How much milk do you need to make the perfect latte?
It’s a balancing act – too much and you’ll barely be able to taste the coffee, too little and you’re straying into cappuccino territory.
In this article I’ll explain how much milk should go into a latte depending on the size of your drink. I’ll also compare the amount of milk in a latte against other coffee drinks.
What is a Latte?
The term ‘latte’ is a shortened version of the original Italian name ‘Caffè Latte’ – meaning coffee & milk. A latte contains at least one shot of espresso, mixed with steamed milk and with a milk foam topper.
The drink called was first described to English speaking audiences by William Dean Howells in 1867. However if we could go back in time and compare it to the modern version we’re familiar with, we’d probably find it to be quite different. At that point in history, there were no milk frothing or espresso machines, so the drink resembled the French Cafe au Lait with warm milk and no foam.
The modern version of the drink that we’re familiar with is believed to have been invented nearly 100 years later. Whilst the exact circumstances are somewhat hazy, the most commonly accepted story is that it was invented and introduced to US consumers by Lino Meiorin- owner of the Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley. From the 1980s onwards foam art started to be added by Baristas in Seattle and began to explode in popularity with the advent of Starbucks.
What is the Perfect Ratio of Coffee to Milk in a Latte?
The perfect homemade latte should ideally be served in an 8 oz cup. A latte with a single shot (1 oz) of espresso should be topped up with 5-6 oz of steamed milk. This gives a single shot latte a coffee to milk ratio of around 1:5.
How Much Milk Goes in a Double Shot Latte?
When it comes to preparing a double shot latte at home, you can go one of two ways. You can retain the 1:5 ratio of coffee to milk, serving two shots of espresso and 8-10 oz of steamed milk. You’ll notice, of course, that this will mean you need to serve the drink in a larger cup.
I think that serving more milk in a bigger cup dilutes the taste of the espresso. However this is the ideal choice if you prefer your drink to have a less strong taste of coffee.
If you prefer a more balanced brew, my recommended approach is to keep the 8 oz cup and tweak the ratio.
Prepare a double shot latte with 2 oz of espresso and 4-5 oz of steamed milk. This gives the drink a much more satisfying balance of milk and coffee.
How Much Milk Goes in a 12 oz Latte?
The answer to this question very much depends on your preference. The 12 oz latte is a fairly modern invention, made popular by Starbucks from the 1990s onwards,
Whilst a ‘traditional’ latte is served in an 8 oz cup, there’s nothing wrong with a 12 oz cup – anyone who tells you otherwise is a coffee snob!
When making a 12 oz latte the best thing to do is take the ratios you’d usually use for 8 oz and just scale them up. Doing this means that you will retain the balance of coffee and milk flavors.
For example, you should use two shots of espresso (2 oz) and add 9-10 oz of steamed milk. If you prefer a stronger coffee you’ll need to swap out an oz of milk for another oz of coffee. That can be a lot of coffee in one hit though! If a strong coffee is your preference I suggest you stick with a double shot 8 oz latte.
How Much Milk Goes in a Latte vs Cappuccino?
Like lattes, cappuccinos are a milk-based drink. However, there is a significant difference in the amount of milk that goes into each.
The actual ratios of milk to coffee aren’t that different – a cappuccino is also typically 1/3 espresso.
However, cappuccino has a much stronger coffee taste because it is a smaller drink, usually clocking in at 3 oz vs the 8 oz+ of a latte.
A cappuccino is a great choice if you want a quick, strong breakfast coffee that still has plenty of milk and a nice creamy taste. A latte on the other hand is ideal if you prefer a more milky drink.
Milk in Caffè Latte vs Latte Macchiato
A Latte Macchiato is made by pouring espresso into a cup of steamed milk, ‘staining’ the milk with the coffee. This is in contrast to a regular caffè latte in which the espresso is added first, with milk added second.
Other than the order in which the ingredients are mixed, there is no difference in the amount of milk in each drink.
There is, however, a difference in the amount of milk in a latte vs the amount of milk in an espresso macchiato.
Served in a 2-3 oz demitasse cup, an espresso macchiato contains one or two shots of espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and foam on top. Espresso macchiato is a much stronger drink than a latte, best suited if you want a strong hit of coffee with a dash of milk.
Tracking Calories in a Latte
Because of its milk content, a latte is higher in calories than other coffee drinks. It goes without saying that you should consume in moderation!
If you’re monitoring your daily calorie intake it’s important to understand how many calories are in your latte. Since coffee is free from calories, you only need to concern yourself with the calories in the milk.
How you track your latte-based calories depends on whether you make it yourself or order from a cafe.
Measuring the calories in drinks you make at home is easy – you know how much milk you added so simply enter the amount and type of milk you used into your tracking app. This will then give you a readout of the number of calories consumed.
Things get a little more complicated when you order from a cafe. Because you don’t have complete control over how much milk or coffee goes into the cup it can be hard to know exactly how many calories you’ve consumed.
Working Against Gravity recommend the following approach:
- Weigh your coffee cup when full and make a note of this figure.
- Calculate the volume of coffee in your cup by assuming 15-20g of coffee per shot of espresso. For example, assume a double shot latte has approx. 40g of coffee.
- After enjoying your latte, weigh the empty cup. Subtract this from the weight your recorded when measuring the full cup.
- Subtract the weight of the coffee calculated in step 2. The remaining result is the amount of milk you drank.