Want to save a few bucks and make your coffee shop or Starbucks latte at home? Here’s how! And since you’re probably home a lot more than ever now, you’ll be drinking your hot and steamy cafe latte in your slippers in under 2 minutes!
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If you’ve been following along with me over the years, you’ll know that coffee is life to me. I don’t drink a ton of it but I NEED a hot cup to wrap my hands around in the mornings.
And truth be told, my coffee habits sort of follow the seasons.
When the weather warms up, I fall into iced coffee season. So last spring, I devoted more words than I thought possible to a post I wrote about how to make an iced latte at home. It’s been the most popular post on this site for over 5 years.
However, once the first chill hits the air and almost exclusively through the fall and winter, you’ll find me drinking hot coffee and espresso drinks.
Honestly, if I had my choice and an unlimited amount of funds, I’d be rolling through the Starbucks drive-through every morning for a hot or iced vanilla latte because they are my FAAAAVE.
Buuuut man are they expensive! Almost $6 for a flavored grande (medium) at Starbucks now? Sheesh!!
It costs me less than $2 to make the same size vanilla latte at home. This is why I want to show you how easy it is to make a latte at home too!
What is a Latte?
A latte is simply steamed milk that is mixed into hot espresso and topped with foamed milk. So simple, right?!
In some coffee shops, you’ll see a latte called a cafe latte. The terms are used interchangeably so don’t worry if you see a cafe latte on a menu somewhere – they’re the same!
Latte vs Cappuccino
While standing in line for coffee, I’ve often heard people asking what the difference is between a cappuccino and a latte. There are a couple of differences in cappuccinos vs lattes.
First, cappuccinos contain less steamed milk than lattes. This makes them taste a bit stronger. Cappuccinos contain equal parts of steamed milk to espresso to milk foam.
To this end, cappuccinos usually contain about half as much steamed milk and twice as much milk foam as lattes do.
Second, cappuccinos aren’t usually sweetened with a flavored sweetener. They’re more of a “purist” drink for espresso fans. Adding sugar or sugar cubes isn’t uncommon but flavored sweeteners usually aren’t added (though you could add one if you wanted to).
What Kind of Milk Should You Use for a Latte?
You can use any kind of milk you want:
- dairy milk – whole, skim, 1% or 2%
- dairy-free milks such as oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk
Whole milk creates the best foam of the dairy milks due to the amount of fat it contains. Higher fat content = frothy milk, just like how heavy cream is the best for making whipped cream.
Of the dairy-free milks, oat milk froths up the best.
Does a Latte Have Caffeine?
Yes, lattes definitely have caffeine. That’s because the espresso used to make the drink has a high concentration of caffeine.
It’s important to note that even decaf espresso has a little bit of caffeine in it. So, if you’re trying to watch your caffeine intake be sure you consider this.
If I want to make a latte later in the day, I make it with 2 shots of decaf espresso. Otherwise, I would never sleep at night!
Which is Stronger: Coffee or Lattes?
Ounce for ounce, espresso contains more caffeine than coffee. One ounce of espresso contains about 63 mg caffeine. One ounce of coffee contains about 14 mg caffeine.
However, since a medium coffee contains about 12 ounces of coffee (about 168 mg caffeine) and a medium latte contains 2 shots of espresso (about 126 mg caffeine), a medium coffee is actually stronger than a latte (source). Who would have thought!!
How To Make a Latte
So after all this talk about what kind of milk to use, frothing milk, and caffeine strength in a latte, let’s get down to making one!
First step is you need espresso. You’ll need 1 shot of espresso for each 12 ounce latte you plan to make.
Ways to Brew Espresso
I brew my espresso with my Nespresso machine. My goodness do I loooooove this machine!!
It’s a fast way to make an espresso (or coffee, if that’s your thing!) and there’s no guessing game about how much water is needed because the pods have a barcode on them. The machine reads the barcode and adds the exact amount of water that each pod requires for the espresso or coffee you choose.
PRO TIP: When I brew espresso to drink straight away, I like to use these little double-walled (insulated) espresso glasses. They keep the espresso hot longer when I want to drink it hot. They’re just like the Tervis tumblers but made of glass instead of plastic.
So if I brew an espresso and then say, the dog rings his bell to go outside or Riley is running amuck through the house and I need to wrangle her, my espresso stays hot for juuust a little bit longer. And boy, I’m always so thankful for this! Life happens, people!!
There are other ways to make espresso as well. An old-fashioned but still really cool stove top espresso maker works great too! I have used this stove top maker in the past but switched over to the Nespresso as my go-to when we purchased it 3+ years ago.
My mom uses still makes espresso (or demitasse, as the Italians in my family call it) on the stove top and it’s really easy to use! You just need to grind your espresso beans or buy ground espresso, add the ground espresso to the pot, add water, and brew. Otherwise, you can buy ground espresso in the grocery store or online at places like Amazon. Illy is my favorite brand of ground espresso!
If you have an actual espresso machine in your kitchen, this is going to be how you make your espresso. That’s a luxury item for us since we tend to drink more coffee than espresso and I don’t want to sacrifice counter space for one either.
And of course, you can definitely stop by a coffee shop and order a shot or 2 (or however many shots you need) to bring home to make your latte. Before we had the Nespresso machine, I did this on a few occasions.
The ways you can sweeten or flavor a latte are almost endless!
Here are some flavoring suggestions for your homemade latte:
OH! And how could I forget my almond toasted coconut variety with real toasted coconut that you’ll steep in a 5-minute simple syrup.
Of course, the Christmas season brings a whole other slew of latte possibilities! I made a gingerbread syrup this past season for these gingerbread lattes and if you’re a gingerbread lover, this drink is definitely for you.
Eggnog lattes are a big favorite at Christmas too! You can make them at home with just hot espresso and eggnog that you heat and froth.
Though I haven’t tried it, the rosemary syrup I added to my mistletoe kiss cocktail might be a nice herby addition to your coffee drink.
You can buy or make your own coffee syrup but I really do love to make my own. They’re all SO GOOD!
Flavored Coffee Creamer: My pumpkin spice creamer is a copycat recipe of the coffee creamers you find in the grocery store. Combined with some steamed milk, this is a great way to make pumpkin spice lattes.
Maple syrup: This natural sweetener is a delicious way to sweeten your coffee, whether it’s hot or cold. Look at that! Now you’ve made a maple latte!
Simple syrup: This just a simple mix of equal parts water and sugar that you boil for 5 minutes. When the liquid is cool, it’s a basic syrup to sweeten your coffee with. This is known as the “classic syrup” at Starbucks.
Caramel sauce: Make a caramel latte or a caramel brûlée latte! My vanilla bean caramel sauce will give a latte a sweet toasty flavor. And my 3 ingredient salted caramel sauce will give your latte a sweet, deeply toasty, and slightly salty flavor. You can’t go wrong with either of these caramel recipes for your drink!
Honey: This is also a great natural sweetener for hot and cold drinks. Honey will give your latte some floral flavor notes and it will enhance any naturally sweet flavors your espresso already has.
Flavored milk: You can find some milk varieties that are sweetened these days. Vanilla almond and soy milk are both fairly common in grocery stores.
How to Froth Milk
So now you know that you’ll need some hot milk for this drink, let’s chat about how to froth milk. There are a couple different ways so let’s walk through them.
- The Stove Top Method #1: This is by far, the most straightforward and “old-school” way to steam and froth your milk. Simply pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat it until it starts to release some steam and bubble a tiny bit around the edges of the pan (this is called simmering). Then whisk it up until it starts to get frothy. This will take a little elbow grease but it’s the cheapest method around.
- The Stove Top Method #2: If you’re going to use a stove top cappuccino maker to brew your espresso, you can also steam your milk in the top portion of the pot. The milk won’t be frothy until you whisk it but this pot will save you some time and extra dish washing compared with using a saucepan. And these cappuccino makers are a WHOLE LOT less expensive than the countertop espresso machines are.
- The Blender Method: If you have a fancy dancy blender that has a heating function for soup, you can use this to steam and froth your milk too by whirring it up. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, you can blend how milk in a regular blender to make it frothy.
- The Milk Frother Method: A milk frother will take all of the “hard” work out of frothing milk. You’ll pour the milk in, plug the unit it, and press the Start button. This is the milk frother I use for my lattes and I love how it takes all the guesswork out of steaming and frothing milk!
Making A Latte at Home
Once you have your espresso brewed and your steamed milk and sweetener ready, pour the espresso in your mug. Then add the sweetener. Lastly, pour in the hot milk to fill the mug and top with some of the milk’s foam.
Like I said, it’s super easy to make this drink at home!
- 12 oz latte (tall or small size drink from a coffee shop): 1 shot espresso, 1 ounce liquid sweetener, 8 ounces milk
- 16 oz latte (grande or medium size drink from a coffee shop): 2 shots espresso, 2 ounces liquid sweetener, 10 ounces milk
- 20 oz latte (venti or large size drink from a coffee shop): 3 shots espresso, 4 ounces liquid sweetener, 10 to 12 ounces milk (depending on the size of your mug)
I hope you’ll start making your own lattes at home now! It’s a delicious and cozy cold weather drink that will cost you pennies on the dollar to make at home compared to buying at a coffee shop!
- 2 shots of brewed hot or cold espresso (approximately 2 oz)
- 8 oz milk (any variety)
- 2 oz liquid sweetener, such as a coffee syrup, maple syrup, caramel sauce, honey, or simple syrup (refer to the text above for loads of suggestions!)
- Froth the milk. For this, you can use an electric milk frother or heat the milk in a small sauce pan on the stove and whisk until it's frothy.
- Pour the espresso into a 16 oz coffee mug or heatproof coffee glass. (See note below.)
- Add the liquid sweetener to the mug or glass and stir to combine.
- Pour milk into the glass and then dollop the frothy milk on top of the drink. Serve while still hot.
You can either brew the espresso directly into the mug or glass if you have an espresso machine or make the espresso on the stove top and pour it into the mug or glass when finished brewing.
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