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A latte is a special kind of pick-me-up that you may avoid making at home because you think it’s too complicated, or you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a fancy barista-level latte or espresso machine. We hear you. But we think your coffee cravings shouldn’t be dictated by your budget or space constraints.
So we’re here to tell you how to make a latte … without any of the expensive equipment. It’s easier than you think, so you’re not far from a fresh latte (or, dare we suggest, a latte art session) in the comfort of your own home.
You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Espresso Machine
So you don’t have a machine to steam your milk or compress your espresso. No problem! While a machine makes the process much easier, you can still enjoy a fresh latte in the comfort of your own home. It just takes a little planning and some elbow grease.
You need a little more than your regular coffee pot to make a successful latte at home. Short of buying a machine, we recommend investing in a few tools to make brewing a latte easier.
Depending on what types of coffee makers you already have, you might not need to get anything at all. Essentially, you need:
- A way to steam your milk
- A way to froth your milk
- A way to make your espresso
Making the Steamed Milk
Steamed milk is essentially heated milk. However, you want to heat the it just enough to give it the power of bubbles without scalding or changing the milky flavor. You can do this in the microwave, but you have more control over the heat on the stove, so we recommend going to the stovetop for this one.
What You Need
- Small saucepan
- Pour the milk into a small saucepan and place it on the stovetop.
- Place the thermometer in the milk to monitor the temperature. Or, if this isn’t possible, just have the thermometer handy to periodically check the temperature.
- Heat the milk on medium to medium-low. Depending on the type of milk you use, you want to hit a certain temperature to steam it:
- Milk: 150ºF (65ºC)
- Soy milk: 140ºF (60ºC)
- Almond milk: 130ºF (54ºC)
- Occasionally stir the milk to keep it from boiling. Once it hits the appropriate temperature, remove the milk from heat and pour it directly into your coffee, or froth it.
Stainless Steel Saucepan with Glass Lid Price:
Making the Espresso
It’s much easier to make steamed and frothed milk without an espresso machine than it is to make espresso without a machine. That’s because good espresso relies on pressure, and a machine is the easiest way to achieve consistent levels.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, espresso at home is straightforward once you get the hang of it. All you need is an Aeropress, Moka pot, or a French press.
If you noticed a trend with these coffee makers, you’re already a step ahead. These coffee makers rely on some type of pressure to brew or extract coffee. They might not provide as much force as an espresso machine, but they can still get the job done.
Now that you’ve got pressure covered, all you need are some dark roast coffee beans and, of course, a burr grinder . Another key part of espresso is a fine grind, which can be nearly impossible to achieve without a proper grinder. Besides, many good burr grinders are inexpensive and save you the work and stress of grinding your beans. What’s not to love?
OXO On Conical Burr Coffee Grinder with Integrated Scale Price: $199.94
Spicing Up Your Latte
Sure, a traditional latte is just milk and espresso. But we live in a world of infinite flavor combinations, so don’t let a simple recipe stop you from spicing up your carefully brewed latte. After all, who needs to go to a huge coffee chain for flavored lattes when you can do it at home for less?
While it’s a popular option, syrup isn’t the only way to add some zest to your latte. Get experimenting with your spices and baking supplies for a more flavorful, delicious cup of coffee.
Not sure where to start? Try adding a dash of:
- Cocoa powder
- Cardamom pods
- Ground ginger
- Ground cloves
- Black peppercorns
- Chocolate chips
- Peppermint extract
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
Just a word of warning—a little flavor can go a long way (especially when you’re dealing with extracts). Start with an eighth or fourth of a teaspoon, and work your way up to the perfect amount of flavor for you.
Better yet, make sure to write down what you do so you can adjust and replicate your latte flavors in the future.
The Pros of Espresso Machines
Yes, we’ve been talking about how to make a latte without the machine. But if you’re making lattes more than you’re brewing a regular cup of coffee, an espresso machine might be a good investment for you.
That’s because espresso made without a machine is less exact. Brewing a good shot of espresso relies on extremely precise pressures and water temperatures. Using alternative methods to brew espresso can open you up to mistakes in your shots, rather than a perfect shot every time.
We get that your budget and your counter space can really limit your coffee equipment fantasies. But if you have the means and the kitchen capacity, an espresso machine can make it quicker and easier to get to your morning latte.
Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine Price: $597.35
It’s Been Fun, Thanks a Latte
You have all (or most) of the tools, and now you have the knowledge. Get off the internet and get to brewing that latte.
The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.
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How to Make Concentrated Coffee with an Aeropress
To make a convincing shot of concentrated coffee, you will need an Aeropress, dark or espresso roasted coffee beans, and hot water just off the boil.
- Begin by finely grinding 1 Aeropress scoop (or 14-15 grams) of coffee.
- Attach a paper filter to the aeropress and use some hot water to prewet the filter.
- Add your coffee and fill the Aeropress with hot water up to the number 2 line. Immediately stir.
- Insert the plunger at an angle, then straighten and pull back slightly to create a vacuum seal.
- Wait about 15 seconds, then press slowly on the plunger for 15 seconds to finish the coffee.
- The total extraction time should be around 30-40 seconds. Once you combine the coffee and water, do your best to work quickly until the vacuum seal is created.
For more details, please refer to my Aeropress guide and scroll to the concentrated coffee section.
As it turns out, you really don’t need to spend a fortune on an espresso machine to make lattes and iced lattes at home. The Aeropress will do a good enough job to satisfy most people. The key is to use medium to medium dark coffee, ground finely, and extracted quickly.
In my opinion, the ability to make concentrated coffee is the number one reason why all coffee lovers should own an Aeropress. Concentrated coffee is a specialty limited to the Aeropress unless you are willing to spend serious money on an actual espresso machine.
If you have any tips for making lattes with the Aeropress, I would love to hear about them below. Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest!