We all love our coffee drinks. No matter what time of the day, or what season of the year, coffee reigns supreme! And why should we have to go to a coffee bar and shell out $5 for a simple (or not-so-simple) non-alcoholic beverage? There are ways to make fancy coffee drinks at home, even if you don’t have a $700 coffee machine sitting on your kitchen counter.
First, a short vocabulary lesson. Have you ever looked at a menu in a coffee shop and thought “whoa” while looking at the menu? Here is a simple coffee menu de-coder. All of these drinks are combinations of coffee or espresso and milk in some form or another. And they form a continuum of sorts. There is a very fine line between a latte and a cappuccino!
- Latte, short for caffe latte, is made with espresso, steamed milk (at least 6 ounces), and milk foam. Flavorings, in the form of syrups, may be used if desired.
- Flat white coffee is a latte minus the foam.
- Cappuccino is a latte with a greater proportion of foamed milk to steamed milk.
- Macchiato is espresso with a little milk foam on the top.
- Cafe au lait is coffee or espresso with steamed milk.
Now, the beauty here is that if you can make one of these drinks at home, you can make any of them!
I will note here that although you don’t need any special equipment to make a latte at home, regular coffee won’t give you the coffee bar experience that you’re looking for. It will still make a good drink, but it won’t be quite the same. If you do want to try this with regular drip coffee or french press coffee, add more ground coffee to the basket than you normally would for a regular cup of coffee. If you have an Aero Press or a moka pot, so much the better!
Start with good beans. I use Italian roast (link to coffee bean article). Grind them fine, for espresso. The quality of your finished drink really does depend on how good your coffee beans are, so find a bean (and a roast) that you like and stick to it!
- Make your coffee. Strongly brew some coffee, or use a moka pot or Aero Press if you have one.
- Froth your milk. This is a great trick! Fill a mason jar no more than half full with milk, either nonfat or 2% (2% works best).
- Cover it tightly and shake the heck out of it.
- You’re looking to double the volume of milk.
- This should take about a minute of vigorous shaking. And it’s great upper body exercise!
- Nuke the milk.
- Take the cover off the mason jar and microwave for about 30 seconds.
- The foam should rise to the top of the jar.
- If you prefer non-dairy milk (almond, soy, rice, oat, etc…), it will froth, but not with the mason jar method. You will need a small (and inexpensive) milk frother to do the job. (Link to milk frother wand here)
- Pour the espresso or coffee into a wide mug.
- The proportion that you are looking for is ⅓ espresso to ⅔ milk. If you have a large mug, you may need to use 2 to 3 shots of espresso.
- Pour the warm milk on top.
- Use a tablespoon to hold back the foam from the jar. And be careful not to burn your hand when you pick up the jar. I always use a potholder)
- Spoon as much foam as you like on top of your coffee and milk.
- Sprinkle with cocoa or cinnamon if that floats your boat.
If you want your latte iced, pour coffee and milk into a cocktail shaker that is filled with ice. Give it a good shake. Strain into a glass with fresh ice and enjoy!
If you want to flavor your coffee, consider buying one of the syrups that baristas use (link to Toroni syrups on amazon) and add to the coffee before you pour over the milk. These syrups come in a myriad of flavors (caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, and scores of others). They also come in sugar free v