How to Make a Latte

The latte is one of the beloved members of the espresso-based family. Recognised by its espresso shot, steamed milk and milk foam composition, this tasty caffeine hit is a favourite of many coffee consumers. Here’s some good news: a great latte is not out of reach of the modest home barista.

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Step 1: Pull Your Shot

How you get your espresso shot will depend on what sort of machine or method you have available. Use the process best suited to your tools to extract your espresso. 

If you are using an espresso machine, make sure you grind your beans, dose the grounds, and tamp the dose down before extraction – doing this properly ensures your shot will be strong and not watered down. Under extracted espresso will result in a latte that tastes weak and milky, whilst an over extracted espresso with lead to an unpleasant, bitter and ashy flavour. Click Here to read more about how to pour the perfect espresso shot.

If you are using an automated coffee machine, you will not have to do too much with this stage of the process. No matter what method you use, using specialty grade coffee grounds or coffee beans will always deliver a genuinely tasty result.

Step 2: Steam Your Milk

Milk is key to most espresso-based drinks; done correctly, the steamed milk will create a great texture and support the espresso nicely. To steam the milk properly; first half fill your milk jug allowing enough room for your milk to stretch without overflowing. Next, position the steam wand tip 1cm from the side of the milk jug, just under the surface of the milk.

Once you begin steaming your milk there should be a hissing sound made as the milk is aerated and the volume increases. The position of the steam wand should create a whirlpool effect on the milk. After your milk reaches the desired temperature (around 65° or 55° for soy) remove the jug and wipe down the steam wand. You should then purge the steam wand for a few seconds to remove any milk residue.

There is an art to steaming milk perfectly – for a more detailed look at this step, be sure to read up on how to create barista-quality milk. When you are finished with the milk, you should have a glossy, dense result. Remember to swirl the jug to avoid the foam and steamed milk separating.

Cafe Latte 

Step 3: Pour Your Milk

The final step in the process is where the milk meets the espresso. When you pour the milk into the shot of coffee, you need to be careful to 'seal' the coffee. Sealing your coffee describes the technique of pushing textured milk through the crema causing the crema to rise to the top of the cup, and creates a vacuum around the rim of the glass. For a latte, the foam should form a 1cm band around the top of the glass.

By reading the type of milk you have, you can adjust the height of your pour to achieve the results where a higher pour sends 'thinner' milk into the glass and a lower/push pour sends thicker milk into the glass.

A correctly poured milk-based coffee should result in a surface area with around 80% golden crema (sealed), and 20% milk. This is also referred to as the 80/20 rule.

Many people prefer to drink the latte as is, but flavoured versions are also becoming quite popular. If you choose to add caramel, hazelnut or any other syrup to your latte, keep in mind that these often mask the coffee, making it harder to distinguish and enjoy the true taste.

Do you have any tricks to create the perfect latte?