I’m sure all of you have, at some point in your lives, had a caffé latte. It’s quite a delicious and popular drink but rarely does anyone ever think about where it comes from or how it’s made.
Well, if you are a coffee enthusiast like me or just want to make a latte in your own home, you might want to know. So, today, we cover what caffé latte is and how it came to be. If you want to looking for a latte maker, read this review about best latte machine.
How Is Caffé Latte Made?
On the face of it, making caffé latte seems quite easy – it’s just some espresso mixed with a bit of milk, how hard can it be? Well, if you boil it all down to the essentials, yes, a latte is a mix of espresso and steamed milk, but there’s much more to it than just mixing the two main ingredients.
To make a proper caffé latte, you first have to know how to make espresso. Making espresso is easiest to do with an espresso machine, but you can also make it without one. Espresso is, in essence, a strong, concentrated, rich and oily coffee that is made by repeatedly forcing the water through the coffee grinds, usually using steam pressure.
These days this is commonly done in an automated machine of some sort, but there are other methods. The French press is the traditional way to do it, but there are alternatives. But can you make a latte without using espresso?
Well, you can certainly make something, but it won’t be a true latte, it won’t have the proper taste. No, to achieve the proper taste you need espresso, but if you’re in a hurry, some other type of strong coffee might suffice.
The other essential thing is the milk – but you can just pour it into the coffee, that also doesn’t result in a latte. Depending on how you prepare the milk and just how frothy it is results in different types of coffee when mixed with the espresso.
For making a latte you want the milk to be just right – that’s what allows the best coffee makers to create the now-famous latte art you have probably seen. No one has the perfect formula, but there are plenty that work.
To make a latte you need some steamed milk and a bit of milk foam – if you have too much or too little of either, you don’t get a latte.
For starters, you want to use non-fat milk, since it foams easily. One that has 2% fat at most is ideal. Whole milk doesn’t foam easily, but if you want a more filling and flavorful latte, it is the way to go. You will need around 6 ounces of milk for each ounce of espresso that you’re using.
To easily froth and steam the milk, put it in a sealed jar. Then, shake it up for around a minute after which you can take the lid off, put it in a microwave for around 30 seconds and you’ll have a decent milk-to-froth ratio.
After that, you can pour it into the espresso and serve.
Of course, for a better experience, you should use a pitcher that you can put on the stove and a steam-wand. There are plenty of detailed instructions out there, and each shop and coffee master seems to have their preferred method for creating the ideal latte milk.
Latte Vs Macchiato Vs Cappuccino Vs Caffé Au Lait
These four types of coffee are often mistaken for one another and for a good reason – they are quite similar, in essence. You see, all of them are made with espresso as a base, and all of them contain milk. The difference is mostly in the type, and the amount of milk that is added and that’s where the lines can get a bit blurry.
Cappucino is the most similar to latte since it is also made by adding steamed and frothed milk to espresso, but the difference is in the ratio – cappuccino has more foam and less steamed milk in it. However, something that might be considered a cappuccino in one coffee shop might pass for a latte in another and vice-versa.
Macchiato is made by adding only the milk foam to the espresso – it uses no steamed milk in the mixture. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be, but coffee shops all have their interpretations, and some might serve you latte while calling it Macchiato.
Caffé au lait is the beverage most often mistaken for latte, mainly because of the similar name. However, this can be a radically different drink depending on the region. It uses espresso in European countries and only steamed milk with no foam. However, in the US it is often made with any strong coffee and uses steamed milk with a little froth. In some cases, it is even made with scalded milk and some chicory, like in New Orleans.
It’s easy to mistake one of these coffees for another at first glance, but after a while, you get a sense for it and can easily differentiate them by taste.
The Origins Of Caffé Latte
Caffé latte was originally just one of the many expressions used for common varieties of home-brewed coffee-based beverages in Europe. The term was mostly used domestically and hasn’t been commonly used in coffee shops and similar establishment until the 20th century. In Italy it has long been a common home-brewed beverage usually served during breakfast, dating as far back as the 18th century. Incidentally, don’t just ask for a “latte” in Italian cafes as that just means “milk” in Italian, so that’s what you’ll get instead of coffee.
Caffé latte started appearing in cafés somewhere around the middle of the century and was greatly popularized in Seattle during the 80’s and more widely during the next decade or so. Now it is commonly served in coffee shops all over the US.
In Europe, there was a similar process of popularization, but the term caffé au lait was more commonly used for this type of beverage. During the late 90s, the term caffé latte replaced it but both terms are used and the caffé au lait served in the states is much different than the one served in Europe.
Latte art served as a large factor in popularizing this beverage, and there is some debate over where the practice started. Some hold that David Schomer, an American, was one of the first people to start the trend in the mid-eighties. However, some hold that an Italian named Luigi Lupe was the one responsible for starting the latte art craze. Whatever may be the case, latte art is one of the main things that made caffé latte well-known around the world.
Today, you can walk into almost any café and order a latte, without a problem. What you’ll get differs as every café seems to have their take on the general idea of a caffé latte. There are plenty of different ones that you can choose from, and you can find one you like, or you could start making your own until you get it just right.
Either way, caffé latte is a great beverage and one that will probably remain highly popular for years to come.