I absolutely love cooling down with a homemade iced latte on hot summer days, but there’s just nothing like a piping hot, foamy latte when cozy mornings are waiting.
Making lattes at home solves the eternal Saturday morning dilemma — “do I get out of bed and go to my local coffee shop to get a creamy, luxurious latte, or do I stay in bed?“.
And I’m a huge fan of staying in bed on lazy mornings, and of homemade lattes, but I don’t have any special equipment like an espresso maker or milk frother. So to solve that problem, I knew I needed to figure out how to DIY a latte – and fast.
The Details: What is a Latte?
Otherwise known as a caffe latte, a latte is a coffee beverage made with espresso and steamed milk, with a little bit of foam. A latte ratio is about a third espresso, and two-thirds steamed milk, topped with foam.
The ratios of espresso and steamed coffee and foam are the technical difference between coffee drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos.
Cappuccinos have more foam than a latte does, about a third of the drink. Macchiatos have a small amount of steamed milk.
See this chart for a great visual of the difference between these coffee beverages.
Now that we’ve covered what a latte is, let’s look at each ingredient and cover how we’re going to make each at home without any special coffee house equipment!
How to Make Espresso at Home without a Machine
The base of espresso drinks is…espresso!
In coffee shops (or fancy homes), espresso is made using an espresso machine, which sends pressurized water through very finely ground coffee that is packed together, resulting in rich espresso coffee with crema.
Crema is the caramel-colored, creamy foam that results on top of an espresso.
But what options do you have if you don’t have an espresso machine at home? There are a few ways you can still achieve espresso – or espresso-like coffee – at home for your homemade lattes!
- Strongly Brewed Coffee: You will need less water in your coffee-to-water ratio when brewing coffee. The general recommendation is a 15:1 ratio of water to coffee for a strong brew. Ultimately, it depends on your preferences.
- Brew espresso beans or a dark roast for the strongest, deepest coffee flavor
- While you can brew the coffee any method you prefer, a french press is a great option for strong coffee.
- Stovetop Espresso: make espresso on the stovetop using a Moka pot, which is a classic Italian method for brewing strong coffee.
- Use Instant Espresso or strongly brew instant coffee.
- Stop at a coffee shop: this is a little shortcut I’ve done a time or two, especially when I’ve run out of coffee. It’s much cheaper to purchase a double shot of espresso and bring it home to make your own latte, rather than purchasing a latte at the shop itself.
- Aeropress: makes strong, concentrated coffee.
- Nespresso: ok, this is a machine but it’s not an official espresso machine (IMO) but rather an easy, at-home option for making espresso without the pricey, fancy machine. So if you have one, of course, use it!
How to Froth Milk at Home
My favorite way to froth milk at home for a homemade latte is to heat milk in a mason jar, then top it and shake it vigorously (while dancing…because happiness makes better lattes) until it’s doubled in size and foamy.
Using a Mason Jar to Froth Milk
Please keep these tips in mind when you use the mason jar method for frothing milk:
- Do not microwave the lid. It’s metal and cannot go in the microwave.
- Carefully remove the jar from the microwave, and use a towel or potholders to prevent burning your hands, as needed.
- Carefully remove the lid from the jar, removing it slowly in case any pressure has accumulated. I like to use a towel to remove it, just in case there is any splatter or excess heat.
You can also shake the milk before heating it in the microwave if preferred, just shake until it has about doubled in size with fine bubbles.
If you don’t have a lid for your jar, heat the milk then use a small whisk to froth the milk, vigorously whisking until foamy.
Other Ways to Froth Milk
Alternatively, you can give one of these options a try to foam milk:
- Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove, then use a whisk to froth the milk until foamy.
- Use a hand-held milk frother; these are super inexpensive and work well. Heat the milk in the microwave or on the stovetop, and use the wand to froth the milk. I like to froth the top of the milk for added foam, too.
- Try a milk frothing machine. I don’t personally have experience with these but have friends who love theirs!
What type of milk is best for homemade lattes?
Whole milk is the best option when steaming and frothing milk, because of its high-fat content. The next best option would be 2% milk.
If you are looking for non-dairy alternatives, I find that oat milk works best for lattes because of its creamy consistency and slight sweetness. Almond milk or coconut milk are other alternatives, although they do froth less.
A latte is 1/3 espresso, and 2/3rds milk, or a 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk ratio.
For a small-sized latte, you’ll generally have 2 shots of espresso and about 6-8 ounces of milk, which is also the ratio we used at the coffee shop I was a barista.
The beauty of making a latte (or anything) at home is that you can easily adjust the ratio depending on how strong of a latte you prefer. Just add more milk for a creamier, less strong latte, and less milk for a more coffee-concentrated latte.
Pouring & Topping a Latte
Now, you’ve made your espresso or very strong coffee, and you’ve heated the milk and shaken it up so it’s foamy, all that’s left to do is pour the latte.
Add the espresso to the bottom of a mug (a double-walled mug is great for keeping the latte warm) and immediately pour your just-shaken milk into the mug. Spoon out any foam that remains in the jar, topping the latte.
Consider this: if you are using strongly brewed coffee instead of espresso, use less milk for a more authentic latte flavor.
If desired, add a dollop of homemade whipped cream (I mean, it’s not traditional in a latte, but it’s whipped cream!). A sprinkle of cinnamon is also a lovely touch.
Homemade Latte Flavors
While an old-fashioned latte is deliciously creamy and coffee-forward all on its own, sometimes it’s good to mix it up! There are so many flavors to add to a latte – whether it’s pumpkin spice lattes in the fall, peppermint mochas in the winter, or a classic favorite.
- Vanilla Latte with vanilla syrup
- Autumn Spice for a fun fall-inspired taste
- Mocha with chocolate syrup
- Honey Lavender
- Or a lavender latte
- Caramel Latte … try using bourbon caramel sauce or caramel syrup
- Rosemary Syrup
- Ginger Syrup
- Peppermint Mocha
- Brown Sugar Syrup
- For a basic sweetener, add a little simple syrup
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe How to Make a Homemade Latte
- Brew espresso or strong coffee as desired. Pour milk into a mason jar and microwave for 1 ½ minutes. Depending on your microwave, you may need to continue heating in 30-second increments up to another minute. You want the milk hot, but not boiling.
- Carefully remove the jar of milk from the microwave; you may need to use a towel or potholder as it will be hot. Put the lid on the mason jar, making sure it is tightly sealed, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to 1 minute. See notes below for additional frothing methods.
- Continue using a towel or potholder and remove the lid carefully, being aware of any pressure that may have built up in the jar. Pour the milk over the espresso, topping with any foam that remains in the jar. Serve immediately.
- Use caution when shaking and opening the mason jar! Make sure the lid is on tight, use a towel or pot-holder to hold the jar as needed, and open the lid carefully (I again, use a towel in hand).
- Additional frothing methods:
- Use a milk frother wand
- Shake the jar of milk before microwaving. Make sure the milk doubles in size before microwaving, then once heated, immediately pour it into your espresso.
- Heat milk in a saucepan on the stovetop (or again in the microwave) then use a whisk to froth the milk.
- Strong Coffee: if using strongly brewed coffee instead of espresso, consider using more coffee/less milk for a more latte-like coffee-forward flavor.
The post “4 Ways to Make a Homemade Lattes” was originally published in March 2017; in May 2022 each latte was re-published as individual posts.