Are you a coffee lover wondering about the differences between coffee with milk and latte? Our insider's comparison guide has got you covered! We explore the ingredients, ratios, and flavors of these two popular drinks, so you can make an informed decision and enjoy your coffee just the way you like it.

Coffee with Milk vs Latte: The Basics

In the world of coffee, people often come across the terms coffee with milk and latte. While both of these beverages involve coffee and milk, they have several differences. In this section, we will explore the basics of latte and coffee with milk, along with some defining characteristics that set them apart.


A latte is a popular espresso-based drink originating in Italy. It typically consists of one-third espresso, two-thirds steamed milk, and a layer of foam on top. Lattes have a higher milk-to-coffee ratio compared to other coffee beverages, making them creamier and milder in terms of coffee taste. They are traditionally served in a tall glass and are known for their smooth texture and balanced flavor profile.

Some key characteristics of latte:

  • Espresso-based: Lattes use one or two shots of espresso as the base.
  • Milk ratio: Lattes have a 2:1 milk-to-coffee ratio, using steamed milk and milk froth.
  • Texture: Due to the presence of steamed milk and froth, lattes have a smooth and creamy texture.
  • Caffeine content: The espresso in the latte results in higher caffeine levels compared to brewed coffee.

Coffee with Milk

Coffee with milk, also known as café au lait, is a popular beverage made by adding warm milk to brewed coffee. The ratio of coffee to milk in a café au lait is usually 1:1, making it less creamy than a latte. This beverage is served in a wide-rimmed mug or a bowl, allowing the drinker to appreciate the aroma of the coffee alongside the taste. It's made with less intricate equipment compared to a latte, as it doesn't require aeration or frothing of milk.

Some key characteristics of coffee with milk:

  • Brewed coffee-based: Coffee with milk uses freshly brewed coffee as its base, instead of espresso.
  • Milk ratio: A 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk is common in coffee with milk.
  • Texture: The consistency is thinner compared to a latte due to the absence of milk froth.
  • Caffeine content: Coffee with milk tends to have a lower caffeine content than a latte, depending on the brewed coffee used.

To recap, both lattes and coffee with milk involve the combination of coffee and milk, but their differences lie in the type of coffee used, the milk-to-coffee ratio, and their textures. While lattes have a higher caffeine content and a creamier texture due to their espresso base and milk composition, coffee with milk offers a milder flavor and thinner consistency because of the brewed coffee and even milk ratio.

Preparation Differences

In this section, we will explore the various preparation methods for coffee with milk and lattes, focusing on the Espresso Machine, French Press and Pour Over, Moka Pot, and Aeropress brewing methods.

Espresso Machine

An espresso machine is essential for making a traditional latte, as it brews a strong, concentrated coffee known as espresso. A latte consists of one or two shots of espresso, combined with steamed milk and a thin layer of foam on top. To create a coffee with milk using an espresso machine, simply pour the desired amount of brewed espresso over hot milk, which results in a less concentrated and creamier beverage than a latte.

French Press and Pour Over

The French Press and Pour Over methods are manual brewing techniques that can be used to make strong, full-bodied coffee. For a coffee with milk, simply brew with either method and then add warm milk to taste. To create a latte-like beverage with these methods, use a stronger coffee-to-water ratio for a more concentrated coffee, and then add steamed milk and foam on top. However, these methods won't produce the same rich, velvety texture and flavor as an espresso-based latte.

Moka Pot

A Moka Pot is a stovetop coffee maker capable of brewing a bold, concentrated coffee similar to espresso. To make a coffee with milk using a Moka Pot, brew your coffee and pour it over warm milk. For a latte, mix the brewed Moka Pot coffee with a larger portion of steamed milk and a small amount of foam. The result is a somewhat similar drink to a traditional latte, albeit with a slightly different texture and flavor due to the Moka Pot's brewing process.


The Aeropress is a versatile, manual coffee maker known for producing a smooth and less acidic coffee. To create a coffee with milk, simply brew the coffee with the Aeropress and pour it over warm milk. To achieve a latte-style drink, use a finer coffee grind and shorter brewing time for a more concentrated coffee, then mix it with steamed milk and foam. Keep in mind, though, that the Aeropress will not produce the same intense, rich coffee characteristic of an espresso-based latte.

In conclusion, preparing a coffee with milk or a latte can be done with various brewing methods, including espresso machines, French Press and Pour Over, Moka Pot, and Aeropress. Each method offers distinct results in terms of flavor and texture, with the espresso machine providing the most authentic latte experience. If you're aiming for that genuine café-quality latte at home or in your establishment, then considering a commercial espresso machine could be your next step. Not only will a commercial quality espresso maker elevate your brewing game, but it will also ensure consistency in every cup. Experimenting with these different brewing techniques can be an enjoyable way to discover the ideal coffee with milk or latte that suits your personal taste preferences.

Flavor and Taste Profiles

Intensity and Richness

When it comes to the intensity and richness of flavor, coffee with milk and lattes have noticeable differences. Coffee with milk, also known as café au lait, is usually made using brewed coffee without add-ins as a base, providing a distinct blend of the coffee bean's natural flavors. The addition of milk to coffee slightly reduces the intensity and strength of the taste but still allows the beverage to maintain its bold and robust flavor profile.

On the other hand, a latte's flavor profile is primarily influenced by the espresso used in its preparation. Espresso, a concentrated form of coffee, carries a dark, rich, and intense flavor. However, the mixing of steamed milk and a light layer of foam in a latte creates a more diluted and mild coffee taste. In a latte, the ratio of espresso to milk is generally 1:3, hence the more subdued flavor in comparison to coffee with milk.

Sweetness and Creaminess

The sweetness and creaminess of the two beverages also display notable differences. Coffee with milk tends to have a less sweet taste, as the natural sugars present in milk only slightly mellow the bitterness of the coffee. However, the addition of whole milk can increase the fat content, contributing to a smoother, slightly richer texture for café au lait. The level of sweetness and creaminess in coffee with milk relies heavily on individual preferences, such as the choice of milk or the addition of sweeteners.

In contrast, lattes inherently possess a smoother and creamier taste due to the higher milk-to-espresso ratio. The natural sugars present in steamed milk significantly reduce the bitterness, offering a sweeter, milder flavor. Moreover, many coffee houses offer an array of syrups and sweeteners for lattes which further enhance the sweetness and creaminess of the beverage, making it a popular and versatile choice for those seeking a less intense coffee experience. The foam on top of a latte adds an additional layer of texture and creaminess to the overall flavor profile.

To summarize, the key differences in flavor between coffee with milk and lattes lie in their intensity, richness, sweetness, and creaminess. Coffee with milk provides a stronger, more robust taste, while lattes offer a milder, sweeter, and creamier experience. Individual preferences, such as choice of milk or sweeteners, play a crucial role in shaping the taste profile of these beverages.

Texture and Foam

Steamed Milk and Foamed Milk

When comparing coffee with milk and lattes, one of the key differences lies in the texture of the milk. Steamed milk is utilized in lattes, whereas regular milk is often added to black coffee.

Steamed milk is produced by introducing steam into cold milk using a steam wand, found on espresso machines. This process increases the milk's temperature, while also incorporating air, resulting in a slightly thicker and creamier texture. Steamed milk is typically used in equal proportions with espresso in a latte, creating a smoother and more velvety mouthfeel in the drink.

On the other hand, foamed milk, also known as milk foam or microfoam, consists of air bubbles created when milk is frothed. The bubbles are smaller and more numerous in microfoam compared to regular foam, resulting in a denser, creamier texture. Microfoam is an essential component of drinks like cappuccinos, where it forms a thick layer on top of the espresso and steamed milk.

Milk Foam and Crema

Frothed milk isn't exclusive to just cappuccinos—lattes often showcase thin layers of microfoam on their surface. The microfoam's texture is essential for creating latte art, intricate patterns made by carefully pouring steamed milk over the espresso. In comparison, coffee with milk does not typically have milk foam or latte art since it relies on the addition of regular milk.

The crema is another essential element when discussing texture and foam in espresso-based drinks. Crema refers to the layer of aromatic, golden-brown froth that forms on the surface of a freshly pulled shot of espresso. This layer is created by the release of oil and carbon dioxide during the brewing process. The crema is responsible for many of the unique flavors in the espresso, and its presence is indicative of a well-crafted shot.

In conclusion, the texture and foam variations in coffee with milk and lattes can be attributed to the different preparation methods of the milk. Steamed milk and microfoam contribute to the unique mouthfeel and aesthetic appeal of lattes, while coffee with milk lacks these attributes. The artistry and crema of a latte further contribute to its distinction from a simple coffee with milk.

Caffeine and Calories

When comparing coffee with milk and latte, it's essential to consider the differences in caffeine and caloric content. Here is some relevant information that will shed light on these aspects.

Lattes, which typically contain one shot of espresso, have around 68mg of caffeine per serving. On the other hand, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains between 170mg and 220mg of caffeine, depending on the brewing method. For instance, pour-over coffee, made using Chemex or Hario V60, usually contains 170mg of caffeine per serving, while drip coffee could have a caffeine content closer to 220mg. Simply put, coffee with milk generally has higher caffeine content than a latte.

As for calories, it's evident that lattes have more calories than coffee with milk. An 8-ounce latte typically contains between 110 and 200 calories due to the added milk and sweeteners. In contrast, an 8-ounce cup of black coffee contains just one calorie, while coffee with a reasonable amount of milk still has significantly fewer calories than a latte. Starbucks, for instance, states that their 12-ounce tall café latte contains 150 calories when made with 2% milk, and a café mocha with the same size and milk choice has a remarkable 230 calories. As the type of milk used can impact the total caloric content, whole milk will result in a higher caloric count.

To summarize, here is an overview of the caffeine and caloric differences between coffee with milk and latte:

  • Caffeine content:
    • Latte: 68mg
    • Coffee with milk: 170mg to 220mg (depending on brewing method)
  • Calories:
    • Latte: 110 to 200 (depending on milk type and sweeteners added)
    • Coffee with milk: significantly fewer than a latte (but varies based on the amount and type of milk used)

In conclusion, it's evident that coffee with milk and latte differ significantly in terms of caffeine and caloric content. While coffee with milk tends to have a higher caffeine content, lattes have a higher caloric content due to the larger amount of milk and added sweeteners. This information should prove helpful to those who want to make an informed and personal choice between coffee with milk and latte.

Types of Coffee Beans and Roasts

Light Roast

Light roast coffee beans are roasted for a shorter amount of time, which allows the beans to retain more of their original flavors. This results in a brighter, more acidic taste profile. The beans have a lighter brown color and lack oil on their surface. Common names for light roasts include New England, Half-City, and Cinnamon. These roasts are well-suited for people who prefer a more nuanced and delicate flavor in their coffee.

Medium Roast

Medium roast coffee beans are roasted slightly longer than light roasts, giving them a balanced flavor that is neither too acidic nor too bitter. These beans have a medium-brown color and tend to have a smooth and balanced taste. Medium roast beans are popular in the United States and are often referred to by names such as American, City, or Breakfast roast. This type of roast is versatile and works well with various brewing methods, including drip and espresso preparation.

Dark Roast

Dark roast coffee beans are roasted for a longer duration, resulting in a more bold and robust taste profile. The beans have a darker color, and their surface is often oily, which contributes to the pronounced bitterness in the brewed coffee. Dark roast names vary, but some common designations include High Continental, French, and Espresso roast. Dark roasts are ideal for people who enjoy intense and full-bodied flavors in their coffee.

In conclusion, when considering coffee with milk vs. latte, it's essential to keep in mind that the type of coffee bean and roast can significantly impact the taste and experience. Light, medium, and dark roasts provide different flavor profiles and brewing possibilities, enabling coffee drinkers to find the perfect blend for their preferences.

Other Coffee Drinks and Variations

In this section, we will explore other popular coffee drinks and variations that are related to coffee with milk and lattes, including cappuccinos, macchiatos, café au laits, mochas, black coffee, and drip coffee.

Cappuccino and Macchiato

A cappuccino is a well-known coffee drink that consists of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third frothed milk. This balanced composition results in a richer and creamier texture compared to a latte. Cappuccinos can also be enhanced with chocolate or cinnamon sprinkles on top.

A macchiato, on the other hand, is a coffee drink made with espresso and a small amount of milk, usually used to stain or mark the espresso hence the name 'macchiato,' which means 'stained' or 'spotted' in Italian. Macchiatos are stronger in flavor and have a more intense coffee taste compared to lattes or cappuccinos, as they contain less milk.

Café au Lait and Mocha

A café au lait is a traditional French coffee drink consisting of equal parts strong brewed coffee and steamed milk. It's similar to a latte but uses drip coffee instead of espresso, resulting in a milder taste.

Mocha, also known as a café mocha or mocaccino, is a coffee drink that combines espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate syrup. The delectable blend of coffee and chocolate makes it a favorite among those who enjoy sweeter drinks. Mochas are often topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings for an extra indulgent touch.

Black Coffee and Drip Coffee

Black coffee is the simplest type of coffee drink, made by brewing coffee grounds with hot water without adding any milk or sweeteners. Its robust and pronounced flavor makes it a popular choice for purists and those seeking a caffeine boost.

Drip coffee, also referred to as regular coffee, is another staple in the world of coffee drinks. It is made by brewing ground coffee beans with hot water, either through an automatic drip coffee maker, a pour-over method, or using a traditional coffee pot. Drip coffee can be enjoyed black or customized with milk, cream, or sweeteners according to personal preferences.

In summary, the world of coffee drinks offers a wide range of options and variations to suit different tastes and preferences, from the mild latte and café au lait to the potent macchiato and black coffee. Whether you're a fan of intense flavors or prefer a mellower approach, there's a coffee drink for everyone to enjoy.

Customizing Your Coffee Beverage

The primary differences between coffee with milk and a latte lie in the milk-to-coffee ratio and the way they are prepared. However, there are several ways to customize your coffee beverage to suit your preferences. In this section, we will explore some of these options and provide helpful suggestions for making your coffee treat even better.

Sugar and Syrups

One way to enhance the flavor of your coffee beverage is by adding sugar or syrup. Both coffee with milk and lattes can benefit from the addition of sweeteners, depending on personal taste. For those who prefer to reduce their sugar intake, sugar-free syrups are available, offering great flavor without added calories or sugar. Here are some common syrup options:

  • Classic (simple syrup)
  • Caramel
  • Hazelnut
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon Dolce

Iced Latte and Other Cold Variations

For those who enjoy an icy twist to their coffee beverages, transforming a latte into an iced latte is simple: just serve it over ice instead of using steamed milk. By using cold milk and pouring a shot of espresso over it, you can create an iced latte that has the same basic components as a hot latte. Alternatively, you may consider the following cold variations of coffee with milk:

  • Iced Coffee: Brewed coffee served over ice
  • Cold Brew: Coffee grounds steeped in cold water for a smooth, less acidic taste
  • Frappuccino: A blended coffee beverage made with ice, milk, flavored syrup, and whipped cream

Milk Options and Beverage Ratios

Different types of milk can have a significant impact on the taste and texture of your coffee beverage. Both coffee with milk and lattes can be made with whole, 2%, nonfat, or even dairy-free alternatives like soy or almond milk. The milk-to-coffee ratio in a latte is typically 2:1, resulting in a creamier and smoother texture compared to coffee with milk, which may have varying ratios depending on personal preferences.

Coffee Beverage Milk-to-Coffee Ratio
Latte 2:1
Coffee with Milk Varies

In conclusion, whether you prefer a classic coffee with milk or a creamy latte, there are many ways to customize your beverage to your taste preferences. By experimenting with different sweeteners, milk options, and even cold variations, you can create the perfect caffeinated treat to enjoy any time of day.

An Artistic Touch: Latte Art

Latte art is a visually appealing and intricate aspect of coffee culture, involving the skillful pouring of microfoam to create designs on the surface of a latte. Professional baristas often achieve elaborate designs, showcasing their talents in latte art competitions. This skill, however, is not simply for aesthetics; it is a testament to the quality and preparation of the espresso and steamed milk.

To create latte art, one must first learn the fundamentals. The process begins with properly steaming the milk, breaking down its fat and sugars to achieve a sweeter taste while simultaneously creating microfoam. A specific ratio of milk to foam is essential for successful designs: approximately 9 fluid ounces of cold milk should expand to about 10 fluid ounces once steamed.

When the milk and espresso mixture reaches the edge of the cup, creating a base layer on top of the espresso is crucial in ensuring that the designs will appear clearly on the surface. Baristas pour the steamed milk in a thin stream, moving their wrist in a circular motion until the milk and espresso mixture fills the cup.

To create the design, the barista will then hold the pitcher's spout as close to the surface of the espresso as possible, allowing the milk to flow out gently. As the milk breaks through the crema, the foam can rest atop the espresso, forming the desired design. The barista may use tools or their pouring skills to create intricate patterns that range from simple hearts to detailed faces and even 3D designs. Some popular latte art designs include:

  • The Rosetta: A leaf-like pattern with tree-like branches
  • The Tulip: A stacked trio of small hearts, creating the appearance of petals
  • The Swirl: A series of concentric circles or swirling patterns
  • The Heart: A timeless favorite representing love and care put into the drink

Although mastering latte art takes time and patience, it adds a personal touch to each cup, creating a memorable experience for the drinker. Whether one is an aspiring barista or simply admires the beauty of latte art, it is an essential part of modern coffee culture that showcases both skill and creativity.

Latte information
Tony Barlow

Tony Barlow

Majesty Coffee Technical Sales Expert - Meet the Team

Tony Barlow, with over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, is the go-to technical sales expert at Majesty Coffee. He's passionate about helping businesses find the right espresso equipment for their needs.

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