What is a Latte and how do you make one?

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The latte is one of the most popular coffee drinks in Australia. In fact, the 2019 Square Australia Coffee Report found it was the top coffee sold in cafes and coffee shops across the country.

However, like many people, you may be wondering what exactly a latte is, or how it is made. And how does it differ from a flat white?

This article aims to answer all of these questions.

Below we take a look at the definition of a latte, as well as its history and how you can make one at home.

So what exactly is a latte?

A latte consists of a single espresso shot which is then topped to the brim of a 150-220ml glass with steamed milk.

Because of the narrow shape of the glass (compared to a wider ceramic mug used for a flat white or cappuccino), this results in around 1 – 1.5cm of milk microform on top.

History of the Latte

There are many variations on the recipe and origin story for the latte, so it’s almost impossible to figure out exactly who first invented it.

Though the exact origin of the milky coffee drink is not known, it was almost certainly created in Europe over the late 19th century, when the combination of milk and coffee became popular.

In Italy, a caffè latte is usually made at home for breakfast. The coffee is brewed using a stovetop moka pot, and heated milk is poured into the cup. Unlike the latte that you’ll get in cafes in Australia, the milk in the Italian version is not generally foamed.

Latte vs Flat White

In Australia, a flat white and a latte are essentially the same drink, served in a different shape and sized vessel (sometimes).

However, because a flat white will typically (but not always) be served in a smaller cup, it will usually have a higher espresso to milk ratio, making it stronger.

Also, because of the flat shape of a ceramic mug used to serve a flat white, it will have a thinner layer of foam than a latte, which is typically served in a more narrow glass.

If you buy a flat white and a latte in takeaway cups, they are probably exactly the same drink!

RELATED: How To Make An Espresso Macchiato

How to make a Latte

What you need:

  1. Coffee beans roasted for espresso
  2. Coffee grinder (unless your beans are pre-ground)
  3. Espresso machine with a steam wand
  4. Milk jug/pitcher
  5. Milk of your choice (full cream works best)
  6. Demitasse glass

Steps for making a latte:

  1. Grind your beans to a fine espresso grind. Do this just before you pull the espresso shot for maximum freshness.
  2. Dose 20g of ground coffee into a single filter basket. Distribute and tamp.
  3. Insert your portafilter into the group head and pull a single espresso shot. The espresso should pour evenly and at a steady flow rate. You’re looking for a total volume of 30mls which should ideally take around 30 seconds.
  4. Pour cold milk into your milk pitcher and hold it under the espresso machine steam wand so the tip is just below the surface. As you turn the steam wand on, the milk should start to swirl around the jug, creating a whirlpool. When the milk reaches around 40 degrees celsius, you’ll want to lower the wand deeper into the milk jug and continue warming until the temperature reaches 60 degrees. Most baristas will simply stop steaming when the jug gets too hot to touch, but beginners often find it handy to use a milk thermometer.
  5. Gently pour the hot milk onto the espresso and if you’re feeling adventurous try some latte art on the top.
  6. Enjoy!

Latte FAQ

What is the difference latte and cappuccino?

Latte and Cappuccino are two types of Italian coffees, which have become very popular throughout the world. A latte consists of a single espresso shot topped with steamed milk and served in a glass. A cappuccino also has a single shot of espresso, however, in addition to the mid-layer of steamed milk it also has a layer of milk froth on top. It is often also topped with chocolate powder and is served in a wider cup.

What does latte mean?

In English, Latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. The word latte comes from the Italian “caffè latte” which means “coffee and milk”.