How to Make a Latte and How to Order It at Starbucks

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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.

Latte in a grey mug.

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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.

Lattes are one of the standard drinks at every coffee shop like americanos, cortados, cafe au laits, cappuccinos, macchiatos, and flat whites.

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.  

Drink size
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.

RELATED: Starbucks Latte Copycat

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. 

Drink size
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

  • 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.
  • Milk: Although whole milk is common, you can use any kind of milk you like.

For full ingredients and detailed instructions, please see the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

My Espresso Machine Pick
Breville’s compact but mighty machine with grinder that I personally use and recommend. Makes great lattes at home!

How to make a Latte at Home 

  1. 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.
  2. Steam milk.
    The amount of milk used depends on how large of a serving you want your latte.
  3. 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. 

Expert 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

Are lattes unhealthy?

Lattes do have more milk than other coffee drinks, so if you want to watch your calorie or dairy intake, you might want to try a drink with less milk like cortados and flat whites.

Are lattes sweet?

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.  

What is a dirty chai latte? 

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. 

Can you make a latte using a Nespresso or Keurig? 

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.

Is a latte the same thing as a cafe au lait?

Lattes are made with milk and espresso, while cafe au laits are made with milk and coffee, not espresso.

Two cups with latte.


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How to Make a Latte

Author: Jee Choe
Make this popular espresso drink at home.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 4 minutes
Total Time 4 minutes
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving


  • 2 capsules Nespresso espresso (or 2 espresso shots)
  • 10 ounces milk


  • Put 2 espresso shots into a cup.
    Grind coffee beans and use an espresso machine to pull 2 shots of espresso or use 2 Nespresso capsules. 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.


Calories: 178 | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 130mg | Potassium: 443mg | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 459IU | Calcium: 320mg

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