Homemade Lattes (and how to froth milk without a fancy gadget)

By Ann Fulton

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Café caliber lattes are easy to make in your own home with no fancy equipment and at a fraction of the usual cost - hot, iced, with foam or without!




As I was getting breakfast ready on Monday morning, a news story about lattes caught my attention.  Teasing his upcoming “exclusive,” the reporter questioned what might be wrong with the lattes served by a well-known cafe.

Having picked up more than one latte that felt a wee bit light for the cup size, I was pretty sure I knew the spin on this story.  Sure enough, not one of the six or seven grande lattes that were purchased (all from different locations) for this test weighed in at the full 16 ounces.  One or two topped out at a mere 12 ounces–technically a “tall,” or a full size less.

So if you needed just one more reason to take a stab at a DIY version, there it is!  Seriously though, I fork over the occasional five dollar bill in return for a creamy caffeinated coffeehouse concoction, but the reality is that a cafe-worthy latte is really easy to make at home for a fraction of the cost.  As an added bonus, you can even have foam without a fancy frother!

There are several recipes for coffeehouse beverages on this blog already, and they all give the option of using extra strong coffee instead of espresso.  The same is certainly an option here, but with the wide availability of great tasting pod options, a truly spot-on replica of your favorite purchased latte–iced or hot, flavored or not–is within reach.  (For those who may be looking, I use the widely available Nespresso machine with Gourmesso coffee.)

The jar trick for frothing milk works quite well; just start with a big jar as the milk will roughly double in volume while shaking and will foam up more when microwaving. Heating the shaken milk in the microwave is what sets the foam. (The foam in the pictures was actually sitting on the hot drinks for nearly an hour.) I have tried warming the milk before shaking and then microwaving again to set the foam, but the amount of foam will be less in this case. Whole milk may be used—even non-dairy milk—although the higher protein-to-fat ratio in nonfat, 1%, and 2% milk results in slightly more foam.  I personally like 1% or 2% for the tastiest drink. : )


How to froth milk without a fancy gadget There’s no need for a fancy frother if you have a microwave and a 16-ounce or larger jar.Café caliber lattes are easy to make in your own home with no fancy equipment and at a fraction of the usual cost - hot, iced, with foam or without!If you’re thirsty for an iced latte, simply pour the hot espresso directly over ice, and then add cold milk and optional flavored syrup.  If thinking ahead, you may chill the espresso first. Café caliber lattes are easy to make in your own home with no fancy equipment and at a fraction of the usual cost - hot, iced, with foam or without!

Homemade Latte
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 Cup
  • 1 part espresso or strongly brewed coffee* (I use Gourmesso pods)
  • 3 parts 2% or nonfat milk
  • Optional: Simple Vanilla Syrup or sweetener/flavored syrup of choice; cocoa powder or cinnamon to garnish; ice
  1. Make your espresso or strongly brewed coffee: If you don’t have an espresso machine or pod option like a Nespresso, strong French press or double-strength brewed coffee are good options.
  2. To froth the milk without a frother: Pour the milk into a large jar with a lid. Ideally, fill no more than a third of the jar. Screw the lid on tightly, and shake the jar vigorously until the milk is frothy and has roughly doubled in volume. This should take 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Remove the lid and microwave the milk, uncovered, for 30 seconds. The foamy milk will rise to the top, and the heat from the microwave will stabilize it. Keep an eye on the jar. If you see the foam is close to overflowing (it will actually climb an inch or more above the top of the jar before spilling over), stop the microwave, let the foam settle a bit, and then restart to finish the 30 seconds, stopping again, if necessary, to allow the foam to settle. If the milk is not warm enough after the first 30 seconds, give it another 30 seconds, keeping your eye on the jar, once again, to avoid overflow.
  4. Pour the espresso or strong coffee into a wide, shallow coffee cup or mug of choice. Pour the desired amount of warm milk over the espresso. The foam tends to cling to the jar, but you can hold it back with a spoon if necessary. If you’d like to add a flavored syrup or sweetener, stir it in now. Then use the spoon to scoop the foam on top. Garnish with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon if desired.
One part espresso to three parts milk is the standard latte ratio, but many coffeehouses use a 1:4 or 1:5 ratio. I recommend starting with the following amounts and adjusting to taste
  • For an 8-ounce latte: 2 ounces espresso or double-strength coffee and 6 ounces milk
  • For a 12-ounce (“tall”) latte: 3 ounces espresso/double-strength coffee and 9 ounces milk
  • For a 16-ounce (“grande”) latte: 4 ounces of espresso/double-strength coffee and 12 ounces milk
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  1. Lindsey

    I totally didn’t pay attention to the type of milk you specified. I used whole milk and was unable to get it to froth-is that why? Thank you!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Lindsey, As I mentioned above the recipe, whole milk — even non-dairy milk — may be used although the higher protein-to-fat ratio in nonfat, 1%, and 2% milk results in more foam. I hope that helps!

  2. J

    Hey, are you able to heat the milk after shaking with something other than a microwave? I ask because I stopped using microwaves due to the dangers of microwave radiation exposure especially from cheaper models.

    1. Ann Post author

      I think it’s the speed with which the microwave heats the shaken milk that’s key here. The best way to do this without the microwave or a frother might be to heat the milk on the stovetop and then shake it vigorously in the jar. It won’t have the same separation of milk and froth, but it should be frothier throughout. If you try I’d love to know what you think!

      1. 하중

        Won’t it blow out if I shake it out of the temperature? I’m afraid it has the same reaction as to when you shake a hot water in a bottle.

  3. Lori Smith

    love this idea, couldn’t get my milk to froth when using one of those battery operated foam maker gadgets. Gonna try this out right now :0

    1. Ann Post author

      I had one of those gadgets at one point, and it didn’t work for me either. Hope you like this option a lot better!