How To Make a Latte at Home Without an Espresso Machine
There is this prevailing notion that we can only get perfect lattes from our favorite coffee shops. After all, it is only in these locations that you can get a top-of-the-line espresso machine, a steaming wand, a milk frother, and other essential tools. What many of us do not realize is that we can also learn how to make a latte without having to rely on such equipment like an espresso machine. Of course, you will still need a few tools, but none of those types that your barista uses to give you that latte you always crave.
Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, or Café au Lait?
Before we begin our journey into the preparation and making of a homemade latte, let’s first try to distinguish 4 of the most common espresso-based coffee drinks. The reason for this is that they all look similar, yet the real difference is in the taste. A newbie coffee drinker may not notice the subtle difference between a Latte and a Café au Lait or between a Cappuccino and a Macchiato.
As mentioned, these coffee drinks have espresso as their base. The only difference now is in the use of steamed milk and milk froth. They may also differ in the ratio of milk to espresso.
Latte is always one part espresso and two parts milk. After all, the term latte is milk in Italian. Hence, when you say “caffe latte” you are referring to milk coffee. It sounds about right that you should have more “milk” in the drink. Now, the tricky part is in the milk. It should have more steamed milk than milk froth. The milk froth is also lighter than any other type of espresso-based drinks. Since the milk froth is on the lighter side, making fantastic latte art is possible. The ideal ratio is 5 parts steamed milk to 1 part espresso with a very light application of the milk froth on top.
- Café au Lait
On the other hand, Café au Lait is almost similar to latte. In fact, if you cross the Atlantic, you might get the shock of your life when the barista serves you latte instead of café au lait. This is because these two are one and the same in many countries outside the US. But if you’re in the US, café au lait never uses any milk froth. You only have one part espresso and one part steamed milk. And get this, it also doesn’t have to be an espresso. The best café au lait always involves the use of a very strong, French press coffee.
Cappuccino is very similar to latte in that it also uses espresso, milk froth, and steamed milk. The difference is that you have equal parts espresso, milk froth, and steamed milk. This makes making coffee art on a cappuccino very challenging.
Macchiato is like the opposite of café au lait. Whereas café au lait adds only steamed milk into the espresso, macchiato uses only the milk froth. As such, if you want to learn how to make latte macchiato, then you only need to prepare two things: espresso and milk froth.
The Espresso: The Key to a Great Latte
If you want to know how to make a latte, then it is important to learn how to make the base coffee – espresso.
The best way to make an espresso is by using an espresso machine. This is because you need lots of pressure to extract the delicious goodness of each fine coffee ground. However, it is not impossible to make a good espresso without a machine.
The first thing you will need is a burr grinder to turn your chosen coffee beans into fine granules. The secret is to maintain the freshness of the grind, including the rich oils and flavors that are characteristic of espresso.
In making the espresso, you will need a Moka pot. You can purchase a good one for about $20 from your favorite kitchen appliance store. This is 1933 creation that is still very much in use in the 21st century. What it does is that it boils water in the bottom chamber, creating steam pressure. This forces the water through another chamber that contains the coffee grounds. The resulting coffee-infused water collects in an upper chamber. It is very similar to an espresso machine, but one that you will not spend hundreds of dollars on. Like any pot, you can place the Moka pot on your stovetop burner or electric stove and watch the magic take place.
If you don’t like using a Moka pot, then you can purchase a French press. You can get a French press for about $15 to $25. You may not be able to enjoy the same taste as the Moka pot espresso, but a French press does provide the creamy consistency we’ve all come to love about espressos. There is another bonus to having a French press instead of a Moka pot. This gadget can be an excellent tool in making milk froth that you can add to your latte. It can also serve to steam milk.
If a French press or a Moka pot are not your thing, then maybe you need a more “high-tech” solution. You can get an AeroPress for about $30. It is a neat coffee making device that can turn espresso in 30 to 60 seconds. What it does is that the AeroPress forces the hot coffee mixture through a filter. You’ve got to have strong hands and arms for this since you’ll be pushing the plunger down with your hands. The AeroPress chamber also sits on top of your cup, so you need to have a sturdy and stable espresso cup.
The Steamed Milk
Now that we’ve tackled the part on how to make espresso, let’s focus on how to steam milk. This is the second most important ingredient of a latte.
Steaming milk is as easy as heating milk in a saucepan. However, a more critical component here is getting the right temperature so that you do not scorch the milk. As such, you will also need a good and reliable thermometer to help you keep track of the temperature of the milk.
Unfortunately, the ideal temperature for a steamed milk depends on the type of milk that you use. For example, using dairy milk requires a constant steaming temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you use almond milk, then it is imperative to keep the temperature at 130ºF. And if you’re a fan of soy milk, then 140º should be your target milk steaming temperature.
The reason why you have to observe the correct temperature is so you can get a creamy, almost foamy steamed milk. Milk foam results from chemical reactions in the protein, fatty acid, and carbohydrate content of the milk.
For example, dairy milk contains casein. As you heat dairy milk, its principal molecules are broken up, including casein. Each casein molecule forms a shield to contain the bubbles. This leads to the formation of a milk foam that remains in place long after the steamed milk has been removed from heat.
Understand that different kinds of milk have different protein content. Because of this, they may show a different kind of foam. The difference is in the appearance of the foam, however, and not the quality.
The Milk Froth
The good thing about lattes is that you only need a lighter version of froth. Cappuccinos require you to make equal parts of steamed milk, espresso, and milk froth.
Making milk froth for your latte is as simple as using an ordinary glass jar with an airtight lid. Fill the jar about a third of its volume, secure the lid, and shake the jar. What you want to see are frothy bubbles. If you’re satisfied with what you have, then you can pour the milk froth over the espresso.
We mentioned above that the French press is a great tool for making milk froth. Here’s how. Fill the French press beaker with milk to a third of the beaker’s volume. Pump the French press plunger for about 20 to 30 seconds to double the volume of the milk. Remove the plunger and the lid as well as other metal parts. Place the French press in the microwave and heat it up for 45 seconds. This process also steams the milk. This makes French press a very good tool for making lattes.
There is another tool that can make for fantastic milk froth for your latte. You can get a steaming wand or milk frother for about $12 to $20. Some devices also double as a milk steamer, so you get to steam and froth your milk at the same time.
Putting Everything Together
Start with a cup of espresso. Froth the milk and steam it in the microwave. Pour the now-warm milk into your cup of espresso. Be careful not to put the milk froth at this time. One you are done, spoon as much of the milk froth and put it onto the latte. And that is how to make a latte without ever needing an espresso machine.
- How to Froth Milk With Hand Blenders – Hunker
- No Milk, No Espresso, All Science: Frothing Up a Dairy-Free Latte – HowStuffWorks