If you love a good latte in the morning, but don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a home espresso machine, or five dollars a day at your local coffee shop, have no fear. You can make an utterly delicious latte in your kitchen, and you probably already have everything you need.
Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to make a latte at home, and keep your eyes peeled for some helpful tips that will put you ahead of the curve.
- What You Need
- How to Make a Latte Without an Espresso Machine
- Final Thoughts
What You Need
For the milk:
- Thermometer (optional)
- Mason jar
For the espresso:
- Whole Coffee Beans
- Coffee Grinder
- Aeropress, Moka Pot, or French press
- A latte glass or mug
How to Make a Latte Without an Espresso Machine
A latte is what the English-speaking world calls the traditional Italian drink caffe latte, which means coffee with milk. It consists of one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, with just a thin layer of foam on top.
Interestingly, in Italy, lattes are a morning drink that is almost always made at home using a Moka pot. In the words of one Italian:
Caffè della moka is the way most Italians start their day. Everyone has a moka at home which is as basic a piece of kitchenware as the pasta pot.Niccolo’ Dall’Asta of Milan, Italy
So, by making your latte in your own home, you’re not cheap; you’re authentic.
Related: Macchiato vs Latte
Step 1: Make the “espresso”
For a real espresso, water is forced through finely-ground coffee beans at about 9 bars of pressure (1). The high pressure is what produces the beautiful crema that signifies a top-notch espresso shot. While this pressure is impossible to generate at home without an espresso machine, you can still brew an extra-strong coffee that serves as an excellent basis for a latte.
Grind the Beans
The first order of business is to grind the beans. The choice of beans is up to you, but a medium-to-dark espresso roast will yield reliably excellent results.
Grind the beans as required for whichever coffee maker you choose, using a burr grinder if possible. This is because burr grinders give a more consistent grind and won’t heat the beans like a blade grinder, which can produce a burnt taste.
Brew the Coffee
While any extra-strong brewed coffee will do the trick, the best methods are a Moka pot or an Aeropress. Like an espresso machine, both rely on pressure to brew coffee, though neither approaches 9 bars. An Aeropress maxes out around 0.7 bars (2), and the Moka pot hits about 1.5 bars (3). If you’re striving for authenticity, the Moka pot, with its Italian roots, is the best choice.
Still, some people also swear by the French Press. While not a pressure-based brewer, it can brew a robust coffee that is rich in oil, giving a similar mouthfeel to espresso. In case, you want the real deal, here’s where we listed some of the best espresso machines in the market.
Whatever your choice of method is, after the brewing, pour 2 ounces of strong brewed coffee into an 8-ounce latte glass and move on to the milk.
Pro Tip: It’s always best to preheat your mug. Pour a little boiling water into the latte glass while you prepare the espresso.
Step 2: Make the frothed milk
To know how to make a latte without an espresso machine you must master the milk frothing. So, if you aim for a delicious latte, focus on the following tricks and tips
Using a Mason Jar
The easiest way to make frothed milk without a steam wand is to simply pour the cold milk (about 6 ounces worth) into a glass jar with a sealable lid. You must shake it vigorously until it’s frothy, then remove the lid, place the jar into a microwave, and heat it for 30 seconds.
At this point, you can trust that it’s hot enough, but for more consistent results, a thermometer comes in handy. You want the milk to register between 140 ℉ and 160 ℉ for the best flavor. If the temperature goes over 180 ℉, the milk will scald and spoil your latte.
Using a French Press
If you have a French Press, an equally effective method is to pour your cold milk into the French Press and vigorously move the plunger up and down to froth it. Once the beaker is frothy, you can microwave it like the jar.
Some Notes About Milk
You can use many types of milk for a steamed milk drink like a latte, where foam is less crucial. Though, some are more reliable than others. Each milk and non-dairy milk alternative has a unique ratio of protein to fat that affects how well it froths. Higher protein kinds of milk, like skim and 1%, will produce stiffer milk foam, while higher fat milk types will lend a creamier mouthfeel (4).
Using 2% milk is a perfect starting point for the novice latte maker, as it nicely balances protein and fat. But skim, 1%, and whole milk can also produce great results. If you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative, consider almond, cashew, oat, coconut, or soy milk.
Pro Tip: If you’re making a latte with non-dairy milk, the frothing and microwaving time will vary due to different proteins involved. Invest in a thermometer, and plan on a bit of trial and error. Here are 4 more ways to froth milk without a milk frother. Or in case you want a foolproof gadget to help you, you can choose among the best milk frothers in our list.
Step 3: Add the milk to the espresso
This step can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want. If you need to get that delicious latte in your body pronto, just pour the warm milk into your mug and spoon any remaining foam on top.
Pro tip: Before adding the milk to the coffee, tap your frothing pitcher a couple of times on the counter. The tapping will break up any large bubbles and leave you with a more uniform milk foam.
The Art of Latte
If you want to exercise your creativity in the form of latte art, this is your chance. There are several different designs you can try, and this video demonstrates three of the most common to get you started. You’re most likely to be successful if you start with a design in mind and a plan to execute it. Just remember that practice makes perfect.
First of all, transfer your steamed milk to something with a spout for easy pouring. For example, a standard frothing pitcher or a measuring cup. For the best range of motion, hold the mug perpendicular to the pitcher. Then, pour the milk into the center of the mug, from a height of about 4 inches. Aim for a steady stream about as wide as a pencil, and pour slowly initially to help mix the milk and espresso.
As you near the end, bring the pitcher closer to the mug and increase your pouring speed. This is when art is created. Most designs involve a “wiggle,” in which you add the milk in a steady stream while rocking the pitcher back and forth. This motion takes practice, so don’t expect to nail it right away. Keep trying and let muscle memory work its magic.
Many designs finish with a “pull-through,” splitting the pattern into symmetrical sides. To master the pull through, bring the pitcher a few inches back from the mug and increase the speed of pouring to finish with authority.
Whether your latte features a blob of foam on top or a delicate tulip, now is the time to sit back and enjoy.
Step 4: Add optional flavorings
An authentic latte recipe is simply coffee and milk, but there’s no reason you can’t experiment with other flavors. Just look at the popularity of the pumpkin spice latte. Consider adding a dash of cocoa powder, cinnamon, vanilla extract, almond extract, or nutmeg.
Pro Tip: If you can make a latte at home, you can also make an iced latte. Just add your coffee and frothed milk to a cocktail shaker along with a couple of ice cubes. Shake and enjoy it.
With this guide, you have everything you need to craft delicious lattes in the comfort of your own home, and without shelling out thousands of dollars for a high-end espresso machine. Whether you’re looking to save a few bucks or you want to expand your coffee horizons, making a latte without an espresso maker is a great way to experiment with new flavors and techniques.
The difference between steamed milk and frothed milk is the amount of air incorporated into the milk during the process. Steamed milk is denser and less airy, while frothed milk is lighter and foamier.
The difference between a latte and a cappuccino is the amount of steamed versus frothed milk in each. Both are one-third espresso, but in a latte, the remaining two-thirds is mostly steamed milk, with just a small layer of milk foam on top. In comparison, a cappuccino is one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third milk foam. For more info read our latte vs cappuccino article.
There can be one or two shots of espresso in a latte recipe. If you’re ordering one at a coffee shop, whether you get a single or double-shot will probably depend on the size you order. What defines a latte is the ratio of espresso to steamed milk, not the number of shots.
- Espresso Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.coffeeresearch.org/espresso/definitions.htm
- Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aeropress.co.uk/pages/faqs
- The Moka Pot – Understanding the Brew Method. (2018, June 14). Retrieved from https://originroasting.co.za/v3/moka-pot-understanding-the-brew-method/
- Holt, S. (2017, May 11). How to Select the Best Milk for Coffee Foam and Latte Art. Retrieved from https://www.perfectdailygrind.com/2017/05/select-best-milk-coffee-foam-latte-art/
Husband, father and former journalist, I’ve combined my love of writing with my love of coffee to create this site. I love high end products, but write all my content with budget conscious coffee enthusiasts in mind. I prefer light roasts, and my normal brew is some sort of pour over, although my guilty pleasure is the occasional flat white.