Making a Good Cafe Latte
This discussion needs to start with clarification. There are really two types of cafe latte. Most Americans will be familiar with the espresso drink that features a lightly foamed portion of milk. There is another form, principally French, that is quite simply coffee with milk. A strong cup of drip coffee is served with warmed milk and the drinker chooses their own proportions. This, of course, is very similar to the cup of Joe that is so popular in the US. Most people, however, when they ask for a latte, are expecting a shot of espresso to be involved.
First and foremost, don’t be put off by people who tell you there’s only one way to make a latte. Some latte drinkers prefer a relatively milk-heavy blend, with about 2 parts milk to one part latte. Others prefer double or triple shots in their lattes, making the drink more of a cup of espresso with some token milk, for all practical purposes. The principal differentiation between this drink and cappuccino, to which it is very much related, is the nature of the milk and, most importantly, the amount of foam on the head of the beverage.
Most often, a cafe latte has minimal foam. Some drinkers prefer more and some will request that there is no foam at all. All of these drinkers are enjoying a latte, however. Oftentimes, this drink is flavored with a shot of vanilla, which adds a delightful sweetness to the brew. No matter how you want your latte, remember that it is, indeed, your latte and you can mix it however you like. If you’re making your own at home, there are a few basic things that will make it turn out good every single time you make it.
An espresso shot is traditionally 1 oz in size. Many latte drinkers will prefer the double or triple shot simply because it makes the drink taste less “milky”. The milk can be steamed, if you have a machine for it, or it can be heated up and frothed with a whisk or a milk-frother. You don’t need a lot of foam to make a latte, however, and what foam you have should not be stiff, as it would in a cappuccino. Your espresso shot should be added first, the milk second and what foam you have spooned onto the top last.
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