What is a latte? We answer all your questions about America’s favorite coffee!

what is a latte

For many avid coffee drinkers, the delicious latte was the gateway drink. With a creamy, milky coffee topped with frothy foam, we were addicted before we even knew what hit us.

We’re not alone, the latte is the most popular coffee drink in America with every coffee shop having their spin on it and some of them serving up serious latte art.

Today, we’re going to answer all your questions about the beloved latte. So, grab your favorite latte and sip away while we share some fun facts.

What is a latte?

A latte is one of the simpler, more straightforward coffee beverages, with just espresso, a steamed milk of choice and a thin layer of frothed milk, which is made by heating the milk.

The typical ratio of ingredients is 1 to 2, so one serving of espresso to 2 servings of steamed milk.

Lattes can be iced or hot and you can add syrups for flavoring and sweetness, such as the infamous vanilla latte, the number one ordered drink at Starbucks.

What is an iced latte?

what is an iced latte

The iced latte is similar to the hot version, but uses cold milk instead of steamed, and is poured over ice. There is usually no foam on an iced latte. If you’re at a new place, starting with an iced vanilla latte is usually a safe choice that any barista should be able to make well.

To make an iced vanilla latte at home – check out this post.

What you need to make a latte:

Before you make your latte, make sure you have what you need. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Espresso roast coffee: Use an espresso or dark roast and use a fine grind on the espresso, perfect or espresso machines.  We love our new Bodum coffee grinder, which lets you select exactly what kind of grind you want.
  • Espresso machine: There are several ways to make espresso. Use an espresso machine, which sits on a countertop. It’s the easiest and most people have an espresso machine in their house. Or, if you’re using a Nespresso, which uses espresso pods. Find out recipes for coffee drinks, like the latte, using the Nespresso in this post. 
  • Syrups or Sweeteners: Make sure you have any syrups or sweeteners on hand and ready to go if you like to use them.

How to make espresso without an espresso machine:

If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can brew strong coffee using any method of your choice, such as pour over or french press

Then, you can use a separate milk frother (more affordable than an entire espresso machine). See our post with milk frothers from under $20 and up

It may not be as strong or be exactly the same, but you’ll still love it!

How to make a latte:

what is a latte

Now that you have your supplies, it’s time to whip up that perfect latte.

  • Start by brewing 1-2 espresso shots.
  • Add 1-2 tbsp syrup or sweetener to start and adjust to taste
  • Then, steam or froth 4-8 ounces of your choice of milk, based on size and how strong you want it to be and add it to your latte
  • Stir to combine
  • Ice if you’re icing it!
  • Enjoy!

Latte vs. Cappuccino: What’s the difference?

latte vs cappuccino

One of the most asked questions about the latte is whether it’s the same or difference from the cappuccino, another classic coffee drink.

While our fun little graphic gives you a good idea of how they are different, we’ll also spell it out for you: the latte has espresso and more steamed milk with a little bit of milk foam, whereas the cappuccino has less steamed milk and more foam.

Latte vs. Cortado: What’s the difference?

latte vs cortado

I’ve been hearing a lot of rumblings about the cortado lately – so maybe it’s making a big splash in the coffee world?

The main difference between a cortado and latte is the size of the two coffees and the ratio of coffee to milk. A cortado is 3-4 ounces total, with 2 ounces of espresso and 1-2 ounces of steamed milk, topped with little to no foam. In contrast, lattes have 2 ounces of espresso topped by 6-8 ounces of steamed milk and a small amount o milk froth.

So, if you really want to taste your coffee and not your milk – a cortado might be your coffee of choice.

Latte vs. Macchiato: What’s the difference?

latte vs macchiato

You may be familiar with the macchiato thanks to the uber-popular caramel macchiato. This is, for many of us, the first macchiato we have ever had (and it’s a good one). Hot tip: order it “upside-down”, which puts the espresso at the bottom and everything else on top for a less bitter taste.

But, you should know that the Starbucks macchiato is not traditional. A classic macchiato in Italy might arrive to you with espresso and a small amount of foamed milk on top in a small cup as opposed to the Starbucks version, which essentially makes an upside down latte, with syrup, milk, then espresso and a topping of caramel. The difference is in the quantity of milk. Although, since it is sometimes called “latte macchiato” – it makes sense that it would have more milk like a latte.

macchiato

Either way, syrups can be added, like caramel or vanilla, to add flavor and sweeten.

For info on 21 types of coffee, check out this detailed post!

How To Order a Latte:

Ordering a latte might be one of the easiest drinks to order, because every coffeehouse makes one and will know what to do. Similar to our instructions for how to order at Starbucks in this post, start with the temperature (hot or iced), followed by size (Starbucks sizes discussed here), and then your customizations (flavors, milk) and then the drink type (latte).

It might look like this: Iced vanilla oatmilk latte or sugar-free vanilla almondmilk latte. You get the idea.

How much caffeine is in a latte?

what is an iced latte

We all love the superpowers that caffeine gives us and it keeps us coming back for more. But, how much caffeine is in that latte? Well, it depends on how many shots of espresso are in there.

Each shot of espresso gives you from 64 to 75 milligrams of caffeine, with the average latte having two shots. So, expect around 128 milligrams of caffeine. Not bad!

Starbucks is known for having more caffeine per ounce, so a grande, with two shots, is likely going to serve you 150 milligrams of caffeine. I’ll sip to that!

Can you make a decaf latte?

You sure can. Almost any coffee drink can be made decaf. Don’t let those baristas shame you. Know your caffeine limits (we usually cut caffeine at 3) and stick to them. Sometimes, you really do just want that coffee for the taste and not the caffeine. You may want to do a little research into decaffeination methods so you can choose the right decaf coffee for you, but other than that – asking for a decaf latte should be no problem at all.

How To Customize a Latte:

what is a latte

There are a lot of ways you can make that coffee your own. For one thing, you. may want to switch out that milk for something dairy-free. Most coffeeshops have a range of milk options, including: soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk and more. However, some places, like McDonalds, will only have limited, dairy only options.

You can also add flavoring to your latte using any of the flavors, including sugar-free options at most places. Popular flavors include vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, hazelnut, honey, brown sugar, raspberry and more. If you’ve never had a raspberry mocha, get thee to a coffeehouse and get one!

How many lattes can you drink in a day?

It’s hard to imagine that you could ever drink too much coffee, but actually, it’s not coffee that is the issue – it’s your caffeine intake. Ideally, you are consuming less than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. The effects of having too much caffeine can include stomachaches, headaches, shakiness, dehydration, anxiety, dizziness, rapid heart rate and more. Plus, excessive consumption of caffeine has also been linked to fatiguing your adrenal glands.

Fun Facts About the Latte:

The word “latte” comes from the Italian caffe latte, or cafe latte, which literally means “milk coffee”. Coffee and milk have been part of the European culture since the 17th century. Although milk and coffee was popular in Europe for centuries, it was only brought to the US in the 1970s and 80s.

October 7th is National Latte Day, so make sure to sip up! December 3rd is National Peppermint Latte Day, if you need another excuse to enjoy those holiday beverages.

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Boom, there it is! The most comprehensive guide to the latte ever – or at least WE think it is 😉 Has this made your mouth water and your mind start thinking, “Must have a latte…” on repeat, or is it just us?

We hope this guide answered all your questions on the latte. We’ll be back soon with more coffee greatness, but for now, we’re signing off so we can go get some coffee for ourselves.

Get roasted,

A

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