What is a Latte? Perfect Recipe to Make A Great Latte at Home

by Mama Loves A Drink

What is a latte? Learn all you need to know about this popular coffee drink and find the perfect latte recipe to make this delicious beverage at home.

Latte is one of the most popular espresso coffee drinks, if not the most popular milky coffee drink in the world.

It first gained popularity in Seattle in the mid-Nineties and, since then, it has become a worldwide sensation.

You can get a latte at your favourite coffee roaster, or you can make it at home following our latte recipe and tips for the perfect cuppa.

Before we dive right in with this one, make sure you’ll also read our guide to the best latte machines to use at home. We talk about the difference a specialised machine makes to a normal espresso coffee maker and all our favourite brands!

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Close up of milk pouring from a jug into a latte cup

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What is a latte?

A latte is a popular coffee drink made with espresso and milk.

The word ‘latte’ is Italian for milk and is short for ‘caffe’ latte’ (lit. coffee-milk).

A latte has a single or double shot of espresso and several ounces of steamed milk, gently poured into a large cup and topped with a layer of foam to make a smooth, soothing beverage.

How to make latte at home: must-have gear

To key to a delicious home-made latte is in the ingredients and the care in the milk-steaming process.

If you want to full control over the flavour and strength, we recommend you start from coffee beans you’ve ground yourself.

If you don’t have a coffee grinder, however, there is no need to panic: you can easily make your latte from ground coffee and use whatever espresso machine you have at home and like the most; this can be an electric coffee maker or stove top coffee maker such as a automatic burr grinder: it takes away all the effort and the guessing, delivering the smoother coffee powder you can get.

For maximum control over your latte, you will need:

  • Whole coffee beans and grinder
  • A latte machine or an espresso machine with milk steamer and frother
  • A milk jug
  • A latte mug
  • Coffee, water, milk, sugar if using.

Step by step instructions for the perfect latte

Okay, now that you’ve assembled your equipment and ingredients, it’s now time to start the process.

First, make your espresso.

The basis of your latte is a good espresso: you can use an Italian moka pot for it or an espresso machine and you can opt for either a single or a double shot (Approx 1- 2 oz – 30 to 60ml).

If you have a machine that takes bigger cups, you can make your espresso in your favourite mug or prepare it first and then pour into your favourite container.

If you opt for this solution, we recommend you heat your mug first (you can use water from a kettle) so the coffee doesn’t get cold too fast.

Now turn your milk.

Fill your milk jug to about 1/3rd of its capacity.

Use your milk steamer to warm up your milk: for best results, you should place the wand close to the bottom of your jug and submerge it entirely. Tilt the jug gently to one side and let the milk warm up.

Once you are happy, you place the wand closer to the surface and gently move the jug in a circular motion: this will create a nice foam.

steam frothing milk under pressure from a coffee machine in pitcher, closeup

Now, assemble!

Very gently, tilt your mug with espresso onto one side, then slowly pour your hot milk in.

To prevent your foam to disappear under the weight of the milk, try to keep the jug very close to the cup rim.

If you feel creative, you can move the mug around so that the milk makes a delicate design on top of the coffee. However, don’t stress if you don’t feel like a perfect barista yet, the taste will be the same!

Now your drink is ready: all you need is sugar or sweetener, if using, and you are ready to enjoy it!

Making a latte from coffee pods

A convenient alternative to fresh coffee beans and grinding coffee yourself is to use coffee pods or coffee capsules.

These small pre-packaged coffee grounds – usually in plastic or aluminum – are placed in a “pod” compartment of your coffee machine. The espresso shot is still made by forcing pressurised, near-boiling water through the coffee grounds for a highly concentrated brew.

You need to be careful when purchasing pod coffee that you buy the right sorts of pods or capsules compatible with your machine. Most pod coffee makers take either Nespresso or Keurig products.

But the confusion doesn’t end there – not all Nespresso and Keurig “pods” are equal (that would be far too easy!) and terms are very often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences.

  • Nespresso machines are either Vertuo or Original Line. Vertuo machines only takes specialized Nespresso Vertuo pods, while “Original” or “OriginalLine” machines take smaller Nespresso capsules, plus a wide range of compatible capsules from other manufacturers.
  • Keurig make K-Pods and K-Cups – quite different products. A K-pod is a flat, round package of coffee grounds inside filter paper (sort of like a tea bag); A K-Cup pod is a larger plastic capsule with a foil lid. They are only compatible with Keurig and Keurig-branded machines.

We have a detailed guide here to the best types of Nespresso pods for latte making which will cut (some of) the confusion in pod buying!

What is a breve latte?

Although the name may not give it away, a breve latte is simply made with half and half rather than milk. Half and half gives a richer, creamier result as it’s made with heavy cream. This can be commercially bought pre-mixed in a carton, or you can make your own half and half at home.

We explain more about breve and the difference between breve coffee and breve latte over here.

What is an iced latte?

An iced latte is a milk espresso drink that is served cold. This can either be a regular latte that is then put over ice, or you can make your latte with espresso without heating the milk and serve icy cold for a deliciously refreshing summer treat.

Can you make a dairy free latte?

Milk is the main ingredient in a latte, however, this doesn’t mean you cannot use milk alternatives.

The main thing you need to be aware of, when opting for a dairy free version, is that non all non-dairy milk come out as foamy as ‘the real thing’.

You can read about options, pros and cons in our guide to milk alternatives.

Love coffee? Find all our favourite coffee recipes and jargon-busting explainations in our Coffee Connoisseur section!

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