What Is A Latte Coffee? Definition, Ratios, & Brewing Advice

If you’re a coffee lover, chances are you’ve heard of a latte, one of the most popular coffee beverages worldwide. But exactly what is a latte coffee? What is a caffe latte, and is it different in any meaningful way?

At its best, the combination of rich espresso and textured milk forms a delicate and delicious balance. And even though the ingredients for this drink are simple, a latte can be a sophisticated process.

what is a caffe latte

So in this article, we will explore all of the details of this beverage, including what lattes are made of, the proper ratios, and caffeine content. We’ll also explore variations on latte coffee and how to make them. Let’s dive in!

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What Is A Latte Coffee? Here’s the 101

Before getting into the details, ratios, and variations on a latte, let’s first get a basic idea of what a latte is and what ingredients are required.

What Are Lattes Made Of?

Exactly what is in a latte? Even though the result looks fancy and complicated, at its core, a latte is simple. There are only two primary ingredients: espresso and milk.

But as you might expect with a specialty approach to coffee, the specific details are crucial!

Do Lattes Have Espresso?

what is a latte coffee? a picture showing what is in a latte and the ratio of coffee to milk.

Yes, you make a standard latte with espresso as the base. You can read our deep dive into espresso coffee to learn the geeky details, but for simplicity, you can think of espresso as a highly concentrated coffee. By forcing hot water through a finely ground puck of coffee beans under high pressure, the resulting espresso is thick, intense, and aromatic.

This intensity of espresso is why it serves as such a perfect base for a latte drink. With espresso as the foundation, the sweetness and texture of the milk create a perfect balance.

Is a Latte Coffee?

The short answer is yes, a latte is a form of coffee. You can categorize a latte in the wider category of coffee because all espresso is coffee. Espresso is just a specific way of brewing coffee, and a latte is a specific way of adding steamed milk to that espresso base.

But keep in mind that not all coffee is espresso!

What is the Latte Ratio of Espresso to Milk?

To find that perfect balance of flavor and texture in a latte, it is crucial to get the correct ratio of espresso to milk. While you will find a range of ratios out there–and a lot comes down to personal preference–the standard ratio for a latte is 1 part espresso to 4 parts milk.

You might prefer a stronger espresso flavor or a milkier drink. But we recommend 1:4 as a ratio because it seems to strike that perfect balance. You can always make other espresso drinks that use different amounts of milk.

Latte vs Regular Coffee

If a latte is just milk and coffee, what is the difference between a latte and regular coffee? Both brewing methods indeed use the same coffee bean. But the primary difference lies in their preparation.

You tend to brew regular coffee by steeping coarser grounds in hot water or using a drip method where water falls through the coffee. The ratio is typically 1:16, and the result a milder and more palatable. But since espresso is the base of a latte, you will get much more intensity and concentration of coffee flavors.

You can read our article on the difference between espresso and coffee for the full details.

What Do Lattes Taste Like?

As an espresso based drink, lattes taste bold. But blending with milk also makes it a smooth experience. Especially if you use the steam wand of an espresso machine, the warm and creamy milk rounds out the harsh edges and intensity of the espresso.

It is also common to enhance a latte with other flavors such as chocolate syrup, vanilla, or caramel. Adding whipped cream can also be a fantastic touch, especially if your milk’s foam quality is not great.

How Many Calories in a Latte?

Considering each latte uses a different type and amount of milk, it is hard to say the exact caloric content of this beverage. But for a baseline, expect a 12-ounce latte made with whole milk to have on average 150-200 calories.
Many people choose low-calorie milk options, including almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk. If you are trying to have a low-calorie latte, try to avoid the additional sugary flavorings and toppings that greatly increase the calories.

Do Lattes Have Caffeine?

The base of a latte is espresso, so you can expect it to contain caffeine. But the exact caffeine content depends on the latte size as well as the specific espresso. An espresso shot can vary in caffeine content depending on the coffee bean type, roast level, and brewing details.

But you can determine most of the latte caffeine levels by knowing how many espresso shots are in the drink. For example, using Starbucks as a way to approximate caffeine level gives you the following:

  • Single Shot: 75 mg
  • Double Shot: 150 mg
  • Triple Shot: 225 mg
  • Quadruple Shot: 300 mg

When in doubt, ask your barista how many shots go into the latte size you plan to order. Additionally, remember that you can also find decaffeinated espresso options that will have significantly less caffeine, even in larger sizes.

Is a Caffe Latte the Same as a Latte?

You may come across the term “caffe latte” or “café latte” when hearing people refer to lattes. While it may be confusing, they are just different names for the same drink. The word “caffe” is derived from the Italian language and translates to “coffee.” Hence, a caffe latte is essentially an Italian way of saying “coffee with milk.” So, whether you order a latte or a caffe latte, you will get the same drink!

Latte Art

One of our favorite aspects of specialty coffee is latte art, the tradition of adding an intricate design with steamed milk to the top of a latte drink. There are tons of designs, and a skilled barista can nonchalantly pour a beautiful pattern even while working a busy shift at the cafe. The art itself does not change the flavor, but it shows the barista’s dedication to aesthetics and craftsmanship.

what is latte art

Our favorite part of latte art is the sharp color contrast between the brown liquid and the white foam. Beautiful latte art represents the best of what specialty coffee is about–being dedicated to brewing the best coffee, no matter how much practice it takes.

Check out Ben Morrow on Instagram for some beautiful examples.

Foam your milk with this milk frother

What Is a Latte at Starbucks?

ordering a latte at Starbucks

At Starbucks, a latte more or less fits the definition we gave earlier in this article. It consists of espresso, steamed milk, and a thin layer of foam on top. But Starbucks is renowned for its drink customizations. People love substituting with alternate kinds of milk or adding syrups/toppings.

You can also customize the number of espresso shots and use milk substitutes like almond, soy, or coconut milk!

Latte Coffee Drinks

A latte might be the most popular espresso based drink. And because of that, there are many latte variations that you should be aware of. Let’s check them out!

Iced Latte

Like iced coffee, an iced latte can be incredibly refreshing as it uses cold espresso coffee and cold milk. You still make hot espresso in the usual way, but pour it over ice to instantly cool. Some people still want to have milk foam in an iced latte, but most coffee shops will just pour cold milk into the chilled espresso.

You can read more about iced latte ingredients to learn the details, brewing advice, and common variations of the drink.

What Is a Mocha Latte

You can think of a mocha latte as a version of hot chocolate for the coffee lover. Sometimes shortened to just mocha, this coffee beverage adds a chocolate flavor to the standard latte. Whether through syrup or powder, the chocolate flavor blends wonderfully with the blend of espresso and milk, especially with darker roasts.

Mochas can also look beautiful when garnished with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

What Is a Latte Macchiato?

The key to understanding a latte macchiato is the translation: “macchiato” translates to “stained” or “marked” in Italian. This name references the brewing style of pouring the milk first, allowing the espresso to stain the milk when poured second. The layering effect of this latte variation has a visual appeal that people enjoy, especially in a glass latte cup.

What Is a Matcha Latte?

Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder that has an earthy flavor. You can usually spot a matcha latte by its vibrant green color. Combining matcha with steamed milk also adds an extra-frothy texture to your milk. People enjoy matcha lattes for the flavor, but they are also popular as a healthier alternative since they have tons of antioxidants.

What Is a Chai Latte?

If you have had chai tea before, then you can probably guess what a chai latte tastes like. Chai is typically a blend of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and other Indian spices. These spices blend with black tea for chai tea drinks. But a chai latte is primarily a milk drink, blending the chai spices with steamed milk. The standard chait latte does not have espresso, although there are recipes that include coffee.

The result is a unique fusion of spices into the texture of foamed milk. People particularly love drinking chai lattes during the winter or as a non-coffee alternative to a standard latte.

What Is the Difference Between Cappuccino and Latte?

For someone who is not immersed in the coffee world, a cappuccino and a latte are pretty similar: they consist of espresso and milk. But for us coffee geeks, there are notable differences between the two drinks.

The primary difference is the ratio of espresso, milk, and foam. Cappuccinos will have more foam, which gives them a lighter texture and stronger espresso flavor. Lattes have more liquid milk and hence a creamier texture and smoother taste.

But coffee experts often argue over the exact definitions, and comparing a latte and cappuccino can get complicated.

Latte Recipe At Home

Many people assume you have to go to a coffee shop to get a delicious latte. But making a latte at home is easier than you think. If you have an espresso machine with a steam wand, the challenge will be learning how to use it correctly. Getting the proper milk foam takes practice, and you should expect to have too much or too little foam the first few times you try.

But even without a machine, something like the AeroPress serves as a fantastic substitute espresso maker. To get foamed milk in this situation, a simple milk frother works well enough to get a good texture.

You can check out our brew guide for homemade lattes to get the full details, including how to get the perfectly frothed milk.

Aeropress espresso maker can work for making a latte at home

What Is a Latte Cup?

A latte cup should be larger than your standard coffee mug since you need enough space for espresso and milk to blend. A good latte cup also has a wide rim so that the foam can float in a thin layer on the top. These wide-rim cups combined with latte art make the drink extra beautiful.

We recommend these 10.5-ounce Coffeezone Latte Cups as they have plenty of room for a standard recipe and come in a variety of beautiful colors.

Can I Make a Latte with Regular Coffee?

As an espresso drink, a traditional latte indeed uses espresso coffee. But you can still enjoy a similar latte flavor when you use regular coffee, especially if you adjust your brewing approach. If you want an iced latte, then using cold brew coffee is a fantastic solution. Especially if you brew cold brew at home, use a strong concentrate so that the coffee flavor balances the milk like a latte.

With instant coffee, use 2-3 times the usual dose (or more) until you find a flavor you like. Similarly, if brewing on a coffee machine, increasing the dose or using a dark roast can help you brew the intense coffee flavor that balances so well with milk in a latte. Also, many coffee pods allow you to adjust brew strength, so brewing an extra-strong cup will get you close to that coveted latte flavor!

Latte Coffee: Common Questions

Before we leave you to explore the lattes on your own, let’s finish by answering some of the most common questions people have about latte coffee.

What is a caffe latte?

A caffe latte is another term for a latte, a combination of espresso coffee and milk. The word “caffe” is derived from Italian, meaning “coffee,” and “latte” translates to “milk.” The two words together signal this delicious and balanced combination.

What makes a latte different from coffee?

The main difference between a latte and regular coffee is that a latte uses espresso and steamed milk, while regular coffee is markedly different than espresso. People usually add cold milk to their coffee, but a latte uses steamed milk to get a rich and creamy texture.

Are lattes stronger than coffee?

Compared to a straight shot of espresso coffee, lattes have a milder and more balanced flavor due to the warm milk. But compared to regular drip coffee, lattes can have a stronger taste, especially if multiple espresso shots are used.

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

The standard ratio for a latte is 1 part espresso to 4 parts milk. This ratio ensures a harmonious balance between the espresso’s boldness and the milk’s creamy sweetness. But many people change this ratio according to their preferences.

What Is a Caffe Latte: Final Thoughts

In its simplest sense, a caffe latte is just milk and coffee. But hopefully, you can now appreciate the complexity of latte coffee and why so many people love it. At its heart, the latte is about balance. Rich espresso blends with the smooth texture and delicate sweetness of steamed milk to make a harmonious flavor profile. And the best coffee beans for a latte will accentuate an intense coffee flavor, allowing the milk to round out the espresso’s boldness.

So whether you want a classic latte or one of the variations, we hope you now feel confident to enjoy this delicious coffee drink whenever you want one!

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