This guide is for all you coffee lovers out there who want to learn how to make a latte and enjoy this delicious and creamy drink in the comfort of your own home. Whether you own a top-notch espresso machine or you want to learn the basics, we will walk you through the steps to creating the perfect latte.
First of all, we need to know what a latte is and what it isn’t. A latte is 1/3 espresso and 2/3s steamed milk with just a layer of foam on top. If you like your latte super foamy, you might be better off with a traditional cappuccino. Check out our chart below for a visual breakdown of the differences between a latte, cappuccino, flat white, and macchiato.
But this guide is about how to make a latte, so let’s not get sidetracked.
How to Make A Latte: Recipe
2 oz of espresso (2 shots)
8-12 oz of cold milk of your choice though whole cow’s milk works best
A large size mug
Step 1 – Espresso
The first step to any latte is the espresso. There is much debate from coffee lovers the world over as to what makes the best espresso. However, for a great latte, really all you need are the right tools and the right beans.
The best beans for a perfect espresso are usually dark roast beans with a flavor you enjoy; personally, anything with a hint of chocolate is my go-to. The coffee must be ground finely enough to use in your machine. If you are unsure, choose a pre-ground espresso roast coffee.
Once you see the difference between espresso and your regular drip coffee, you will have a better idea of how fine to grind your beans, if you choose to do so next time. If you grind your beans before making an espresso, be sure you find the right setting on your coffee grinder or grind your beans longer than for regular coffee.
Step 2 – Equipment
Now for the tools. You could use an espresso machine, a Nespresso or other pod-based machines, a manual espresso machine, or an Aeropress.
Using a pod-based machine can make things easier because it takes the guesswork out of the process. However, many pod-based machines don’t work as well as traditional espresso machines, and you have less choice over the types of coffee you can use.
We recommend either an espresso machine or Moka Pot for best results. If you don’t have either, check out our article How to Make Espresso for other options.
Fill the portafilter to the appropriate level for a single or a double shot espresso and let your machine do the rest.
However you choose to make your espresso, always try to make it right into your latte cup, so you don’t have to pour it into a separate mug. This way will ensure that the crema will stay more intact.
Step 3 – Steamed Milk
Now that you have created the perfect espresso with a beautiful layer of crema, it is time to get started on the milk.
What kind of milk you use is really up to you, but we suggest whole milk as it steams the best. But don’t worry if you are someone who uses non-dairy-based milk, you can also make a great latte with a milk alternative. We suggest oat or coconut for this. Finding a barista-made alternative will help because the additives allow the milk to steam better.
Now that you have your milk ready to be steamed, some espresso machines come with a wand for just this purpose. Fill a separate milk jug or mug to about 1/3 full. The milk will want to expand as it heats, so don’t overfill it.
Heat the milk with the wand by placing it just below the surface and moving the wand slightly toward the lower edge of the jug to create a spiral motion in your milk. This will create a lighter, velvety microfoam, which is the best for a latte. But be careful, it is very easy to burn your milk.
If you don’t have an espresso machine with a steaming wand at home, that isn’t a problem. You can heat your milk on the stove and use a hand frother to create the foam. Again, milk burns very quickly, so keep a close eye on it while on the stove. Only froth it once you have poured it into a separate mug from your espresso.
For other methods of frothing milk, check out our guide on how to froth milk without an espresso machine.
Handheld frothers are inexpensive and quickly build foam. For a latte, you only need to froth a little bit before you combine ingredients. You can even heat your milk in the microwave by placing it in a microwave-safe mug and stirring it at 15-second intervals. Be careful not to let it heat for too long, as it will expand and can make a mess of your microwave. The stove or a milk steamer are the recommended methods.
Step 4 – Combine
The last step in making the perfect latte is to pour your steamed milk over the espresso. At a coffee shop, this is when baristas create beautiful leaves and art on their drinks at the coffee shop. But you don’t have to create a masterpiece to make a delicious latte.
Pour the milk over the espresso starting from a high-up position and try to hold back the foam so that it lands on top, creating that perfect mix of milk and espresso.
Although there are only a few steps of how to make a latte, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Here are our top latte tips:
- Find your favorite espresso by trying a few out. Every type of coffee makes a different-tasting latte.
- Don’t overheat your milk. A latte won’t taste nearly as good if the milk gets burned.
- When starting out, first make your espresso and then steam your milk. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to save time by steaming the milk while the espresso is pouring.
- Experiment with flavors. You can add syrup, or flavored coffee creams to your latte to make it just like they do at the coffee shop.
Making a delicious latte does not take a lot of steps, but it does take practice! Don’t get discouraged when you first start trying to make your own latte. If it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, practice with different tools and methods to find the best fit for you.