There’s nothing quite like a perfect latte to give you a mid-day boost or get your morning started right.
But are lattes hot, or can they be cold? What makes the perfect latte?
In this post, I’ll explore the perfect temperature for your latte, how to make a latte, and much more. Let’s get started!
What Are Lattes?
Lattes are a combination of steamed milk and espresso. The mixture is deliciously smooth, and it’s often one of the most popular drinks at the local coffee shop.
Part of the reason lattes are so popular is that steamed milk means they taste milder and often sweeter than your typical cup of coffee.
But the popularity of the latte may also have something to do with the fact that many coffee shops also do latte art in the mug, so you have a beautiful drink as well as a delicious one.
Like most coffee drinks, lattes can be customized for more flavor or to change the taste of the coffee.
While steamed milk might not be as sweet as whipped cream, sweetness usually isn’t an issue with lattes. Steaming milk brings out some natural sweetness, and you can add sugar or syrups to the hot milk and espresso to make them taste even better.
Like most espresso drinks, some sweetener is recommended but not always required.
Does Latte Mean Hot?
Even though most lattes are served hot, latte doesn’t mean hot. In fact, the original name of lattes, cafe de latte, is Italian and means coffee with milk. Most lattes are made with an espresso shot instead of regular coffee, of course, but latte means milk.
That makes sense since latte milk is one of the most essential parts of this coffee drink, and changing which milk you use can make a massive difference in the taste of the latte.
You can have a cold latte, though hot lattes are much more common, and some people think that hot lattes are the only way to serve an authentic latte.
What Makes Lattes Different From Other Kinds Of Coffee?
Lattes are different than other coffee drinks because they contain just two main ingredients: espresso and steamed milk.
Other coffee beverages might contain brewed coffee, creams, and other flavorings.
Can Lattes Be Cold?
Even though most people think of a hot latte when they think of this popular coffee drink, you can have a cold latte. You can even make an iced latte if you want to. In fact, iced lattes can even taste better to some people than lattes that are served hot.
That said, there are plenty of people who think an iced latte isn’t a real latte and prefer only hot lattes. If you order a regular latte, chances are it will be a hot drink instead of being served cold.
Why do people think a hot latte is the only real latte? It’s about the texture and taste of the drink.
Lattes are a combination of espresso and milk. The espresso and milk can be different temperatures or the same temperature, but both are usually hot. That way, the steamed milk can be frothed, and frothy milk is a huge part of how you get the smooth creamy texture of a latte.
That’s because the milk foam still retains some air when it’s mixed with the espresso. The combination is smooth, delicious, and one of the most popular coffee drinks you can get.
But, you can make an iced latte and still get a similar effect. Starting with hot or cold espresso, you add ice and pour in cold milk. Iced lattes aren’t relatively as smooth as a hot latte, which is part of why some people think they aren’t a real latte.
There are some other differences between hot lattes and iced lattes though. Here’s what you need to know if you’re trying to decide whether you want to give an iced latte a try.
Hot Lattes vs Cold Lattes: What To Expect
A lot of people think that the main difference between an iced latte and a warm latte is just the temperature.
The truth is that the temperature has a bit role to play, but there are differences in how you prepare an iced latte vs a hot one, and those differences mean that the two drinks taste pretty different too.
For one thing, think about how you brew the coffee.
For a hot latte, you’re going to make espresso in an espresso machine. You might heat the milk in the same espresso machine so that you can make it nice and frothy. After all, frothy milk is an important part of a hot latte.
But for an iced latte, there are a few more options. For one thing, you can use cold milk and cold coffee. You also don’t necessarily need to use espresso unless you want to.
Making iced lattes, you can brew coffee however you’d prefer, including cold brewing if you want a different flavor or texture.
Plus, since the temperature of hot water when you brew coffee changes the taste profile of the coffee beans, that also means that iced lattes tend to be less bitter even without sugar or sweetener.
That’s because cold-brew coffee is naturally a little sweeter than hot coffee so any sweeteners you’re adding don’t have to fight the bitter flavor.
Related: Milk Frother vs Steamer
Should Hot Lates Be Hot Or Warm?
It may not be surprising when the difference between hot milk or cold milk can convince people that a latte isn’t a latte, but plenty of people have a similar debate about the right serving temperature for hot lattes too.
If you go to a coffee shop or restaurant and order a latte, chances are you’ll be served a hot drink. It might even take a few minutes for the coffee to cool enough to drink.
But if your friend makes you a latte at home, they might serve it warm instead of hot. That might seem strange for a drink made with hot espresso, but since the brewing temperature can make a big difference in the taste of your coffee, there may be a few reasons to serve coffee made at a lower brewing temperature.
For one thing, brewing your espresso at a slightly lower temperature means that the coffee will taste different. But you’re also less likely to burn your tongue if you set your espresso machine to a lower temperature, even if you don’t go as cold as an iced coffee.
Brewing at a slightly lower temperature might also mean that you can use more coffee or espresso in your latte without making it bitter. That’s huge since lattes often have less coffee, and therefore less caffeine the way they’re typically served.
If you want to make a latte that holds up to other coffee drinks, that has a double shot of espresso, or is made with more coffee grounds, then making it warm instead of hot may be a good way to go.
Can You Flavor A Latte?
Yes! In fact, flavoring lattes is one of the reasons they’re such a popular drink. After all, they aren’t a highly caffeinated coffee most of the time, so the main reason most people like a regular latte is because they can be flavored.
Mocha flavor is one of the most popular since the rich smoothness of a latte really compliments the flavor of the chocolate. But you shouldn’t limit yourself to just mocha.
Almost any flavor that tastes good in coffee tastes good in lattes. Some flavors might even taste better thanks to how much milk is in a typical latte.
Plus, since espresso tastes a little different from regular coffee or iced coffee, there are some flavors that work better because of the espresso rather than just the milk.
Why mention that there are so many different ways to flavor lattes or how important brewing temperature is for the flavor? Because those differences mean you have a ton of different ways to flavor and change the taste of a latte other than just adding another shot of espresso.
Can You Make A Latte At Home?
Absolutely! Of course, espresso machines can be relatively expensive, so you should make sure you want to have lattes regularly if you’re going to invest in the equipment.
Some espresso machines have a double boiler that let you heat both parts of the drink at the same time. Others will only have a single boiler for the espresso. If you get a single boiler machine, you might want a steam wand or another tool to quickly and efficiently heat and froth the milk.
Other than that, lattes are supposed to be served in porcelain cups, but that’s not a requirement.
In fact, if you’re making your latte at home you can even use cold water and instant coffee if you want to, but you won’t have the best cup compared to other techniques.
How To Make A Hot Latte
Making a hot latte isn’t as hard as it seems, at least until you start trying to make art in the foam. It’s a good idea to get a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the coffee and the milk.
Making the Latte
The classic way to make a hot latte is to heat the espresso first. That’s because heating the coffee more brings out the deep nutty flavors in the coffee beans themselves.
Once the espresso is heating, if you don’t have a double-boiler espresso machine, start heating the milk. If you do have a double boiler, it will likely heat the coffee and the milk to the same temp, which means you might want to use a lower temperature so the coffee is on the cooler side but the milk isn’t too warm.
The next step is to froth the milk. You want to froth it before mixing in the espresso because the milk will hold air and froth better on it’s own.
If you’re heating your own milk in a saucepan you can froth it while it heats. A lot of coffee lovers think it tastes better heated this way.
The next step is to combine and decorate your latte.
Decorating Your Latte
If you want to start making latte art you’ll need a pitcher-shaped container to hold the milk. There are lots of specialized tools like the ones in you local cafe, but a measuring cup with a pour spout works almost as well.
Pour the espresso into your cup first, then slowly add the milk. The froth and foam mean that the espresso and milk won’t completely combine, so you can manipulate the milk and latte to help make designs in the cup.
Of course, coffee art takes some time to master, so don’t expect to have Instagram-worthy art on the first try!
How To Make A Cold Latte
Cold lattes are a little different from other iced coffee, but that can actually mean that they’re easier to make and a lot earlier to make on the go.
Plus, unlike a regular latte, serving a latte cold means you don’t have to worry about portable cups that don’t hold heat or spill easily or not using too much milk to avoid serving at a lower temperature.
If you’re a coffee lover you’re probably used to being a little picky about your coffee, but with cold lattes you can be a little more experimental.
Choosing Your Coffee
If you’re making an iced latte, you can choose between a class shot of espresso, iced coffee, or cold brew coffee.
Each type of coffee will have a different flavor in your finished iced coffee drink, so feel free to try them all.
We’d recommend the sweetness of iced coffee or cold brew coffee if you’re not looking for intense coffee flavor.
Even if you don’t start with iced coffee you’ll want to put your latte over ice. The ice helps mimic some of the texture of a heated latte.
Choose and Froth Your Milk
Like all lattes, you can choose whatever type of milk you want depending on the taste you’re going for. It probably won’t froth as well cold, so you can choose between trying to froth the cold milk or heating it and trusting the ice to cool the drink.
We’d recommend starting with heated milk and then trying it with regular milk later to see how they compare.
Putting It All Together
You’ll also want to experiment with how much milk you add to your iced coffee. Too little milk, and it won’t taste much like a latte. Too much, and you might lose the coffee flavor and wind up with a drink even weaker than a normal latte.
Of course, you can add a little more coffee or espresso later, but the texture won’t be the same if you add coffee after you’ve finished adding the milk.
It’s also worth experimenting with how many ice cubes you add to the drink. The ice cubes water down your latte a little bit, and change the flavor, so too many will make your drink too weak, while too few might not chill your coffee enough.
Final Thoughts on Are Lattes Hot or Cold?
Lattes are traditionally served hot, but they can also be served chilled if desired. Both hot and cold lattes are great drinks that can fuel your caffeine addiction in the morning. It’s all up to your preferred flavor on which temperature latte you want.