How to Make a Latte Without an Espresso Machine
You don't have to be a barista to make the perfect latte at home.
A latte is a type of coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk (it has more steamed milk and less foam than its cousin, the cappuccino). Lattes are absolutely delicious, but many people reserve them only for sipping at their favorite coffee shop since they're intimidated by making them at home. Many folks believe lattes require an espresso machine—but that's not necessarily the case.
How to Make Espresso Without a Machine
Fun fact: espresso is just fine-ground coffee that's brewed with hot water under high pressure. Sure, you could invest in a fancy one-touch Nespresso or $1000 Breville espresso machine—or you could pick up a $30 Aeropress for delicious coffee that's pretty close to being espresso.
I say "pretty close," because according to the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), espresso technically needs to be made with nine to 10 atmospheres of pressure (also called bars), and the Aeropress doesn't quite make the cut.
However, the Aeropress isn't worth dismissing if you want to make espresso or lattes at home but don't want to spend a lot on a fancy machine. Aeropress machines are known for their ability to make a smooth, rich, full-bodied cup that's less bitter and acidic than other brewing methods—and just as tasty as some very pricy espresso machines! Not to mention, you can brew your coffee or espresso directly over your mug (and cleanup is much less involved than using a French press).
How to Make Espresso with an Aeropress
First, gather your supplies. Here's what you'll need:
- Aeropress (plus a filter and scoop)
- Coffee grinder (A burr grinder is best, since it guarantees uniform grinds and consistent brewing results. We like this one from Cuisinart, $60)
- Your favorite coffee (this one from Williams Sonoma is pretty delicious, $18)
- Hot water (Tip: a gooseneck kettle is great for heating your water to the perfect temp, but it's not required)
Aeropress recommends these steps on their website to make espresso-style coffee:
- Push plunger out of chamber.
- Put a new filter into the cap, and twist the filter cap onto the chamber.
- Stand the chamber on to a sturdy mug and put one rounded scoop of fine drip grind coffee in the chamber.
- Shake to level coffee.
- Add water to level 1 on the chamber. Your water should be 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Stir grounds and water together for about 10 seconds.
- Insert plunger and press gently, pausing when you feel resistance, until plunger reaches the coffee grounds.
- Remove filter cap, push plunger to eject used coffee and rinse seal.
(Side note: Many people, including our Senior Digital Food Editor Megan Steintrager, like to use the upside-down method for the Aeropress.)
How to Froth Milk
There are a few ways you can froth milk. The first option is to heat your milk in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the oven and use a handheld frother (like this one, $20 at Williams Sonoma). With this inexpensive tool, you can get the frothy consistency you like in just 15-20 seconds. It even froths plant-based milks like soy, almond or oat milk!
The second option is a bit more expensive, but it's so worth it if you're going to be making lattes at home on a regular basis. Nespresso sells a $100 milk frother that does all the work for you. You can make hot or iced lattes with the touch of a button (a quick press heats the milk, whereas holding the button down a bit longer creates cold milk froth). Use this milk frother around 25 times, and you'll pay off your Starbucks latte habit (or, at least, that's how I justify it!).
Once your milk is frothed, simply pour it directly on top of your espresso and enjoy your homemade latte. Cheers!