Is a Latte Hot or Cold? Best Temperature for Your Coffee Revealed

Introduction

Lattes have become increasingly popular over the past few years. In fact, lattes have surpassed a regular cup of coffee for most popular beverages that are ordered at coffee shops in the United States.

The ideal latte temperature is mostly a matter of personal preference, but there are some considerations that can help make your decision whether to order a hot or iced latte. In this post, you will learn all about the best ways to enjoy a latte. You will also learn the perfect temperature to make a delicious latte which will answer the question, “Is a latte hot or cold?”

What is a Latte?

A latte is often thought of as a coffee beverage, but it does not always refer to an espresso and milk combo. In fact, the word “latte” actually comes the Italian word meaning “milk”. So what makes a latte a latte is actually the milk, not the coffee. 

An latte with espresso is more accurately referred to as a caffè latte, which means “coffee and milk.”

There are several other common types of lattes that do not have coffee. Often, these are tea-based drinks such as a matcha latte, a golden milk latte, and a London fog.

How are Lattes Made?

The Equipment

To make a great latte, you first need the proper equipment. Lattes usually require an espresso machine because they are made using espresso shots mixed with milk. Additionally, most espresso machines also have a milk frother and thermometer built in. This feature is very useful for those who make homemade lattes. For a hot latte, the temperature at which the milk is steamed is the primary factor that determines how hot a latte is.

Blue and white mug sitting on the base of an espresso machine. The espresso machine is pouring freshly brewed espresso into the mug.

What Temperature is a Hot Latte?

While there is no strict ideal temperature at which lattes must be made, most baristas will make a latte between 140-170F.

The benefit of espresso coffee drinks is that they are made to order, so you can order your hot drink as hot, or not hot as you’d like. If you are more sensitive to heat, you can ask your barista to steam your milk to a temperature closer to the 140-145F range. If you want an extra-hot latte, you can order it in the 165-170F range. Be aware that if you order your latte much above 170F, you may end up with milk that tastes bad. When milk is heated to a higher temperature (~180F) it gets scalded. Why is this important?

Well, taste will be affected due to chemical changes that occur in the milk such as protein denaturization. I’ve noticed this taste difference the most when the milk begins to cool down and gets closer to room temperature, (maybe that’s because my tongue got scalded and couldn’t tell the difference).

Milk at higher temperatures also does not work well for latte art as the microfoam that is necessary for latte art gets destroyed. If latte art is important to you, you’ll be better off sticking to the lower temperature range.

How to Make a Latte Without an Espresso Machine

While some coffee aficionados have their own home espresso machines, they are usually very expensive which can make them cost-prohibitive for many people. The good news is that if you do not have an espresso machine, there is an alternative: a moka pot. 

Moka pots are a special type of stove-top coffee maker that can make an espresso-like coffee brew. They are typically made from metal such as aluminum or stainless steel and contain two main chambers. These chambers are stacked on top of each other with a basket filter between them. Ground coffee is placed in the basket filter and water goes in the bottom chamber. When the water heats over the stove, it produces steam. The increased pressure in the lower chamber pushes the steam through the ground coffee above and ends up in the upper chamber as the final brewed coffee. 

Close up view of a silver moka pot. The top is open revealing the brewed coffee in the upper chamber.
Moka Pot

It is important to note that moka pots do not make true espresso. There are several criteria that must be met in order to be a true espresso. One of these criteria is the pressure at which the water pushes the hot water through the coffee grounds. Moka pots use considerably less pressure than an espresso machine does. While not “true espresso”, coffee brewed in a moka pot is an affordable alternative and can be used in place of espresso to make a latte. 

A French press is another alternative to espresso machines. They create a brew that is more like drip coffee and will be too dilute and water to make a good latte.

How to Make a Hot Latte

Now that you have the necessary materials, let’s talk about how to actually make a latte. 

Grab your favorite coffee beans and make 1-2 espresso shots. Next, milk that has been steamed and heated is poured over the espresso.

hand holding a white mug containing a latte. The other hand is pouring the steamed milk from a milk carafe into the mug

Besides just heating the milk, steaming the milk also creates a thin layer of milk foam that sits on top of the latte once the hot milk is poured. If you want to get fancy, feel free to practice your latte art skills during this step.

How to Make an Iced Latte

To make an iced latte, start by making your shots of espresso(2 shots is my preferred amount) and add it to a glass. Next, pour a little bit of cold milk in and mix the espresso. This step is optional, but it helps to cool down the espresso before adding the ice. If you add the ice to the freshly brewed hot espresso, it will melt the ice quicker and the cold water might make your latte more dilute. Next, add some ice cubes. Last, pour some cold milk over the top until it fills the cup.

Tall glass sitting on a concrete counter that contains an iced latte.

If you are wondering what the difference is between iced coffee vs an iced latte, the main difference is that iced coffee is simply regular drip coffee that has been poured over ice. An iced latte is espresso and milk poured over ice.

How to Make a Flavored Latte

If you want to make a flavored latte (such as a pumpkin spice latte), add the syrups to espresso before adding the milk for both hot and iced lattes. This will help the syrups to blend into the drink better. You don’t want to stir your hot latte up after you’ve poured the milk and created your beautiful latte art. Likewise, the syrup won’t dissolve as well if you add it after you add your cold ingredients like the milk and ice.

What is the Difference Between Latte and a Cappuccino?

Cappuccinos and lattes are very similar drinks. The main difference between these two espresso-based drinks is in the ratio of milk to foam. Lattes have less foam compared to cappuccinos. Sometimes up to one third of the cappuccino consists of milk foam. On the other hand, a latte is mostly steamed milk, with only a small layer of milk foam on top. For some people, the decision between a latte vs a cappuccino comes down to the caloric content they wish to consume. Since cappuccinos have a thicker layer of foam than a latte, they tend to be lower in calories.

What is the Best Type of Milk to Use in a Latte?

The best type of milk to use in a latte depends on a few factors. For those who want a classic latte, whole milk is typically the way to go. On the other hand, those who are calorie conscious may opt for 2% or even skim milk to decrease the calories and saturated fat content. One 8 oz cup of whole milk contains 150 calories per cup, whereas a similar 8 oz cup of skim milk contains only 90 calories per cup.

Those who follow a vegan diet or are dairy-free due to food allergies or other reasons may opt for a dairy-free milk alternative. Popular choices include oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Soy milk contains the most protein of these options, containing 8g per 8 oz cup.

In my experience, oat milk and soy milk make better lattes as they tend to produce better milk foam than coconut or almond milk. Some people, however, love the taste of coconut and the sweetness it adds to drinks. Almond milk is also usually a lower-calorie option than soy milk or oat milk.

Are Lattes Best Served Hot or Cold?

Whether lattes are served hot or cold is up to you. A classic latte contains heated milk resulting in a layer of milk foam. Cold lattes are made by adding espresso to a cup along with several ice cubes. Cold milk is then poured over the top to finish off the cold drink typically referred to as an “iced latte.” Because there is no steaming of the latte milk in an iced latte, you will not get a layer of foam in your iced latte like you would in a warm latte.

That being said, a coffee drinker may find that right temperature of their espresso drinks depend on the weather. On a hot day, iced coffee drinks such as iced lattes or cold brew coffees are often more popular. In the chillier seasons, however, a hot coffee drink such as a regular latte may be a better option.

What is the Best Type of Coffee to Use in a Latte?

Is There Caffeine in a Latte?

The caffeine content of lattes depends on the number of espresso shots used to make your latte. One shot of espresso has 64 mg of caffeine. Lattes usually come with one, two, or occasionally three shots. This means the average latte has anywhere from 64-192 mg of caffeine. 

If you order a decaffeinated latte, there is very little caffeine. A shot of decaffeinated espresso contains only 0.3 mg of caffeine

Is a Latte Stronger than Regular Coffee?

Whether a latte is stronger than its drip coffee counterpart depends on how many shots are in your latte. A single shot of espresso has less caffeine than a cup of drip coffee. A single espresso shot contains 64 mg of caffeine whereas an 8 oz cup of drip coffee has 96 mg

Lattes are usually made with either one or two shots. If your latte is a “single,” containing only one espresso shot, it will have less caffeine than regular coffee. If your latte has a double shot of espresso, it will have more caffeine than regular coffee. 

Conclusion

Whether you order your latte hot or cold is a matter of preference and factors such as season and time of day. Whether you order an iced, hot, or extra-hot latte is up to you. Just know that you can and should order your drinks how you like them. That’s is the beauty of custom drink options. The next time you hit up your local coffee shop you can use the info you learned in this post when ordering your perfect latte. Enjoy!

Try these recipes to go with your favorite latte:

Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins

Vegan Zucchini Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Did you enjoy this post? You may also enjoy:

Healthy Thinks to Eat with Your Coffee

What is the Difference Between Chai Tea and a Chai Tea Latte?

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