Cafe Au Lait Vs Latte (What’s the Difference?)

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Johny Morrisson


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♡ Written by Humans for Humans

Cafe au lait or latte? These two coffee-milk combo drinks sound similar but have some differences.

The main difference is that Cafe au lait uses normal brewed coffee and steamed milk, while latte uses espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam in varying ratios. These variations create distinct flavor and texture profiles.

In this breakdown, I’ll decode exactly how cafe au lait and lattes vary in their flavor profiles, ingredients, preparation methods, and origins.

Cafe Au lait vs Latte

What is Cafe au Lait?

Café au Lait, a popular coffee beverage, has its origins traced back to 17th-century France. Its name is derived from the French phrase “café au lait,” which translates to “coffee with milk.”

You can easily prepare this milk-based coffee drink at home without a fancy espresso machine.

This classic French drink is made by combining brewed coffee with hot milk, and it’s the perfect way to start your day or enjoy a relaxing afternoon break.

At Starbucks, a cafe au lait is known as a “Cafe Misto“. It’s a staple on the Starbucks menu, embodying the essence of a classic coffeehouse experience.

If you aim to savor the rich and robust flavors of Café au Lait to the fullest, I always recommend using a French Press to brew coffee, although this doesn’t imply that you cannot prepare it using other brewing methods.

Cafe Au lait

How to prepare Cafe Au Lait

To make café au lait at home, you only need a 

  • Coffee maker (French Press preferable)
  • Saucepan
  • Milk
  • Your favorite coffee beans (Dark Roast preferred)

Step-by-step Guide:

  • Start by brewing a strong pot of coffee using your coffee maker.
  • As the coffee brews, heat the milk on the stove at medium heat. Do not let it boil as it can ruin the flavor and cause scorching.
  • Once the milk is hot, pour it into a large mug, filling it halfway. 
  • Pour the brewed coffee over the top of the milk, filling the mug to the top. 
  • Stir the coffee and milk together gently, and if desired, add a touch of sugar or vanilla extract.

One of the best things about café au lait is its versatility. You can use any milk you prefer, whether whole, skim, or non-dairy. You can also experiment with different coffee blends and flavors to create a unique take on this classic drink.

And the best part is you don’t need a Fancy Espresso machine to prepare it!

What is Latte?

Latte, a popular coffee-based beverage that has its roots in Italy, is named after the Italian word for milk, “latte.”

When you order a Latte, you can expect it to be served in a tall glass with a wide circumference and tapered top, making it as visually appealing as it is delicious.

It’s no surprise that the Latte has won over the hearts of coffee enthusiasts worldwide – in fact, according to 2020 data, it was the most commonly ordered drink in the UK and the third-most-popular beverage in US coffee shops!

Latte

Let’s see How you can prepare a Latte

Things you need

  • Espresso machine
  • Coffee beans (Dark Roast preferred)
  • Milk Frother
  • Milk (Whole Milk Preferred)

Step by Step guide to prepare a delicious cup of Latte.

  • For a delicious and flavorful espresso, use high-quality dark roast beans and grind them just before brewing to maximize freshness and taste.
  • Next, prepare a double shot Espresso using your Espresso machine.
  • For a perfect latte, steam fresh, cold milk to 150-160°F (65-70°C) with a steaming wand.
  • Now combine the espresso and milk to craft your latte. Begin by pouring your freshly brewed espresso into a preheated cup or glass. Next, pour the steamed milk over the espresso, using a spoon to hold back the foam.
  • Finally, spoon the milk foam onto the top of the latte, creating a beautiful, creamy texture. For an extra touch of flavor, you can add flavored syrup, such as vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, or chocolate.

The traditional espresso-to-milk ratio for lattes ranges from 1:3 to 1:4, but don’t let tradition hold you back. Adjusting the ratio according to your taste and preference can lead to a customized latte that’s perfect for you.

Cafe Au Lait vs Latte
(Head to head Comparison)

Differences between Cafe Au Lait and Latte

The magic ingredients

Cafe au lait and latte differ in the type of coffee used and the milk preparation method.

A latte is a creamy coffee drink made with strong espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of foam. The concentrated shot is prepared using an espresso machine, and the milk is steamed and aerated with a steam wand for a velvety texture.

Cafe au lait is a French coffee drink made by combining equal parts of strong brewed coffee and steamed milk. The coffee is typically brewed using a French press or a drip coffee machine, while the milk is heated on the stovetop.

Cafe Au Lait is a perfect milky coffee drink you can easily prepare at home without any fancy equipment.

Which Tastes Better?

Cafe au lait has a stronger coffee taste compared to a latte since it is prepared with a lower proportion of milk.

I find the combination of steamed milk and strongly brewed coffee to be unique and soothing, creating a satisfying coffee experience that’s neither too strong nor too sweet. Overall, Cafe au Lait offers a delicate and well-rounded flavor profile that I enjoy as a coffee lover.

Latte is a mild and creamy coffee beverage with a milk-forward taste. The robust coffee flavor of the espresso is overpowered by the sweetness of the steamed milk, and the layer of foam on top adds a velvety texture that enhances the overall taste.

For coffee lovers who crave a sweeter kick, a well-prepared latte is an excellent choice.

Personally, I find latte to be a bit too mild and creamy for my taste. The coffee flavor is overshadowed by the taste of steamed milk, which can make it feel more like a warm milk drink with a hint of coffee.

Calorie and the Caffeine Content

The Calories in the drink mainly depend on the type and the amount of milk used in the drink. A single serving of Latte has around 8 to 10 ounces of milk while a serving of Cafe Au Lait has around 4 to 6 ounces of milk.

So, Latte obviously has more calories than Cafe Aul Lait.

At Starbucks, a 12 oz serving of latte contains around 150 calories, while a 12 oz serving of Cafe Misto (similar to Cafe Au Lait) has 80 calories.

However, adding sugar, flavored syrups, or whipped cream can significantly increase the calorie count.

The amount of Caffeine in the Cafe Au Lait and Latte is approximately the same.

Latte is prepared with a double-shot Espresso which has around 120-133 mg of caffeine. While the simple serving of brewed coffee in Cafe Au Lait has 80-120 mg of caffeine which varies depending on the type of coffee beans and brewing method.

Variations of Café au lait and latte

Café au lait and latte have various variations that can be made to suit different tastes. Here are a few examples:

Variations of Café au lait Variations of Latte
Chicory café au lait: It is a variation of Cafe Au Lait that is made by adding roasted chicory root to the coffee grounds before brewing. This technique is commonly used in New Orleans-style coffee, which is known for its strong, intense and bitter taste.Caramel Latte: It is a popular coffee beverage made by combining espresso with steamed milk and caramel syrup. The sweetness of the caramel syrup can balance out the bitterness of the espresso, making it a great choice for those who prefer a sweeter coffee.
Spanish Cafe Au Lait: It is made by adding sweetened condensed milk to the coffee instead of steamed milk.Vanilla Latte: In this variation, a simple Latte is enhanced with the subtle sweetness of vanilla syrup or extract.
French-style Cafe Au Lait: It is typically made with equal parts brewed coffee and scalded milk.Mocha Latte: Also known as a Cafe Mocha, is a delicious beverage made with the addition of chocolate syrup and cocoa powder to Latte.

These are just a few examples of the many variations of Cafe Au Lait and Latte that you can find.

The possibilities for customizing these drinks are endless, with options for adjusting the coffee-to-milk ratio or adding numerous different flavors or syrups.

Cafe Au lait vs Latte | So what’s better?

So, after our journey through the Cafe Au Lait vs. Latte face-off, you might be wondering which one reigns supreme.

Well, it’s all about personal taste. Cafe Au Lait, with its classic simplicity, offers a comforting coffee and milk balance. On the other hand, the Latte delights with its velvety texture and espresso punch.

It’s truly remarkable how a mere tweak in the coffee, milk, or foam can lead to a multitude of distinct beverages. Even a slight modification can entirely change the flavor and consistency of the drink, taking it from bitter to indulgent, velvety, or frothy.

Got a clear coffee-milk drink preference after tasting the difference? Let me know in the comments!

Check out the article on 30 different espresso drinks

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Johny Morrison is a founder and content creator at Coffee About, bringing passion and expertise to the world of coffee.

You can often find him sipping a single-origin pour-over, rich French press, or pulling espresso shots at home. Johny loves full-bodied dark roasts – the bolder, the better!

As a former barista, he takes coffee equipment seriously and enjoys experimenting with the latest gear. When he’s not brewing or blogging, Johny is scouting local cafes for his next coffee fix.