How to make a latte at home: Answered with a step-by-step latte recipe; espresso and hot steamed milk (it’s milkier than a cappuccino!)

What is a latte?

Often confused with the likes of “Cappuccino” or “Flat White,” the latte is referred to across Europe and South America as; Caffè e latte, Milchkaffee, Café au Lait and Café con Leche.

It was created in 17th-century Italy and has since gained popularity, with creative latte art certifications available today for those interested in becoming professional baristas. 

Made of ⅔ warm, steamed milk poured over ⅓ coffee or espresso and topped with a thin layer of milk foam, a latte is now a staple in coffee shops worldwide. 

The easiest way to tell the difference and understand “what is a latte” is to learn how to make a latte at home.

Let’s get to the ingredients!

Ingredients for a latte: Milk (unspilt).
Ingredients for a latte: Milk (unspilt).

Latte ingredients

If you appreciate the simpler things then your shopping list for this ‘how to make a latte’ tutorial will be very short. 

  • Milk – 2 mugs’ worth (approx 240ml each) of your favourite type of milk. If you need help choosing the best alternative milk for a latte, check out our recommendations below.
  • Coffee – Ground espresso beans, strongly brewed coffee, instant granules. Results will vary based on your choice, so remember to experiment! In a pinch, you can get away with using whatever you have in the cupboard.

If you like things simple, but sweet, you will also need:

  • Sugar/Sweetener – Coffee sugar, stevia, we all have our favourites. But if you are tempted to branch out, we offer a few alternative sweetener suggestions, later on, perfect to curb your craving.

Best alternative milk for a latte

Whether you’re looking for a direct replacement or a tasty twist, there’s plenty of alternative milk to try. But what is the best non-dairy milk to use? Here we offer our favourites for an at-home latte.

Most similar

Soy milk. With a neutral flavour that adds an almost creamy taste to the coffee, soy is widely considered one of the most similar, alternative, plant-based milks to use as a substitute when making a latte. Our personal choice is Silk’s Unsweetened Organic Soy Milk.

For those looking for how to make a latte lactose-free, oat milk is a popular option.

A tasty twist

Pistachio milk. If you enjoy hazelnut chocolate treats like Nutella then why not try a nutty twist on your favourite caffeine kick? Warm, rich coffee combined with a nutty cream. Pistachio milk has become a popular substitution amongst vegan latte lovers. 

Best alternative sweetener for a latte 

Here we offer a few alternative sweeteners for you to test out in your favourite espresso drinks. See our recipes below for more sweet treats, including natural sweeteners.

Most similar

Raw Cane Sugar. The “less processed” little sister of your “regular” cane sugar. Sold in various shades of blonde/golden brown, the light, warm sweetness is a perfect substitute. 

A tasty twist

Coconut Sugar. While “regular” sugar is considered “empty calories”, coconut sugar retains a trace amount of many minerals found in the coconut palm sap that it’s made from. These include iron, zinc, calcium and potassium. While also (marginally) healthier it has a subtle “brown sugar with a hint of caramel” taste, making the latte both rich and creamy.

A half-full french press sits on a tray in a cafe.

What equipment will you need?

Let’s be honest, if you are looking for ‘how to make a latte at home’ there’s a good chance you don’t have a commercial coffee machine and perhaps not even a basic brewing kit.

Bearing that in mind, you can get away with using just 2 mugs and a whisk (or a fork if you’re desperate).

However, if you’re looking to make your first purchase we recommend Kuissential’s “Electric Stainless Steel Milk Frother”. It’s easy to use, hand-held and battery-powered. Or perhaps a French press (cafetière) which you can pick up for a few dollars in most supermarkets. 

For the best brew every time, we do recommend an easy-to-use espresso machine. That doesn’t have to mean splashing the cash, with our guide to the best machines under $500, but if you are looking to invest we have a comprehensive guide to the best machines under $1000 to help you decide.

Espresso shots in a latte glass.
Espresso shots in a latte

How much caffeine is in a latte?

128 milligrams. Your average 2-shot latte will contain approximately 128 milligrams, that’s 64 milligrams per shot. 32% of your RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance).

Lattes can be made with 1 or 2 shots, so if you are trying to cut back on caffeine, try making yours with just 1 shot of espresso.

It is also a good idea to check the box if you’re using coffee pods, as the caffeine content of at-home espresso pods can vary across brands. Starbucks contains approx. 150mg per latte. That’s 75mg per shot, 37.55% of your RDA*.

*RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance)

Homemade latte

How to make a latte at home: Step by step

Depending on your choice of coffee and what equipment you have available, there are a wide range of brewing methods and milk frothing techniques you might use. Here, we will get into a few of your options.

Preparing an espresso shot with an Aeropress.

1. Preparing the coffee 

If you have already invested in a coffee machine/espresso maker this is your opportunity to take it for a test drive and prepare a double (or single) shot of your favourite Nespresso pod. 

Alternatively, taking a small French press or Aeropress and pre-ground coffee, you can make a quick at-home coffee shot. Topping ground coffee with boiled water, leaving the mix to brew for at least 3 minutes (longer = stronger) and then compressing and filtering the coffee grains. Pour the mix to fill of your mug.

For instant coffee, we suggest adding a heaped teaspoon (not heavily, just a little curve) to the bottom of your mug with a splash of cold milk and stirring the mixture while you warm milk. 

Frothing milk for a caffé latte, pouring heated milk onto espresso

2. Frothing the milk 

The best milk frothing technique will depend on 3 things.

  1. What equipment you have
  2. How much time you have
  3. How desperately you need a caffeine kick

If coffee is the big love in your life then you may have stocked up on equipment such as Nesspresso’s “Aeroccino4 Chrome” or Breville’s “the Milk Cafe™”, before reading the how-tos. These not only froth but also warm the milk for you. Simply plug the frother in, pour your milk of choice in and play! Once the lights flash, tap the jug lightly to disperse any air bubbles and decant the fresh froth into your coffee-filled mug. This is your opportunity to practice your latte art, so get creative!

Alternatively, you can use a handheld milk frother (or whisk) to stir your milk as it warms in a saucepan on the stove. This is great for preventing a “skin” from forming on the top of the frothy milk. Stir until it forms a wet-paint texture and then pour gently on top of your espresso. 

Now for the most “basic” option. The microwave. Don’t be disgusted. Needs must when it comes to your mid-morning caffeine kick and sometimes (most of the time) instant coffee and a microwave is the best we can manage with little to no prep time. 

So grab an extra cup, pour your milk in, filling it approx ⅔ of the way up, and set it in the microwave for 1 minute 30. Stir. Then, after 1 more minute in the microwave, pour the hot milk on top of the instant granules and gently stir to avoid destroying the light foam that should have formed on top.

How to make a latte with an espresso machine (and built-in milk frother!) 

True coffee lovers, owning a built-in steam wand, will continue to impress creating the perfect latte from the comfort of their own home. Take a double espresso shot of your favourite ground coffee beans and get to work.

  1. Pour your milk of choice into a frothing pitcher.
  2. Insert the frothing wand into the milk and power on the steamer.
  3. Holding the metal pitcher by the handle keep the jug at a 45-degree angle to create smooth microfoam bubbles.
  4. You can check the temperature of the heated milk by touching the palm of your hand to the bottom outside of the pitcher. When it’s too hot to keep your hand there, stop steaming!
Sugar-coated latte

3. Adding a sweetener

This step is optional. 

For those who enjoy a Splenda, there’s no way to “sugarcoat” it. Just squeeze the box and drop one in.

However, if in the last step you successfully formed a light creamy foam on top of your coffee, here you could artfully sprinkle a sweetener like coconut sugar on top. Freestyle or with a stencil, this topping can add a little decoration to the drink. Plus it’s a lot easier than learning latte art!

If, after learning how to make a latte, latte art is up next on your hobbies list then check out our beginner’s guide to latte art… Next month!

Speciality coffee drinks: Traditional latte & matcha latte.
Speciality coffee drinks: Traditional latte & matcha latte.

4. Spicing it up

One of many ways to improve your lattes is to indeed “spice it up” with nutmeg, cinnamon, pumpkin spice or ginger. These warm flavours are fan favourites in the lead up to Christmas. 

For a decorative addition, add a finely powdered spice, or golden raw cane sugar on top. Serve with dried orange slices and a cinnamon stick to create the perfect shot.

For more “how to make a latte” flavour combinations and speciality coffee drinks see our guides below.

Serve a latte with: A croissant and fruit

What to serve with a latte?

Pastry. Croissant, pain au chocolat, cinnamon whirl, are all well known and heavenly combinations. Dip warm pastry through the foam of your latte and serve with chopped fruit for a light breakfast.

Biscuits. As with the pastry, the simplest combination is often the tastiest, such as custard creams and chocolate bourbons. Perfect for a cold afternoon. But you must get your timing right or you’ll be left with a wet mess at the bottom of your cup!

Latte FAQs: Including the amount of caffeine in a Starbucks latte.
Latte FAQs: Including the amount of caffeine in a Starbucks latte.

Frequently asked questions about lattes

Now you know how to make a latte at home, here are a few frequently asked questions about lattes.

Is a latte stronger than coffee?

No. Comparing a Starbucks grande latte to a Starbucks grande americano, the latte contains 2 shots, 150mg of caffeine (75mg per shot) whereas the americano contains 3 shots equally 225mg of caffeine (also, 75mg per shot).

 If you’re not a fan of strong coffee or like your latte a little lighter, a big difference in taste can be made by substituting your dark roast coffee for a medium coffee.

What is a latte vs coffee?

Lattes contain milk, coffee contains water. A cafe latte often served in a tall glass mug, is made of ⅓ espresso (2 shots) and steamed milk. It is topped with a layer of milk froth to create a light and creamy texture. A coffee, or “Americano”, served in a basic opaque mug, is made of 3 shots of espresso and hot water.

What is the difference: Latte and Cappuccino?

The milk & foam. Lattes are made up of ⅓ espresso to ⅔ steamed milk, with a light foam layered on top. A cappuccino is ⅓ espresso, ⅓ steamed milk, ⅓ milk foam. Cappuccino foam is also often dusted with cocoa powder. (Making it a little easier to differentiate in cafes!)

How many espresso shots are in a latte?

2. Most cafes and coffee shop chains today make lattes with 2 shots of espresso. However, many people cutting back their caffeine intake ask for a single shot. Which still counts.

How much caffeine is in a Starbucks latte?

150mg. Starbucks grande latte is made with 2 shots of espresso containing 75 milligrams of caffeine each.

Is the latte sweetened at Starbucks?

No. However, if you opt to add syrup or whipped cream these do contain sugar. It may also be worth asking if your choice of milk contains sugar. You may be able to get sugar-free substitutes like unsweetened almond milk rather than sweetened.

Is coffee good for you?

Good at getting you up in the morning? Yes. Good for your sleep if drunk late at night? Probably not. 1 cup of coffee affects everyone a little differently and it’s good to find where your tolerance lies. 

The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of caffeine is 400 milligrams for adults aged 18+. That’s the equivalent of 2.66 x Starbucks grande latte. Or 3.125 x your average (128mg) double-shot latte.

Equipment for making a matcha latte.
Equipment for making a matcha latte.

More latte recipes

Looking to experiment but still a latte loyalist? Try these homemade latte flavour combinations:

  • Vanilla Latte – For a flavourful twist on your regular latte, add vanilla beans (or extract) to the milk while it’s heating 
  • Caramel Latte – Drizzle caramel flavoured syrup down the (internal) sides of a tall glass mug before pouring the steamed milk on top of the espresso.

Need to reduce your caffeine? Try this low-caf latte alternative:

  • Matcha Latte – A hot latte made with matcha tea powder instead of coffee. 

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