Last updated on August 26th, 2023

Basic Latte Recipe: How To Make A Latte At Home

The cafe latte is one of the most popular drinks for a reason: the combination of rich espresso and frothy milk creates balanced flavors of sweetness, texture, and intensity. This easy homemade latte recipe will teach you how to make a latte at home no matter your setup. We even included our recipe of a latte for people without a machine.

While a homemade latte might not taste as amazing as what you get from your local specialty coffee shop, you will still get delicious results with this recipe while saving a ton of money.

an article about how to make a latte at home

We will even give you some ways to convert this recipe to work with strong brewed coffee and a milk frother. So let’s explore the details of the latte and how to make it at home!

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Basic Homemade Latte Recipe: Here’s the 101

Before getting into the fine details, it makes sense to first have a grasp of what a latte is and how it differs from other espresso drinks.

What Is a Latte?

Despite how fancy a latte can appear (especially if there is latte art involved), the components are surprisingly simple: milk and coffee. Hopefully, you are not as surprised as Larry David was to learn this fact:

Of course, there is more detail and nuance that goes into the definition of a latte coffee. But for this article, let’s just focus on the ingredients and how to prepare them.

Recipe of Latte Ingredients: What is in a Latte?

There are two components to a latte: espresso and steamed milk. But do not let that simple description mislead you. Steaming milk to get a sweet texture and micro-bubbles of milk foam is trickier than it seems.

With the steam wand of an espresso machine, you start with cold milk and gradually add heat and air to the mixture to create a thick texture and a sweet taste. Hot milk with developed sweetness like this balances beautifully with the intensity of espresso.

Depending on dietary restrictions or preferences, many prefer to substitute dairy milk with oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk. There are also extra ingredients such as pumpkin spice, vanilla syrup, cocoa powder, and sugar to add sweetness and creativity to your drink.

Comparing Cappuccino and Latte

Both drinks combine espresso with warm milk. But the ratio of espresso, steamed milk, and foam is different between a latte and a cappuccino. You typically make a latte with only a thin layer of foam on top, and the milk flavor is more dominant. But a cappuccino uses much more foam, resulting in a bolder coffee flavor.

However the differences can be subtle, and coffee experts often disagree on the definition of these drinks. We have an article dedicated to cappuccino vs latte for those wanting to dive deeper into the rabbit hole!

Easiest Recipe of a Latte

Want to skip the complicated details? The easiest recipe for a latte is just combining warm milk with a strong coffee. Espresso is best if you have a machine, but you can also brew normal coffee to be stronger and add warm milk to that.

What is the ratio of milk to coffee in a latte?

We recommend a coffee-to-milk ratio of 1:4. Measure out your cup ahead of time and plan accordingly. For example, an 8-ounce cup could fit 1 ounce of espresso or strong coffee and 4 ounces of milk. A 10-12 ounce cup could fit 2 ounces of espresso and 8 ounces of milk. Remember to leave room for steamed/frothed milk as it is less dense!

Espresso vs Regular Coffee

It is worth briefly explaining the difference between brewed coffee and espresso, and why espresso works much better in a latte coffee drink. While some folks are confused about whether espresso is a separate category, espresso is still coffee—the difference is in how you make it.

A standard coffee machine uses gravity to let water pass through ground coffee over the course of several minutes. Coffee recipes usually use a ratio of 1:17, which is 1 tablespoon of coffee for every 4 ounces of water.

But espresso is a highly concentrated coffee served in 1-2 ounces at a time. Espresso machines force pressurized water through a tight puck of finely ground coffee to create a thick, syrupy, and strong-tasting coffee drink. The espresso crema on top also helped to integrate with milk to create a rich texture.

Espresso vs regular coffee: Understanding the difference between a latte recipe and regular coffee

While you can add foamed milk to regular coffee to get close to the latte taste, the blend of espresso and steamed milk captures the classic latte flavors.

How Caffe Lattes Are Made

The first step to making a latte is pulling an espresso shot, and the standard espresso size in specialty coffee is 2 ounces. Technically 2 ounces is a double espresso, so do not be surprised to see lattes with 1 ounce as a standard size.

An expensive machine with two boilers allows you to make espresso and steam the milk simultaneously. As the espresso falls into the mug, you can froth the milk for 10-20 seconds, depending on the strength of the steam wand. The key to perfect steamed milk is introducing just enough air and heat, which takes practice.

Too much air will make macro-bubbles, and you will lose the creamy texture. And too much heat will burn the milk and produce rancid tastes. If you do not have a machine at home, you can still make a latte with fake espresso/strong coffee and a milk frother.

How To Make a Latte At Home

Later sections will teach you how to make espresso and frothed milk/foam without an espresso machine, but the basic instructions in this recipe will assume you have access to one. You can also learn how to make a latte with Nespresso machines with just a few adjustments!

Homemade Caffe Latte Recipe

An easy homemade latte recipe

You will mostly see lattes in a wide-rim latte cup, usually 10-12 ounces large. Large mugs leave plenty of room for milk, latte art, and any additives you might use. This recipe uses an espresso-to-milk ratio of 1:4. We prefer 2 ounces of espresso (a double) and 8 ounces of milk.

If you prefer a smaller dose, you can alter it to something like 1 ounce of espresso to 4 ounces of milk.

Follow the basic steps below to get a delicious latte at home:

  • Prepare an espresso shot as usual with approximately 18 grams of coffee
  • Pour 8 ounces of cold whole milk (or another type) into your pitcher (always leave room for milk to expand; otherwise, you’ll create a mess!)
  • Pull the espresso shot and steam the milk for 10-15 seconds. Keep the steam wand high enough to introduce air for the first 5 seconds and then lower it to evenly distribute the heat.
  • Properly steamed milk should have the texture of wet paint.
  • Pour steamed milk into espresso vigorously to allow proper mixing, and consider trying some latte art. Fast pours add too much foam, and slow pours add too much liquid—aim for balance!

Caffe Latte Home Recipe Tips

The instructions above are the basics, but you will quickly learn that making a latte at home requires trial and error, and you will likely make some mistakes the first few times (or at least spill some milk!)

So let’s explore some pro tips for dialing in a delicious latte.

Best Milk for a Latte

We recommend using whole milk for a latte as it creates the best texture and taste. Whole milk has fat, protein, and sugars, all of which give your steamed milk a superior texture and taste. Fantastic milk has a creamy texture and sweet taste that perfectly balances the intense espresso flavors.

But you can, of course, use other milk if you are trying to stick to a particular diet. Almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk are popular substitutions. They do not taste as flavorful, but it is still a latte!

Making the Perfect Latte Milk

The biggest mistake that people make is putting too much air into the milk as they steam. The two goals of milk steaming are introducing air and heat. So only allow that suction sound of air to happen for the first few seconds, especially on a powerful machine.

Following the air, lower the wand beneath the surface of the milk to evenly distribute the air while heating the milk for another 10-15 seconds. Perfect latte milk should have a texture that resembles wet paint.

How To Pour Milk for a Latte

A beautiful coffee quote with a picture of latte art

The key to properly pouring milk into the cup is balance. The thicker foam naturally sits on the top of the pitcher while the liquid falls to the bottom. And pouring evenly will mix these two textures perfectly, allowing you to pour latte art as well.

When you pour too fast, you will get all foam and not enough liquid. And if you pour too slowly, you will get all liquid and not enough foam. Pouring milk and making latte art takes practice, but remember that the key is balance!

How To Steam Milk without a Steamer

Without the steam wand of an espresso machine, you will need to use a milk frother to introduce air into your milk. Full automatic models are easiest, but there are also cheaper handheld milk frothers that can get the job done. Just remember to heat your milk first with a handheld option.

Whichever product you use, remember the goal is to introduce air into the milk while creating a spin that evenly spreads the air. It should take around 15-20 seconds, or whenever you see the texture looks more creamy. You cannot get the thick creamy texture of micro-foam from a frother, but it is still a solution to making a latte from home!

Another technique for frothing milk, if you do not own a small hand-held device, is to use another brewing device in your kitchen: the French press. While the results are not as superior, you can introduce air into your milk by pumping the fresh press plunger up and down.

How To Make a Latte at Home Without a Machine

You just learned how to steam milk without the steam wand from an espresso machine, so now it is time to learn how to get a coffee beverage that is close to espresso without a machine. Our favorite method is this AeroPress espresso recipe, which gets really close to the texture and taste of real espresso. With the inverted AeroPress method, a fine grind, and a 1:5 ratio you can get surprisingly close to espresso—all the details are in the linked article!

How To Make a Latte with Nespresso

Nespresso machines do not taste as fantastic as true espresso, and the foam they make is not real espresso crema. But the convenience of this technology is undeniable. You can pull a single or double shot and pour in steamed milk as you would in any other method.

Some Nespresso models include a steam wand and others have a milk frother attached. You can also buy the separate Aeroccino3 Milk Frother which makes hot or cold frothed milk.

Whether you let the espresso fall into the foamed milk or pour the milk in after is up to you—both will create beautiful-looking drinks. And because the Nespresso espresso will likely not taste as intense, we recommend a Lungo espresso shot with 7 ounces of milk. Or you can size down to a single shot with only 4 ounces of milk.

Making a Latte with a Keurig

While a Keurig machine cannot get the same taste as an espresso machine, using a Keurig espresso pod will produce a strong coffee that blends well with steamed milk. An automatic milk frother pairs well with your Keurig machine if you like making homemade lattes.

Caffe Latte Recipe with Instant Coffee

To make a latte with instant coffee, you will want to use a tighter ratio than you normally would. Lattes taste best when the coffee flavor is balanced with warm milk. So consider using twice as much instant coffee powder or half as much water.

Making a Latte Recipe Iced

Especially in the hot summer months, an iced latte can be far more refreshing than a hot one. And it turns out that iced lattes are even easier to make. The difference is you use cold milk instead of cold water, along with ice to keep the drink cold. Be sure to pour the espresso over ice first so it cools down before you add the milk.

You will likely find that using more espresso tastes better for an iced latte as they can taste watered-down easily. Also, making alternative lattes like the oat milk latte is even easier when iced since those kinds of milk do not steam as well.

Delicious Homemade Latte Ideas

While we prefer the natural taste of espresso flavors mixing with the sweetness of steamed milk, many people prefer to spice up their drinks with additives. Sometimes this creates entirely different drinks such as the latte macchiato, the mocha latte, or the fall-season favorite pumpkin spice latte.

Mocha Latte Recipe

For a homemade mocha latte, combine 1 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium until the powder is dissolved and then combine this mixture with your espresso.

Alternatively, you can pull an espresso shot into a cup with mocha syrup and mix this together before pouring steamed milk as you normally would. And for a healthier version, try a sugar-free mocha syrup!

How To Make a Vanilla Latte

Making a vanilla latte is as easy as adding vanilla extract or syrup. Start with one tablespoon of vanilla syrup and add it to the cup of hot espresso. Stir these ingredients to mix well before pouring in your steamed milk.

You can also sprinkle some cinnamon or cocoa powder for some extra flavor and visual appeal!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

If you want a completely homemade pumpkin spice latte, combine 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice, and 1/2 cup of milk in a saucepan. Heat on medium until blended. You may also want to put this mixture in a blender to make it more consistent and frothy. You can then combine this mixture with your espresso, adding some whipped cream or pumpkin spice sprinkles on top.

If the above sounds like too much, you can just use a premade pumpkin spice syrup. For a healthier option, you can also use a sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup.

Homemade Latte Recipe: Common Questions

Before leaving you to attempt making a latte of your own from home, let’s wrap up the article by answering some of the most common questions people have about latte coffee.

How many shots of espresso are in a latte?

A latte will usually have 2 shots of espresso in it, but the amount can change depending on the size of the drink.

What are the ingredients of a latte?

The primary ingredients of a latte are espresso and steamed milk, although many prefer additional ingredients like syrup, spice, and whipped cream. Using non-dairy milk is also a popular option.

How much milk is used in a latte?

The amount of milk used in a latte depends on its size, but a standard two-ounce espresso would use eight ounces. The standard ratio for a latte is one part espresso to four parts milk.

Which milk is best for a latte?

Assuming it fits your dietary preferences, whole milk is best for a latte because it steams into a beautiful texture with a sweet and creamy taste that blends perfectly with the intensity of espresso.

Can you make a latte with coffee?

While it will not have the same texture and taste as a latte espresso, you can make a latte with coffee as long as you brew it to be extra strong. Use a tighter ratio of coffee to water, something close to 2 tablespoons of coffee per 4 ounces of water, and grind finer if you can.

Making a Latte at Home: Final Thoughts

As you can see, the simple ingredients of a latte (milk and coffee) can be misleading—it takes skill to make a latte properly. So don’t get discouraged if the first few homemade lattes are not fantastic, you will get better with time. Lastly, remember that these directions are just guidelines, and you can always experiment to discover the latte that best fits your taste!

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