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I'd like to save a little money by making my morning latte at home instead of buying it. But it seems like the barista does something beyond just mixing coffee and warm milk to result in that perfect latte.

What ingredients go into a coffee-shop latte, such as those made at Starbucks? What techniques do I need to approximate one at home, with common household equipment?

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This is a recipe request, I think? –  Neil Fein Apr 25 '12 at 17:08
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Technique more than recipe. –  Chris Cudmore Apr 25 '12 at 17:17
    
@ChrisCudmore: The question explicitly asks about ingredients, and doesn't ask about technique. Either way, a recipe is basically ingredients plus instructions (technique). –  Jefromi Apr 25 '12 at 18:05
    
Is this something that's not answered by en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latte ? –  Jefromi Apr 25 '12 at 18:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Espresso, steamed milk.

It isn't a complicated recipe at all, but it does require some equipment and technique.

Espresso: You need to use an espresso roast coffee that is finely ground. If you like Starbucks, then buy a pound from them.

Milk: There are a whole bunch of beverages made out of coffee and steamed milk. My joke about Italians is that every time they make one tiny little change in the preparation of something, they give it a brand new name.

You need to steam the milk to introduce air and to warm it up, subtly changing the flavour. If you watch the barristas at starbucks, you'll see that they end up with a steel pitcher of warm milk with a thick foam on top.

I'll define a cappuccino as the base beverage.

A Cappuccino is 1 measure of Espresso, 1 measure of the warm milk from the bottom of the pitcter (Use a spoon to stop the foam from pouring out) and then one measure of the dry foam spooned on top.

A Macchiato is a DRY cappuccino. Omit the milk. Just spoon the dry foam on top.

A Latte is a WET cappuccino. Omit the foam. You can spoon a little on top for appearances.

I've used the terms wet and dry. If you were to actually order a wet cappuccino, you'd get something between the Latte and Cappucino. If you were to order it dry, you'd get something between the Cappuccino and the Macchiato.

The French Cafe Au Lait is strong coffee (brewed, not expressed), with almost boiled milk. If you don't have a steamer available, this might be the route to take. It's similar to a Latte, but without the equipment.

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If you don't have a steamer or an espresso machine, I would spend $30 on an immersion blender.

immersion blender

And $30 on a French Press:

French Press

Brew coffee in French Press, heat milk in pot on stove, use immersion blender to froth milk while still in the pot and then combine it with your coffee. As Chris mentioned, this is technically a Cafe au Lait, as you will want your ratio of coffee to milk to be more 50/50 rather than the 25/75 in a latte.

However, the immersion blender will give your milk that frothy creaminess that you get from a steamer. The French Press will give you the Crema on top of the coffee that you get on espresso, but don't get from traditional drip preparations.

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