A latte, or cafe latte, is a classic coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk and is a worldwide favorite. It also can come in a variety of ways, with each region of the world adding its own spin to the original Italian caffè e latte. In East Asian countries, the green tea latte variant made with matcha is quite popular.
Additional ingredients in lattes around the world can include more exotic touches like masala chai, rooibos, or even sea salt. There’s seasonal crazes for pumpkin spice lattes in the autumn and eggnog latte in the winter. Or, if you’re feeling more less adventurous there are also more traditional variations such as caramel and vanilla. Whatever your preference, there’s a latte for you!
While I could go on forever just on the variations, history, etc. of the latte I’m here today to tell you how you can bring this coffeehouse classic into your home without using an espresso machine, specifically by using a French press.
Not only do you not need an expensive, and at times, burdensome espresso machine but you can also save boatloads of cash and time by not having to venture to the coffee shop to get your latte fix.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
What You Need to Make Latte With a French Press
First things first, whilst you don’t need a whole espresso machine, there are still a couple of things that you’ll need to make the perfect latte using a French press. They are:
- 4 tablespoons of ground coffee
- Water (the exact amount depends on the serving size and how strong you want the coffee to be but I recommend 150-180ml)
- 1 cup of milk of your choice (soy, almond, etc.)
- 1 French press coffee maker (of course!)
- Optional (depending on the method of milk prep):
- Milk frother
- Mason jar
- Milk frothing pitcher
- Steam wand (on the espresso machine)
Preparing the Coffee
Since there are two important components to a latte – espresso and milk – I will breakdown the methods to prepare both the coffee as well as the milk.
- Measure and add the 4 tablespoons of ground coffee to the French press.
- Bring the water to a near boil in either a pot or a kettle. You should aim for about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add the water to the French press and stir the coffee gently.
- Let the coffee brew for approximately 4 minutes.
- Press down the plunger.
- Pour into a cup and then immediately add the prepared milk (preparation below).
Note: Since you need to add the prepared milk immediately after the coffee for the best results, try your best to prepare the coffee and milk simultaneously or do what works best for you. Practice makes perfect!
Preparing the Milk
A latte without milk is like a banana split without a banana. And to not have the milk prepared correctly would be like eating only banana-flavored ice cream and calling it a banana split!
Sure, a French press coffee is good, but we would be missing the whole point of a latte if we didn’t properly froth the milk.
So now that I’ve reinforced the importance of milk to a latte, it’s important to say that the type of milk that you use also matters. Mainly, in that different types of milk or milk drink will froth differently.
So how long and the results you can expect can vary between full-fat milk, fat-free milk, and an alternative milk drink like soy or almond milk.
Let’s get into how to prepare the milk using a variety of methods.
Using Your French Press to Froth the Milk
- Heat the milk.
- Stovetop: Bring milk to a simmer, stirring it occasionally to prevent a layer from forming on the top. Remove from the heat when you see steam coming from the milk.
- Microwave: Microwave it for 30 seconds to start. If it isn’t steaming then continue to microwave it in 15-second intervals until it begins to steam.
- Pour the heated milk into the French press. But don’t fill it any more than ⅓ of the way, as it will expand.
- Put the lid on and push and pull the plunger of the French press. Continue this for about 30 seconds or until the volume of the milk doubles.
Frothing the Milk With a Wand and Pitcher
- Pour the cold milk into a milk frothing pitcher.
- Place the milk-filed pitcher beneath the steam wand.
- Insert the steam wand into the milk, only just beneath the surface. Slowly increase the steam adjustment dial until there is a steady stream of steam.
- Keep the wand near the wall of the frothing pitcher in a manner that makes the milk go into a vortex motion.
- Move the pitcher up and down and also around the wand to try to incorporate as much air as possible to break up the large bubbles. As you do this the bubbles in the milk should decrease in size.
- Once the milk has roughly doubled in size, remove the steam wand from the pitcher. The texture of the milk should resemble melted ice cream.
- Quickly clean the wand with a cloth or paper towel to remove all of the milk drippings.
- Immediately pour the milk into the coffee.
Frothing the Milk with a Jar
- Pour the milk into a mason jar and close the lid.
- Shake the jar until the milk foams up. Again, until it almost doubles in volume.
- Remove the lid of the jar and microwave for 30 seconds.
- Repeat for additional 15-second intervals until you notice steam.
How to Flavor Your Milk
It’s understandable if you want to try to replicate the delicious flavored latte that you get at the coffee shop.
You can spice up your milk to give your latte a flavor boost. I have a couple of ideas for you that can give your latte a bit extra oomph. Some basic additions to your milk are cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla extract, or something a bit crazier like honey almond.
Here’s a breakdown of the different flavors you can add to your french press latte:
- Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
- Vanilla: 1 drop, add more to taste
- Cocoa: 1 tablespoon
- Honey almond: 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon almond extract.
To do it, add the ingredients to the milk at the beginning of the frothing process and continue as you would otherwise. Yes – it’s really that simple!
Pros and Cons of Making Latte with a French Press
Of course, in life, there are very few things that are perfect enough to not miss out on anything.
Like most things, when you make a latte with a French press there are certainly some things that you might be missing out on compared to the traditional way of making one.
I’ll go through the pros and cons of making a latte with a French press and I’ll let you be the judge.
First, let’s see why you should make a latte with a french press.
The French press is a very straightforward little machine that doesn’t require much knowledge unlike when using an espresso machine, or even a coffee maker. Also, there are no extra (and expensive) parts to have to worry about. It’s just the container and the plunger.
You can pick up a decent French press for around $20 or even less on sale. Because if this, it’s an option that’s very healthy for the wallet.
You don’t need any power for it to work. It’s old school and functional without the extra wires and all that. Which also allows it to be…
Do you feel like a latte when you are camping? Go for it! Take your French press with you and all you’ll need is a way to safely heat it up.
Unlike bulky espresso machines, a French press has a tiny footprint and can be stored away in a cabinet until you’re ready to use it.
Naturally, there are a few things that are missing from such a simple tool when making a latte.
Not for the purists
If you are adamant about having coffee the “proper” way, then perhaps it’s not for you.
One of the most annoying things about using a French press for a latte or otherwise is the clean-up. It’s pretty annoying to scrape out all of the remaining coffee groups stuck to the bottom of the press.
Unlike its more mechanized counterpart, the process of making the coffee for your latte in a French press takes longer than an espresso machine.
You need to pay attention to the time when the coffee is being extracted when using a French press. If you don’t leave the coffee in it long enough it can be weak and watery. On the other hand, if you leave it for too long it could also ruin the coffee by giving it a chemical-like taste.
How to Make Iced Latte with a French Press
On a warm day, an iced latte is a great cold drink for an afternoon pick-me-up. If you plan on making an iced latte with a French press, the best way is to not just add ice cubes to a hot latte as that will just result in a cool and diluted latte.
The best way to do it is by cold-brew. Here is how you do it:
- Add the ground coffee to the French press
- Add the water (warm, or room temperature)
- Stir the coffee while you add the water
- Put the lid on the French press but keep the plunger UP
- Put the French press in the fridge and allow the coffee to infuse into the water overnight (between 8-24 hours)
- The coffee portion of the latte is good to go
- Prepare a glass with ice cubes, and add any flavored syrups if you are using them
- Pour the coffee and then the milk into the glass and you have it! You’re ready to enjoy your homemade iced latte.
Note: Use the same amount of ingredients as previously described, add ice cubes