Cassatt's Cafe

Why you’ve been making latte wrong all along (and how to make a proper one)

Simple things are often the most complicated, and in the world of coffee, things are no different. Latte is at the top of the list of drinks most ordered by people at cafes everywhere, so naturally, it is incredibly easy to screw it up. “What’s so scientific about coffee and milk?” you may say, but believe me when I say there are a thing or two to learn to perfect the making of a latte. An experienced barista with access to a commercial espresso machine will likely be able to whip a latte right out, and nowadays it is possible to get pretty damn good lattes even while at home. Let’s take a look at the main things you should keep an eye out on.

Proportions

Every latte is just a few ounces of the wrong thing away from being a cappuccino and vice versa. It is easy to get mixed up with the proportions since the ingredients in both beverages are the same: espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. The key difference is in the proportions for each drink. Cappuccino is easy to remember, since they are equal thirds of each element. Latte is trickier because the proportion of milk is larger than that of espresso or foamed milk. In latte, both espresso and foamed milk make about 1/6 of the drink each, while the remaining fraction is all steamed milk.

Milk

So what about milk then? Your favorite local coffee shop probably has the best super automatic machine they could get, which probably includes a steaming wand precisely to help in the preparation of lattes and cappuccinos. For latte, the wand should be immersed just enough to steam most of the milk and create some foam, contrary to the way cappuccino milk is steamed to make it gain volume and create foam. You want your milk to be hot and rich, with just a little foam to top the latte off.

So, can I make a good latte at home?

People at home might be tempted to try their hand at making latte the homemade way, but most would end up with something that resembles mostly coffee and milk, not quite latte. Steaming milk at home is difficult without the proper equipment, reason for which most people just try to do it by boiling. Rising the temperature of milk up to its boiling point actually ends up taking away some of its natural sweetness and richness, both elements you want in a good latte. Boiling the milk will also make it bubble, which is nowhere near the consistency of the foam we want on top.

Luckily, you can get around this seemingly insurmountable obstacle with the help of an automatic coffee maker, more specifically a latte machine. These machines can make coffee shop-grade coffee with the press of a button, and they come equipped with elements like the steaming wand, essential for the latte making process. Most of these machines can also make you an espresso, cappuccino, americano, and more. If you are not sure where to begin to look for one, you can take a look at this top list of latte machines.