Ain’t no two ways about it: lattes are delicious. But if you buy yours at a local cafe every morning, you’re spending a lot of cash on coffee. Why not start saving that dough and make your own lattes at home? All you need is the right gear and a little bit of know-how and, as it turns out, we just happen to have both!
If you’re ready to become your own barista, this is everything you need to know about making lattes.
What Exactly Is a Latte, Anyway?
What's the Difference Between Foaming and Steaming Milk?
Tips for Making the Perfect Latte
How to Make a Latte
The Basic Gear You'll Need to Make a Latte
Italian Moka Pot
Electric Milk Steamer
Milk Frothing Wand
Extra Artsy Tools
A latte (short for Caffè latte) is a beverage made from espresso and steamed milk with a light layer of foam on top. The drink starts with a single (or double) shot of espresso, followed by steamed milk that blends into the espresso and develops a rich and comforting beverage.
While the beverage boasts a rich and velvety mouthfeel, the several ounces of milk to espresso ratio gives it a light feel, too. A layer of foam finishes things off just right with this beverage.
A cappuccino, on the other hand, is a similar drink made with the same three ingredients. However, cappuccinos use less steamed milk and more foam than a latte. The two drinks are delicious in their own way but offer distinct flavors and textures.
There’s a lot of talk about froth and steamed milk when making this delicious drink. But what’s the difference between the two? Here’s a quick rundown.
Frothing milk means adding air bubbles with something like a frothing wand. This aeration process creates foam or froth, giving the drink its signature mouthfeel and finish.
Steaming milk produces excellent froth called microfoam and crema, which is essentially used to create those gorgeous works of art in a latte mug.
You’ll need to heat your milk separately if using a basic handheld frother; however, there are electric frothers that steam and froth for you.
Making a perfect latte takes practice, which is great because you also have to drink each delicious cup. From milk selections to achieving a fine grind, we have tips that will help:
- Keep your milk cold: It foams better than warm milk so keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
- Use fresh, high-quality milk: The week-old stuff won’t foam as well.
- Use a burr grinder: There are two main types of coffee grinders: blade and burr. Burr grinders make a more consistent, uniform grind, which is vital when making a well-balanced espresso.
- Use dark roast coffee beans: You can use any coffee beans to make espresso, but darker roasts work best for consistent quality. They also offer a complexity that harmonizes really well when paired with creamy milk. Some brands market a specialty blend called “Espresso Beans,” which are essentially dark roast beans created with espresso in mind.
- Learn how to froth milk: This is pretty easy, but achieving the perfect consistency, and learning how to make microfoam and larger, stiffer bubbles, all take time and practice.
These tips will help when it’s time to actually make your latte, but making mistakes and learning as you go is your best chance to achieve a perfect cup.
Whether you’re a sucker for hot pumpkin spice lattes or the iced vanilla kind to get through the blazing days of summer, this espresso beverage makes a lovely treat any time of year. We’ll walk you through the steps to make your own at home.
- 1-2 shots (or ounces) of espresso
- 4 ounces of cold milk
- Prepare your espresso using an espresso machine or another preferred method, and pour it right into the mug or cup you plan to drink from.
- Steam milk either using the steaming wand on your espresso machine or heat it in an electric milk steamer. Whichever method you choose, temp your milk to ensure it reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature.
- Pour the hot milk into a tall container and use the frother of your choice to create tiny foamy bubbles. Do so by running the frother up and down the container for 15 seconds. Don’t froth for too long; lattes only need a small amount of foam.
- Tap the container of steamed milk to break any large bubbles that may have formed. Carefully pour the steamed milk into the center of the mug.
- Enjoy immediately.
Now that you know how to make a latte, you’ll want to learn about the tools used to make espresso, steam milk, or even decorate your beverage like a pro barista.
Making a Latte at home is pretty easy, and the more you practice, the smoother and richer your latte will taste over time; but you’ll need a few tools and accessories first. Before running through the list of gadgets, let’s talk about milk and coffee beans!
In addition to the milk and dark roast coffee beans we mentioned previously, let’s look at some of the other gear you’ll need to make your lattes.
A burr grinder is an essential tool for grinding your fresh beans down to a fine grind. When making espresso, boiling water is pushed through finely ground coffee beans in a short amount of time. Because the process is quick, having an excellent grind is key.
The burr grinder works to provide a really consistent grind, better than any blade grinders can. Consistency and uniformity are what will make a balanced shot of espresso.
Full disclaimer here: A Moka Pot will not give you a genuine espresso due to the amount of pressure used. Moka pots use two bars of pressure, where espresso machines use nine bars. However, Moka pots are a perfect alternative to espresso machines because they are inexpensive and give similar results.
It’s a great first purchase before spending hundreds (or thousands) on a machine. The Grosche Milano Moka pot will make a really nice concentrated coffee that’s comparable to espresso, and they are popular amongst coffee consumers.
An electric milk steamer/frother combo is ideal for making lattes and great for cappuccinos and hot chocolates, too.
The Secura detachable frother comes with a heating whisk and frothing discs, so you can either create hot or cold froths or simply heat milk. The stainless-steel milk carafe features an easy-pour spout and is also dishwasher-safe.
Milk frothing wands are fantastic because they are easy to use and inexpensive. You can honestly get away with heating your milk on a stove (be careful not to burn) and use a frothing wand to achieve the desired bubbles.
If you are interested in an all-in-one machine that grinds your coffee beans, produces genuine espresso, steams and froths your milk, and provides a delicious coffee-shop-like latte, then you are looking at it.
The Breville barista express is a gorgeously sleek machine that’ll produce the nuanced flavor and rich body espresso should have. Once you sip on a velvety mouthfeel of genuine microfoam, you’ll wish you had this in the past. It’s pricey but worth it for anyone looking to level up.
Now that the standard stuff is out of the way, it’s time to take your latte-making experiences up a notch with mugs, ramblers, and flavorings.
Beyond the basics, lattes are known for their fancy flavors, like pumpkin spice (which you can also make at home), vanilla, and caramel. Keeping your drink temperature controlled is another important factor to achieve quality flavor.
Here are all the accessories you’ll need to make delicious home lattes:
Flavored syrups: If you’re a sucker for the Starbucks flavors, you’ll love having these syrups at home. Vanilla is popular, but feel free to experiment with other flavors like caramel and hazelnut, too.
Glass mugs: For the full latte-sipping experience, a classy set of glass mugs is a necessity to fully appreciate your homemade coffee’s gorgeous layers and colors. These dishwasher-safe mugs are double-walled, which is perfect for anyone who savors each hot sip slowly.
An iced latte tumbler: If iced lattes on the go are more your style, reach for a Tronco glass tumbler with a straw. It’s classy, sleek, and the silicone protective sleeve makes it safe for travel.
A to-go rambler: For hot (or cold) lattes on the go, a Yeti is a must. It has phenomenal insulation and a tight-sealing lid. Rewarming your latte alters the flavor, but in a Yeti, it’ll stay hot so long, you won’t have to.
Once you decide to take your artsy skills up a notch, you’ll love learning about fun microfoam designs and ways to create your own cool features.
Latte art books, stencils, and decorating pens aren’t necessary at first. Still, if you’re really into your lattes, these tools will give you that professional barista edge that’s sure to impress:
Coffee Art by Dhan Tamang: Filled with over 50 unique designs and plenty of great tutorials, you’ll learn how to view your latte as a blank canvas and turn it into a gorgeous work of art. Author Dhan Tamang is a world-renowned latte artist, so you’ll be learning from the best.
Latte decorating pens: These are fantastic tools to have if you want to get into some fine detail work. The stainless-steel material and nonslip grips give these a professional edge ideal for turning homebrewed lattes into works of art.
Foam stencils: These are a bit easier to work with than decorating pens, as they help you dust over various powders, like cocoa and cinnamon. You can try out the designs on your kiddo’s hot cocoa, too! You can create some really cool designs with minimal effort.
If you really love your lattes and are ready to save some cash by making them at home, you’ll find everything you need (and more) on this list. The thing is, once you get started, it’s hard not to become a hobbyist, so why fight it?