that, add the foam on top with the spoon.
You can see what’s possible using this method in the video below:
As you can see, you don’t need to be an expert barista to make yourself a nice latte at home. You don’t even need to have a specialized espresso machine as long as you have another brewing method handy and a bit more patience and versatility. All you have to do is brew the coffee, froth the milk, and, most importantly, enjoy your drink.
Usually, there is around 180ml (6oz) of milk in one caffè late. Most coffee shops outside of Italy serve latte in a 240ml (8oz) glass with 30ml or 60ml of espresso (depending on whether it is a double or regular shot).
Most of the time, there are either one or two espresso shots in a latte. Most shops make larger-size lattes with a double shot of espresso, while using a single shot for smaller-sized lattes.
You can froth milk by shaking it in a sealed jar as hard as you can and then microwaving it for half a minute. Here’s a guide we created on this topic.
- Caffe Society. (2012, December 05). How to Make a Latte -Barista Tips. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJQSGVW0Tn8
- Alkin, G. (2015, July 21). The Science of Steamed Milk: Understanding Your Latte Art. Retrieved from https://www.scienceandfood.org/the-science-of-steamed-milk-understanding-your-latte-art/
- Jamie Oliver – Drinks. (2016, January 06). How to Make a Latte. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAvsOpyyle4