How to Make a Cafe Latte

Cafe Latte in a coffee cup with a cookie

The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serving: 1 serving

Lattes (or caffe lattes) are espresso drinks made with a fairly large amount of steamed milk. It is similar to a cappuccino, but, while a cappuccino is comprised of equal parts espresso, steamed milk, and foam, a latte is made with much more milk than coffee. Lattes use a ratio of at least 1 shot of espresso to 2 ounces of steamed milk (this recipe is 1 to 3) and are capped with just a thin layer of foam on the top. This means lattes are milkier than cappuccinos, and because it has more steamed than foamed milk, the milk sinks into the espresso in a latte, while cappuccinos have three distinct layers.

In America, it is common to add flavored syrups or powders when making lattes, including flavors such as vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel. In this recipe, the flavoring is optional, so you can customize the beverage or keep the coffee simple. To make any type of espresso drink, you will need an espresso maker; this recipe includes the steps for preparing and pulling shots.

Ingredients

  • For the Espresso:
  • 1 ounce water
  • 1 tablespoon ground coffee (dark espresso or French roast)
  • Optional: 1 1/2 fluid ounces (or 1 shot) flavored simple syrup
  • For the Foamed Milk:
  • 3 ounces milk (or more)

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this caffe latte is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for pulling shots, steaming milk, and assembling your beverage.

Make the Espresso

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Caffe Latte ingredients, coffee, water, syrup, milk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Place the water into the boiler of your espresso machine.

    putting water into a coffee maker

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Put the coffee into the portafilter.

    coffee in a portafilter

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  4. Tamp (press) the coffee down using a tamper. Do this 2 to 3 times to make sure the grounds are packed tightly.

    Tamp (press) the coffee down using a tamper

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Place the portafilter into your espresso machine's group head and lock it in place by turning it to the right.

    Place the portafilter into metal espresso machine

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Place a latte cup (or the glass carafe that came with your espresso machine) under the group head and pull the shot for 25 to 30 seconds. (Typically, there is a lever, switch, or button to start this process.)

    espresso pouring into a coffee cup from an espresso machine

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  7. Once the shot is pulled, add the flavored syrup, if using.

    pouring syrup into a cup of expresso

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

Foam the Milk

  1. Place the milk into either a glass measuring cup or a small metal pitcher.

    pouring milk into a metal pitcher

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Insert the steam wand into the container with the milk, just under the surface.

    steam wand in a metal pitcher of milk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Engage the steam wand on your espresso machine. (You may need to read your espresso machine's manual for this, as each espresso maker is a little different.)

    turn on team wand, milk in a metal pitcher

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  4. Make sure to keep the tip of the wand toward the side of the container. This will create a vortex with the milk.

    steam wand in a metal pitcher of milk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Move the container higher, lower, closer, then further so that the steam wand can incorporate the air into the milk, making the foam. The bubbles should get smaller and smaller as you do this.

    team wand in a metal pitcher of steamed milk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Once the milk has foamed to double its size, turn off the steam wand.

    metal pitcher full of foam / steamed milk

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

Assemble the Latte

  1. Use a spoon to retain the microbubbles on top of the steamed milk and pour the bottom 2/3 of the steamed milk into the latte cup.

    pouring steamed milk into a white coffee cup with espresso

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Top the latte with the remaining bubbles by pouring or spooning them onto the drink.

    caffe latte in a white cup with a metal spoon

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Serve and enjoy.

    Caffe Latte in a cup with a cookie

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

Recipe Variations

  • To make a dairy-free latte, prepare it with soy milk or oat milk; both have the ability to foam in the same way as cow's milk.
  • A latte is sometimes served in a bowl; in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, this is referred to as a café au lait.
  • Iced latte is often served unstirred in a glass cup so that the coffee appears to "float" on top of the milk.
  • In Asia and North America, lattes are often combined with Asian teas. Coffee and tea shops offer hot or iced latte versions of chai, matcha, and Royal milk tea. In South Africa, a red latte is made with rooibos tea.