There is a reason why the latte is the most popular drink served at the local coffee shops. Made with steamed milk, it changes the weight just enough so that it feels like a dessert in your mouth. The problem with lattes is that they are addicting and that addiction can put a real dent in your wallet. Lucky for you, it’s easy to learn how to make a latte.
As an ex-barrista, I’ll tell you that the biggest rip off drink is the cappuccino. Most people want all that foam and foam is from air driven into milk, creating tiny bubbles. Under an expert hand, skim milk can be quadrupled in volume. On the other hand, you really get your money’s worth out of a latte. For a medium sized latte, you get 3 ounces of espresso, about 16 ounces of steamed milk and only about ¼” thick layer of foam across the top to hold just the slightest kiss of powdered cinnamon.
The average cost of a medium latte is $3.50. If you only had one a day, 5 days a week that would total up to $910 per year! That’s a lot of money. With two pieces of inexpensive equipment you can learn how to make a latte just as good as what you can get at a café.
How to Make a Latte: The Equipment
You don’t need a $1000 espresso machine to make a great latte. You can find a manual espresso pot at kitchen stores or on the internet for $20-$125 dollars. The really good news is you can make a café au lait (a cousin of the latte) with extra strong coffee brewed in a regular coffee maker. The two drinks taste almost the same. You will also need a milk frother to make either drink. I like the glass frother, because it’s inexpensive (less than $15) and it can go in the microwave.
How to Make a Latte: The Ingredients
Most cafés and some super markets will sell you whole coffee beans or whole espresso beans that you can grind at home. However, if you don’t want to buy a grinder, you can get them ground at the shop. When you get home, put the beans in a Ziploc bag, and squeeze as much air out as you can. Keep your beans in the refrigerator.
When you make a latte, the steamed milk is the star of the show. For that reason, I don’t think it’s necessary to by a $50 bag of coffee. You can bet that is NOT what you’re getting at your favorite coffee shop.
Most of the lattes served at coffee shops are made with 2% milk unless requested otherwise. Because you are making your own, you get to pick what’s best for you. Skim milk froths better, but 2% has a nice feel to it. We’ve gotten so used to cutting the fat from our diets; regular milk is almost too much. Or you can use cream if you want. You’re the boss.
Your water will affect the way your coffee tastes. If you want your latte to taste like the one you get at the café, buy a couple of jugs of distilled water. There are no minerals or additives.
How to Make a Latte: The Ratio
The espresso/coffee to steamed milk ration is 1:3 and then about 1/4″ if foam across the top.
How to Make a Latte: The Preparation
Making the espresso will take the longest. Follow the instructions that came with your manual espresso pot. If you are making a café au lait, make your coffee twice as strong as you would normally drink it.
While the coffee is brewing start heating up your milk in the microwave. Until you get the knack of it, go in 10 second bursts of power. When the milk is very hot to the touch through the glass container, put the top on and give a few whirls with the frother blades. The most difficult part of learning how to make a latte is the timing. But fortunately milk can be reheated and frothed more than once, so you don’t have to time it perfectly.
Pour some very hot water into your coffee cup. Preheating the porcelain or ceramic up allows your latte to stay hot longer.
How to Make a Latte: Building the Latte
Drain the water from your preheated cup. Give it a quick dry with a towel.
Pour the espresso/coffee into the bottom of the cup.
If you like sugar in your latte or café au lait, now would be the time to stir it in.
Place a long handled spoon or a knife blade across the pouring spout of the milk frother. The straight edge will allow the steamed milk to pour out from underneath the froth. The hot milk will swirl together with the espresso. Spoon some foam across the surface of your coffee. And serve.
Even if you purchase high quality espresso, it costs around 71 cents to make a 20 ounce latte, or $185 a year. That’s a $725 a year saving.
“It’s only $725,” you might say. But, if you saved $725 for two years, you and a guest could take a seven day cruise to the Caribbean. A four year savings adds up to $2900. That could buy you a time share on Fort Myers Beach. If you’re diligent for ten years and save $7250, in some parts of the country that would be a down payment on a house. Can you imagine not buying your lattes at a café can help you buy a house? Over 20 years you could save $14500. And what could you buy with that?