A latte is a caffeinated drink made with espresso and steamed milk. See how to make this popular drink at home and how to order it at Starbucks.
What is a Latte?
- A latte is a coffee drink made with milk and espresso. The milk on a latte is lightly textured with a thin layer of foam at the top.
- Latte is short for caffe latte, which translates to coffee and milk in Italian. It’s pronounced LAH-TAY.
- At most coffee shops, the standard size of a latte is 12 ounces and it’s made with a double shot of espresso and 10 ounces of milk.
- At Starbucks, you can order a latte in four different drink sizes: short, tall, grande, and venti. The short and tall have one shot of espresso and the grande and venti are made with two shots.
- Although you can make art in most espresso drinks, the term “latte art” does come from lattes. Lattes are the easiest drinks to make latte art in due to their size and the texture of the milk.
Difference Between Latte and Cappuccino
Both lattes and cappuccinos are be made with 1-2 shots of espresso. It’s not uncommon to order either of these drinks with “an extra shot.”
A standard latte is made with 8-10 ounces of lightly textured milk, although it can be made bigger by adding more milk. A cappuccino is made with 5 ounces of milk, and this amount doesn’t often vary. (Unless the cappuccino was ordered at Starbucks which offers it in multiple sizes.)
The texture of the milk for a latte is smooth and silky. There’s enough foam to make latte art, but the foam isn’t fluffy. A cappuccino has more foam, and the texture of the milk is frothier.
Lattes are usually served in 12 ounce cups, but can be bigger. Cappuccinos are almost always 6 ounces, and the size doesn’t often change.
Difference Between Latte and Flat White
1-2 shots of espresso are in lattes, while flat whites have 2 shots of espresso.
Lattes and flat whites have the same type of textured milk—smooth and silky with a thin layer of microfoam. Lattes have more microfoam when you steam them, but that’s only because they’re bigger drinks and use more milk. Both drinks should have a thin layer of microfoam and both can have latte art.
Lattes can range in size, while flat whites are 6 ounces. Flat whites bigger than 6 ounces are basically lattes.
Lattes at Starbucks
Lattes are one of the most popular drinks at Starbucks and you can customize it with syrups, like vanilla, and different kinds of milk like soy or skinny (made with skim milk).
Instead of the standard 12 ounce latte served in coffee shops, Starbucks lattes come in four sizes: short (8 ounces), tall (12 ounces), grande (16 ounces), and venti (20 ounces).
Short and tall drinks come with one shot of espresso, while grande and venti drinks come with two. At specialty coffee shops, lattes almost always come with 2 shots of espresso.
What You’ll Need to Make a Latte
- Espresso machine
Lattes are best and most authentic when made using an espresso machine.
- Coffee grinder
Some espresso machines come with a grinder, but if yours doesn’t, make sure to get one since freshly ground coffee beans make the best espresso.
- Whole beans
Coffee peaks between 7-14 days after its been roasted so get freshly roasted beans.
Although whole milk is common, you can use any kind of milk you like.
How to make a Latte at Home
For full ingredients and instructions, scroll down to the recipe.
- Pull 1-2 shots of espresso.
Grind coffee and use an espresso machine to extract 1-2 shots of espresso, depending on how strong you want the latte.
- Steam milk.
The amount of milk used depends on how large of a serving you want your latte.
- Pour steamed milk into espresso
BARISTA’S TIP: If you want to try latte art at home, use this trick: start by pouring your milk from far away, then get closer to your mug as you fill the cup. When you’re pouring far away, gravity helps pierce the espresso. When you get closer, the foam floats on top of the espresso.
Notes & Tips
- Lattes are often described as “milky” because out of all coffee drinks, they have the most milk. If you’re new to coffee, a latte might be a good drink for you.
- Lattes are the easiest drink to make latte art in—if you want to practice latte art, try making lattes, starting with the simplest design of a dot of microfoam on top.
- The word “latte” is used in lots of drinks that have milk as a main component, like chai lattes or matcha lattes—even though neither of these drinks have espresso.
Questions You May Have
Standard lattes have no sugar, but latte variations at places like Starbucks are often made with syrups. Vanilla and caramel are common additions, although you might be able to find sugar-free versions of each.
The word ‘latte’ is often used to describe drinks with milk, even if they don’t have espresso. A chai latte is made of milk and chai concentrate or chai tea. A dirty chai latte has a shot of espresso added.
To make a latte using a Nespresso or Keurig, you’ll need a way to steam milk. Make espresso using a capsule or pod then steam milk using a milk frother or steam wand.
Lattes are made with milk and espresso, while cafe au laits are made with milk and coffee, not espresso.
How to Make a Latte
- 2 shots espresso
- 10 ounces milk
- Pull 2 shots of espresso.Grind coffee beans and use an espresso machine to pull 2 shots of espresso. If you want a drink that's not as strong, pull 1 shot.
- Steam milk.Froth 10 ounces of milk. Put the steam wand into the pitcher with milk just below the surface and turn on the steam. Listen for a paper-tearing sound and after two seconds, move and angle the pitcher so that the steam wand is submerged and a vortex or whirlpool is created. Any big bubbles should get smaller. Once the pitcher becomes too hot to touch, turn off the steam wand. The milk should look smooth and velvety.
- Pour milk into espresso.Pour milk from far away to start, then get closer to your mug as you fill the cup. When you’re pouring far away, gravity helps pierce the espresso. When you get closer, the microfoam floats on top of the espresso.