The latte is one of the most loved coffee drinks in the world. Thanks to its customizability, anyone can enjoy this beverage, may they be a dairy lover, vegan, or lactose intolerant.
It's also versatile, allowing people to consume hot and cold. Have you ever wondered what's the perfect temperature to enjoy this drink? Is it best hot or cold?
In this article, we will discuss what a latte is, the best way to consume it, and tips on how to make the best latte at home.
What Makes A Latte? (Science Behind This Popular Coffee)
Latte is an Italian word for milk, which is also used to describe an espresso-based drink with milk. It consists of two main ingredients: espresso shot and milk.
The shot of espresso is brewed at high temperatures, while the steamed milk is heated until it scalds and froths to create a nice texture for the drink.
The main ingredients in a latte are usually made with an espresso machine, which will dictate the overall temperature of your drink.
In some devices, the water boiler is used to brew the coffee grinds and heat the steaming wand, which makes the temperature relatively constant for optimum temperature.
Some espresso machines have two boilers, which allow you to make espresso and steamed milk at different temperatures.
While making a latte is an art, there's also a science behind it. Small changes in the temperature of the milk or the espresso shot can make a massive difference in the final drink.
Whenever you order a latte, you'll notice that the coffee and milk are layered; the coffee sits at the bottom and the milk on top. This is a result of convection.
The espresso shot is supposed to be hotter than the milk. This creates a temperature gradient, allowing the hot coffee, less dense than the cold milk, to rise to the top.
The heavier milk then sinks to the bottom, giving that gradient look to the drink.
Basically, the convection in the latte creates a fluid movement in an interesting pattern that results in two distinct layers.
In most cafes, lattes are served at a specific temperature of about 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, since they have professional brewing equipment, they can easily make lattes at the best temperature.
This is why when you order a latte at your local coffee shop, it's served hot with perfect foamed milk.
However, if you order this coffee drink from a fast-food chain, you can expect it to be on the cooler side, even if you ordered a hot latte.
This is because many restaurants, particularly those that don't serve coffee alone, run their water boiler at low temperatures for the safety of their employees who aren't trained baristas.
Don't get us wrong: the latte they produce is still good, but if you're a coffee connoisseur, you may need a different one.
Learn More - Latte Vs Regular Coffee
Are Lattes Supposed To Be Consumed Hot Or Cold?
So, is a latte hot or cold? This is one of the most common questions coffee lovers ask about lattes. Historically, this drink is served hot.
But it doesn't necessarily mean that you always have your latte hot. No matter the temperature, the most important thing is to ensure that your latte has espresso coffee and milk.
When you order a hot latte, it should have steamed milk to create a thin layer of foam and a fluffy, creamy texture.
If you like cold drinks, iced lattes are an excellent choice. It’s made with hot espresso mixed with cold milk poured over ice cubes.
So, to answer your question, "are lattes hot or cold?" it really boils down to personal preference. For some, it depends on the weather.
If it's cold outside, a warm latte is perfect. On the other hand, a cold latte is ideal for a hot summer day.
Lattes are one of the drinks that can be customized easily. Apart from a hot and cold latte, different types of latte are available.
For example, the pumpkin spice latte has become a popular fall drink at Starbucks. However, for obvious reasons, this drink is best served warm.
Another popular latte variant is the chestnut praline latte, which is another holiday drink by Starbucks.
This drink is served with frothed milk, espresso, and chestnut praline flavored syrup, resulting in a decadent creamy drink.
It’s served cold and hot, so it’s up to you if you want to enjoy this drink piping hot or extra cold.
There are also other variants like vanilla latte and caramel Brulee latte, which contain flavored syrups that make the drink sweeter, so the flavor of the coffee isn’t too strong.
Both of these drinks can be enjoyed hot and cold, so it really depends on your mood.
If you want a non-coffee latte variant, the matcha latte and chai tea latte are the perfect drinks for you. Their caffeine content is significantly lower compared to espresso-based latte drinks.
So, it's ideal if you want to enjoy a good latte without worrying about consuming too much caffeine.
You can also order this hot or cold, but we like our tea hot, so that's what we're going to recommend.
Also See - Frothing Oat Milk
How Milk & Espresso Temperature Impacts A Latte
Lattes are composed of two major ingredients: espresso and milk. The temperature of these two can dictate whether your latte will be good or not.
So how do they impact the taste of your drink?
The Temperature Of Espresso In A Latte
Espresso is a strong coffee drink made by extracting coffee beans with pressurized hot water.
The water temperature can directly impact the coffee flavor, which makes it the most critical part of making this drink.
The hotter the water is, the more flavor you can extract from your coffee grounds.
However, it doesn't mean that you use the hottest setting in your espresso machine. If the water you use is too hot, you'll end up with a hot drink with a bitter taste.
And if the water is too cold, it will become too sour, wasting all the flavor you need.
To make the best espresso, you need to brew the espresso beans at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, since there are different types of coffee grinds, the optimal brewing temperature can vary.
To find the best temperature for your beans, you can experiment and change this temperature by about 5 degrees in either direction.
If you have an advanced espresso machine, it usually comes with a temperature readout.
If you don’t own one with this feature, you can use a coffee thermometer in a shot of espresso right after it is brewed to check its temperature.
A quality brew is around 195 degrees Fahrenheit, but going a little higher or lower will still render a good espresso shot.
The Temperature Of Milk In A Latte
Of course, the perfect latte requires good milk foam, but the perfect temperature for latte milk is still a debate.
Latte artists prefer chilled milk for their creations, while those who love foam prefer using hotter milk since it's less likely to collapse.
In addition, the temperature can also dictate the taste of the milk. Colder milk has a sweeter taste, and hot milk doesn't have much flavor.
So, you can use temperature to adjust the taste of your latte. If you don’t like the strong taste of coffee, it’s best to use chilled milk to balance out the flavors.
We recommend the temperature of latte milk be around 120 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you're new to frothing milk, start at about 140 degrees first and pay attention to how the bubbles form and how the milk tastes after. Then, adjust depending on what you like.
Also See - Milk Frother Versus Steamers
Making Lattes At Home (Tips From Our Expert Barista)
We have some tips you can follow if you want to make a latte like your favorite coffee shop.
Do note that these tips are made for making a hot latte, as the cold drink version is usually made the same way but poured over iced. (Some variations require cold brew coffee and cold milk, but we will focus on the espresso drink.)
Again, the temperature of your latte is determined by your espresso machine. But if you want to make extra hot drinks, here’s what you need to do to achieve the ideal latte temperature:
Invest In A Thermometer
If your espresso machine can't tell you what temperature you brew your coffee in, you might end up with a cold coffee or one that's too hot that has a bitter flavor palette.
Any food-safe thermometer is okay for making lattes; ensure you get one with a long handle.
Brew Your Espresso First
Since you brew espresso at high temperatures, it's best to let it cool down a bit while you finish your milk.
You want to avoid drinking a hot latte that will burn your mouth, so allowing it to cool a bit is a good practice. However, always work quickly, or else your coffee might go stale.
Consider Getting A Hot Plate For Your Espresso
If you haven't mastered foaming milk, an excellent way to keep your espresso hot is by using a hot plate. Some espresso machines have a built-in warming plate.
Get A Separate Foaming Wand
Another way to achieve the ideal latte temperature is by using a separate foaming wand.
You can heat the milk in the pan and foam it by hand while your espresso brews.
This allows you to serve a fresher latte for the cost of a little extra cleaning.
What To Do When Latte Is Too Cold?
If your latte is too cold, many reasons could cause this problem. Don't be confused with the word "too cold," as we're not talking about iced coffee drinks.
This is meant for lattes that are served hot but not hot enough to achieve the perfect temperature.
One of the reasons why your latte is too cold is you’re probably steaming your milk at low temperatures.
For new baristas or baristas at home, it’s recommended to steam milk at 140 degrees Fahrenheit as it will produce sweeter milk.
If you find this temperature too cold for your latte, try increasing the temperature. You may want to use a thermometer for this to achieve your desired temperature.
Another way to ensure you achieve the ideal temperature is by simultaneously pulling and steaming the milk.
Don’t let your espresso completely cool down. Instead, start the espresso and simultaneously steam your milk. This will ensure that your espresso and coffee are at the same temperature.
You can also preheat your cup to ensure that your latte won’t be too cold.
So, even if your espresso drops down to the ideal temperature while you’re making the milk, the mug won’t let it drop down even further, thus, maintaining its temperature.
How Hot Is A Latte Supposed To Be?
To make a delicious cup of latte, you need to serve it between 150 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Not too hot to burn your mouth, but warm enough for all the flavors to come out.
If it goes beyond this temperature, an extra hot latte might taste burnt, ruining the overall experience.
However, this is just a rule of thumb; you are free to serve it as hot or cold as you want.
But, of course, if you're going to make latte art and achieve the right texture for the drink, you need to follow a specific temperature.
If you’re making an iced latte, you should still be concerned about the temperature of your drink. While making the iced version may seem easy, it’s a little trickier than it looks.
You don’t just pour hot espresso over ice. This will cause the ice to melt into the latte, watering down the drink.
So, you need to mix your espresso and milk first. This will allow the espresso to cool down a bit so you will retain its flavor.
Frequently Asked Latte Temperature Questions
How do you keep your latte warm for longer?
You can use a hot plate to keep your latte warm for longer or preheat your cup.
Should you order extra-hot lattes?
We suggest not, as the extra hot temperature can impact the overall flavor of your drink. But, if it’s something you enjoy, no one will judge you for it.
Why do cold lattes usually cost more?
Most coffee shops serve their cold lattes with cold brew, which is a costlier brewing process than espresso. This makes cold lattes more expensive than hot ones.
Are Starbucks lattes hot or cold?
Starbucks’s lattes can be ordered as a hot or cold drink, depending on what you like.
Are Mcdonald's lattes hot or cold?
Like Starbucks, you can also get lattes at Mcdonald’s, either hot or cold.
Conclusion - Try Both!
Lattes aren’t new in the coffee world. In fact, it was first made in the 1950s and became widely popular in the early 1980s.
Traditionally, lattes are served hot. But now, you can order this drink and customize it depending on your preference.
For example, you can replace the whole milk with skim milk or a non-dairy option and even ask for more espresso shots if you need a stronger coffee.
Just remember, the best latte depends on your preference.