A caffè latte is a coffee drink made up of espresso and milk with a thin, silky layer of foam on top. While the elements of the drinks are really quite simple, this combination results in a balanced taste and a smooth mouthfeel.
Numerous coffee enthusiasts dedicate their time to exploring various combinations of espresso drinks at cafes. However, among all caffeinated beverages, the caffe latte holds the distinction of being widely recognized as the most popular. When it comes to customized concoctions, the majority of specialty drinks build upon the latte as their foundation, including favorites like white chocolate mocha and pumpkin spice.
In this article, we are going to talk all about the caffe latte. We will discuss its history, break down all of its components, teach you some latte art tips, and guide you with a step-by-step set of instructions on how to make the perfect latte at home!
What Is A Latte?
When someone orders a latte in a coffee shop, it automatically means the simplest of all coffee beverages. However, asking for the same beverage at an Italian or European cafe will only get you a glass of milk–this is mainly because the term “latte” actually means “milk”.
The latte is a beverage made of rich espresso and velvety milk, finished with beautiful art like a heart or rosette on top. This beverage is somewhat similar to other coffee-and-milk drink combinations such as the cappuccino, cafe au lait, macchiato, and cortado.
What Is A Latte Made Of?
Milk and espresso–these ingredients are probably the most basic when it comes to creating a delicious cup of coffee. However, as simple as it seems, pulling a shot of espresso and steaming milk requires expert skills to perfectly handcraft a latte.
Optionally, one can add flavorings or syrups to their cup of latte. Flavors such as vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel are amongst the top choices and are added to enhance the taste as well as provide more complexity to the beverage.
And finally, a latte should always be topped with a silky layer of foam that will add an elegant touch to the drink. Baristas can even paint on the foam layer by making intricate designs such as a heart, tulip, or rosette.
Why Is Latte Layered?
There are two primary reasons why a latte is layered–for visual appeal and for balance in flavor.
Firstly, layering the coffee drink will make it more aesthetically pleasing in terms of presentation. This also allows for more creative possibilities, such as latte art, wherein baristas can show their expertise as they create beautiful and intricate designs on the coffee’s foam surface.
Secondly, layering is helpful in the flavor experience. The bottom layer consisting of the espresso provides a more intense taste. Meanwhile, the middle layer composed of steamed milk will add a creamy and smooth texture to the drink. Finally, the top layer of foam retains the coffee’s heat and brings a luxurious touch to the overall cup. Each sip of a latte combines all the beautiful components–rich espresso, velvety steamed milk, and airy milk–resulting in a harmonious, balanced taste and texture.
The History Of Latte
The first caffe latte was actually created for American tourists in certain regions of Italy. These travelers found pure espresso coffee too bitter for their taste, which is why their coffee orders would usually be served with some warm milk to be more palatable. And in the 1980s, the term “latte” was officially standardized at cafes in Seattle, Washington.
While this is said to be the case, European coffee lovers were believed to already began mixing their coffee with milk in the 17th century. In fact, in 1867, the term “caffe e latte” was first used in an essay called “Italian Journeys” by William Dean Howells.
Nowadays, the standard latte has undergone several altercations over the years–and it seems we’ll never encounter the end of the latte’s evolution just yet. Nevertheless, the fundamentals of coffee and milk remain the same up to this day.
How Much Caffeine Is In A Latte?
The caffeine content in a cup of latte depends on how many shots of espresso are added to the recipe of the drink–either single, double, triple, quad and so on. Generally, a regular-sized, double-shot latte has approximately 128 mg of caffeine.
If you’re concerned about the caffeine intake you’re having daily, you can opt to brew decaffeinated espresso beans. While decaf coffee may get you confused glares at the cafe, some of these variants are actually still great-tasting coffees.
How Many Calories Are In A Latte?
Bear in mind that many factors should be considered when we are talking about how many calories are in a cup of latte. Milk type, as well as the addition of sugar or syrup, have significant impacts on calorie count. Skim and 2% milk have a small amount of calories as compared to whole milk. Soy, almond, and oat milk alternatives are even healthier and contain fewer calories too.
In general, one cup of latte has approximately 150 calories–that’s a 12 oz cup with one shot of espresso.
How To Make A Latte?
While making a latte seems easy, baristas take pride in ensuring that every cup served is made to quality. Skills are required in manipulating the espresso machine that will result in perfectly steamed milk and brewed espresso shots. Here is a step-by-step run-through on how to make a latte.
Brew your espresso.
Prepare your finely ground coffee beans and dose your portafilter according to your recipe. Tamp and lock into the grouphead of your espresso maker. Queue the shots and wait for the extraction to finish.
Prepare your milk for frothing.
Pour the milk into a clean steaming pitcher. Place a thermometer and ensure that the tip is fully submerged in the milk to track the temperature properly.
Aerate and steam your milk.
Purge the steam wand to remove excess water. Submerge the tip of the wand into the milk and begin aerating. After about five to eight seconds, position the wand straight down to continue steaming and wait until it reaches the desired temperature. Turn off the steam wand once done.
Add sugar as needed.
If you prefer a sweetened coffee beverage, add sugar or syrup to your cup.
Layer the beverage.
Transfer a double espresso shot into your cup. Dilute the sugar or syrup by swirling. Pour the milk into the espresso slowly and finish with latte art.
Serve and enjoy!
Enjoy your caffe latte.
The Best Milk For A Latte
The kind of milk you choose–whether it’s a dairy or non-dairy alternative–can really make a difference in how your espresso drinks turn out. Whole milk is the champion when it comes to creating that perfect steamed texture. However, when it comes to alternative milk options, variations get even wilder.
Of course, dairy milk is considered the best when we talk about flavor and consistency. It contains the right balance of sugars, proteins, and fats to ensure that one can produce a creamy texture and smooth microfoam upon steaming milk. Meanwhile, non-dairy options like soy, almond, and oat milk also offer sweet flavors but produce less microfoam upon steaming. Nevertheless, there are still many coffee lovers who prefer these alternatives.
How To Froth Milk For A Latte
You know what’s really important for making that perfect latte? Proper milk frothing.
Baristas geek out on their ability to create magical microfoam for your espresso drinks. But here’s the thing: it’s not something you can master overnight. It takes a lot of time and practice. Here are some handy tips on how to steam and froth your milk like a pro.
Tools You’ll Need:
- Stainless steel steaming pitcher
- A calibrated thermometer
- Espresso machine
- Serving Vessel
Pour the milk into the pitcher.
Pour cold milk into your steaming pitcher. Position the thermometer appropriately, ensuring that the tip is completely immersed in the milk.
Aerate the milk.
Submerge the tip of the steam wand into the surface of the milk. Turn the valve and begin frothing the milk. Make sure the wand’s tip is horizontally positioned just below the milk’s surface until you hear a sound resembling the tearing of paper. After approximately 8 seconds, adjust the steam wand to a downward position, submerging about half of its length into the milk. This technique will help incorporate air bubbles into the steamed milk until you attain the desired microfoam.
Stretch the milk.
During steaming, the milk will expand in volume–this is called “stretching.” Maintain a swirling vortex until the temperature reaches 100°F to 115°F. If you lack a thermometer, feel the sides of the steaming pitcher for warmth. Once you get the desired milk temperature, fully close the machine’s steam valve.
Sanitize the wand and finish.
Use a damp cloth to wipe the steam wand and perform a final purge. This prevents milk foam residue from accumulating and affecting the quality of your milk steaming. Check for any bubbles in the frothed milk and tap the pitcher on the counter to eliminate them, resulting in a smoother texture.
Real coffee aficionados are fully aware of the expertise poured over a cup of latte–most especially when these are served with matching art on top. For a barista, latte art consists of careful movements, angles, and height in pouring milk into the espresso canvas. One may find beautiful patterns such as a heart, rosetta, or tulip. And as the coffee industry continues to evolve, latte art designs also become more and more elaborate and intricate.
There are two fascinating approaches in latte art: free pouring and etching. Etching involves the use of a sharp instrument like a toothpick or an etching pen to meticulously create intricate designs directly on the finished latte. Meanwhile, free pouring skips the need for tools and relies on the barista’s mastery of creating perfectly textured foam and skillful milk pouring. Both methods offer a wonderful way to elevate your coffee experience.
How to do latte art?
- Prepare all the tools and ingredients you need: milk, espresso, serving vessel, and steaming pitcher.
- Brew your espresso shots in your espresso maker.
- Slowly pour your espresso into your cup allowing it to slide through the walls of the serving vessel.
- Pour milk into the steaming pitcher.
- Begin aerating your milk for it to develop the perfect foam consistency.
- Continue steaming until the desired temperature is achieved.
- Once finished, turn off the valve and sanitize the wand.
- Swirl the picture to incorporate the milk foam evenly and tap the steaming pitcher on the counter to remove excess bubbles present.
- Tilt your cup at a 45-degree angle, ensuring that it’s facing towards the pitcher’s spout.
- Slowly pour the milk–pencil-width thickness–into the cup. Make sure it’s about four to five inches away from the cup’s surface.
- Once you begin seeing the espresso create a white base, level the vessel upright.
- Wiggle the steaming pitcher concurrently, depending on the art you plan to form. Below are some examples.
Slowly wiggle the pitcher backward until you see a round white figure forming in the middle of the espresso base. When it becomes large enough, and the cup is almost full, go forth to the other side of the cup, forming a heart shape and, cut the stream.
Wiggle the pitcher slowly from left to right until a fern-like art begins forming on the espresso. Break the stream and cut it in the middle to make a rosette.
Slowly pour the milk and wait until a white froth begins to form a round shape on the espresso. Instantly cut the stream and pour again to create another inside the first one. Do this three to six times or until the vessel is almost full. When you make the last pour, cut it right into the opposite side to create beautiful tulip art.
How does latte art work?
Latte art is achieved through the skillful pouring of frothed milk into a cup of espresso. The interaction between air and liquid creates foam, and the barista’s technique and control over the pouring process result in beautiful designs.
Creating the foam involves aerating the milk to achieve a sweet and creamy texture that resembles wet paint. The foam is made possible by hydrophobic molecules present in milk, such as proteins and fats, which create stability and structure.
Pouring the milk is important in making different latte art designs. Speed, position, and proximity of the pouring are crucial steps in the process. By varying these factors, the barista can achieve different shades of white and brown, as well as different sizes and shapes in the design.
It’s important to note that while latte art adds visual appeal to the drink, it doesn’t affect the taste. Good latte art indicates that the milk has been properly textured, but the quality of the coffee itself is also essential for a great-tasting latte.
Why does latte art fail?
Baristas often feel pressure to create perfect latte art, despite its limited impact on coffee taste. By addressing these mistakes, they can improve their coffee presentation. Below are common reasons why latte art fails.
- Wrong milk texture. When steaming the milk, aim for a texture resembling melted ice cream. Use dairy milk (whole or 2%) for the best results.
- Not mixing the crema. This will mean an undefined design in your latte art. Make sure to swirl or mix the espresso in the cup first before proceeding to pour milk.
- Delaying the pour. If you wait too long before starting to pour, the silky steamed milk you’ve achieved will start to separate layers. Blobs of milk foam will form and compromise your latte art.
- Pouring too quickly or slowly. If the pour is too fast, you will lose the crema and get too much white froth on top. Pour too slow, and you’ll allow the crema to rise up and fail to make any pattern at all.
- Improper handling of the pitcher. Make sure to keep the steaming pitcher vertically to get a beautiful symmetrical design.
- Hurrying to finish. Maintain a consistently slow pace in pouring the milk right until the very end. Lift your pitcher slightly and make the milk thinner in thickness to ensure you do not ruin the pattern once you cut the pouring.
- Measuring cup
- Steaming pitcher
- Espresso machine with steam wand
- Serving mug
- 2 ounces of steamed milk
- 1 shot of espresso
- 1-2 ounces of microfoam
- Grind your espresso beans using a fine setting.
- Measure your ground coffee according to your recipe and add a dose to the portafilter.
- Lock the portafilter and start brewing the espresso.
- While brewing, use a measuring cup to estimate about 250 ml of milk.
- Transfer the milk to your pitcher and begin aerating.
- Continue steaming the milk until the desired temperature is achieved.
- Once the brewing is done, transfer the two shots of espresso into the serving vessel.
- Turn off the espresso machine’s valve and slowly pour the steamed milk into your espresso base.
- Top the beverage with a latte art design of your choice.
- Serve immediately and enjoy your latte!
Tip: If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you can brew your own coffee using your desired brewer, heat some milk, and utilize a milk frother to create foam.
Different Types Of Latte Flavors
While a latte is very simple to make with only espresso and milk, you can come up with endless customizations by adding different components. Here is a list of different types of latte flavors you can get the next time you visit your local coffee shop.
Espresso, milk, and a little bit of foam on top–a classic cup of caffe latte. This is also available in iced variants.
Combine a regular latte with some vanilla syrup, and you will have a sweetened version of the popular drink.
Add caramel-flavored syrup to your latte to make it more luscious and palatable. For the sweet-toothed, you can even drizzle a little caramel sauce on top.
A nuttier version of the latte–much sweeter in taste and aroma with the inclusion of hazelnut flavoring.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
The aromatic blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger is added to espresso and frothed milk. A holiday favorite for many coffee lovers around the world.v
A mocha latte, or simply mocha, combines chocolate, espresso, and milk. This is made even more delectable with the addition of whipped cream on top.
Combining your latte with cinnamon-flavored syrup or cinnamon powder adds hints of spice to the beverage and will make it more fragrant and delicious.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is stronger, latte or cappuccino?
In terms of flavor, the cappuccino has a more evident espresso taste. However, both the latte and cappuccino contain the same amount of caffeine.
Can I drink a latte when pregnant or when breastfeeding?
In general, it is safe to drink a latte or other coffee drinks when breastfeeding. However, make sure to limit caffeine consumption to 300 mg a day, as recommended by experts.
Where can I buy latte syrup?
You can buy flavored syrups for your latte at coffee shops or grocery stores. Plenty of options are also available online.
Where can I buy latte cups or glasses?
A latte is usually served in ceramic cups or glass vessels. Different latte cup designs and styles are available on several online shopping sites.
How many lattes per day can I drink?
Some people can drink one latte a day without any problems, while others may need to drink less or more depending on their caffeine tolerance. The general recommendation is to limit caffeine intake to around 400 mg per day, which is about the equivalent of four lattes.
Is having a latte everyday bad for you?
An average person can take up to 400 mg of caffeine each day–this is around four to five lattes.
Is latte just coffee?
A latte is a drink made of coffee and milk.
Is latte milk or coffee?
The term “latte” means milk in Italy and most of Europe. However, in most coffee shops outside of Europe, this is what you call a beverage composed of espresso shots and milk.
Are lattes healthier than coffee?
Most people would choose a latte instead of regular drip coffee simply because it contains more milk and is also sweeter and creamier. However, coffee has lower calories than a latte which makes it the healthier option of the two.
A latte remains to be the classic favorite for several people, whether you’re a die-hard coffee enthusiast or a play-safe coffee drinker. A beloved beverage, a sublime marriage of espresso and milk, a masterpiece of flavor and aesthetics. So, whether it’s a go-to kickstarter for a hectic day or a cup to savor on a leisurely afternoon, the latte will always be a comforting companion that will bring a smile to your face.