I love a good latte as much as the next person. What I don't love is spending all my money on that delicious grande nonfat Cinnamon Dolce latte. (Love ya though, Starbs. Thanks for all you do.) I worked in a local coffee shop all through high school and thankfully still remember a thing or two from my glory days. To prove it, allow me to introduce you to my foolproof method for making a delectable homemade latte.
What You Need
- Coffee bean grinder (I'm using this one from Krups)
- Espresso machine (I'm using an older model from Krups. Here's the modern version)
- Frothing pitcher (I'm using this one from Krups)
- Espresso beans (I'm in a committed relationship with Peace Coffee Espresso Blend)
- Milk (Not a huge cow's milk fan, I'm using unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze)
- Optional flavor or sweetener (I'm using hazelnut Torani Syrup)
What You Do
First, you should grind your beans. You want a very fine consistency for maximum smooth taste and true-to-tradition quality. If you live in an apartment building with thin walls (just me? Didn't think so.), try to do this when you know the guy above you isn't home. Grinders can get pretty loud. Don't grind the whole bag of beans, as whole beans stay fresher than ground coffee does. Store ground coffee in an airtight container, and try to use it within a few days.
Obviously, you should follow the instructions on your specific espresso machine. But here's what I did with my specific model—and they're all pretty similar. Add as much water to the espresso machine and load espresso grounds into the portafilter. While the shot is pulling (fancy barista speak for pouring into the vessel you have placed in the machine), you'll want to get ready to froth your milk.
Depending on the size of your mug or cup, you need to do a little math here. Your shot is probably either two or four ounces. If your mug is 12 oz, you'll want to froth 8 oz of milk to leave room for the foam at the top. Milk expands while it's being frothed—that's all frothing is. Steam is injected into the milk to heat it and give it a thick, creamy texture. So pour your 8 oz (or whatever measurement you've settled on) into the frothing pitcher and add in about an ounce of your flavor syrup. An ounce is a standard shot glass, for reference.
Position the frothing wand so it's about half an inch from the side of the pitcher and angle the pitcher like you see in this picture. Turn on the frothing wand and adjust until you're getting a healthy squealing noise from the wand. Eventually, you want to get a nice funnel of milk spinning in the pitcher. If you have a candy or meat thermometer, stick it in the pitcher. Your milk should get between 150 and 160 degrees. If it gets any hotter than 160, you'll kill all the foam. Another way to test this is to gently put a finger on the outside of the pitcher. If it's too hot to keep the finger there, you're probably good. It should only take about 22 seconds to get to this point. Slowly pull the pitcher down to create a bit of foam at the top of your milk, and turn the frothing wand off.
Pour the espresso into your mug first, then pour the milk in. Use the same motion you would to pour a milkshake or a drink to pour the milk without letting all the froth fall in. If you can't master this skill right away, use a spoon to keep the froth back until the very end.
If you're totally not feeling all the frothing stuff right away, you can always heat milk on the stove.
For a coffee-free variation, make a steamer—that's just the steamed milk and flavor, no espresso.
Let me know how it goes, coffee addicts! I welcome any and all feedback.