Whole Lotta Latte Love

By Lewis Vega
Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:36am

Any latte lover knows the coffee drink delivers the perfect pick-me-up, even if it is decaf. The most versatile of the coffee drink family, it can be altered based on what you're in the mood for, the temperature outside and the amount of wake up you need. Finding a favorite latte could be a challenge. But the good news is every latte starts with milk and espresso, but that's where the similarities end.

Size Matters
The espresso and milk come in fixed units. Espresso shots, which are about 30ml each are referred to by the number of them in the drink.

Single
Double
Triple
Quad

A double latte would have two shots of concentrated coffee goodness. The milk portion comes in its own sizes

8-ounce, small
12-ounce, tall
16-ounce, grande
20-ounce, venti

One shot of espresso is needed for every 8 ounces of milk. For instance a grande latte has two espresso shots. If you have a home espresso maker, you'll want to use these sizes as a reference. In Italy, lattes are served in 8-ounce servings and only at breakfast.

A European Favorite
The latte of course has Italian roots, but it's been a favorite in other countries as well. Order a latte in Italy and what you get is just the milk and it’s called a caffelatte. Order a latte in France and you'll have to say café au lait. Go to a Spanish-speaking country and you'll need to say café con leche and in Portugal it's café com leite. Use a home espresso maker and you can call it whatever you want.

Frothing the Milk
A key player in a great latte is the frothed milk. When using an at  home espresso maker the frothing tip should stay in the mid-depth in the milk. You should see a whirlpool as the milk moves in the frothing pitcher.  When the milk expands to about 50 percent of its original volume and reaches 160 degrees, then it's ready to use. When the side of the metal pitcher gets hot enough to be almost too hot to touch, you've reached the right temperature. 

Latte Art
While the latte tastes great, drawing shapes in the latte foam makes it look impressive too. Baristas trained in the art of latte art make a latte fan's heart melt. CoffeeGeek offers a guide to performing latte art using an at home espresso maker. Among the tips is to use a wide mouth cup to have more room to work. When you're ready to pour the steamed milk, tip the cup toward you. With a combination of pouring and gently shaking the cup, you can create designs.

Variations
The cappuccino is a cousin of the latte it is smaller and has one third espresso, one third milk and one third foam. An espresso macchiato is espresso with just a little bit of milk or a dollop of foam on top. A mocha adds chocolate syrup to the mix. A 12-ounce mocha needs about an ounce of chocolate. Add a shot of flavor syrup and the variations are endless. You can also vary the type of milk you use. Whole, low fat, no fat and soy all work. That's a whole lotta lattes.