Learn the art of luscious lattes, which taste better and cost less than their paper-cup counterparts.
: Clean the steam wand thoroughly before you use it, since warm milk can breed bacteria.
Step 1: Prepare the milk Pour milk into the pitcher so it is 1/3 to 1/2 full and submerge the thermometer. Place the steam wand in the milk so the tip is just below the surface.
TIP: The difference between a cafe latte and a cappuccino is that a latte is espresso mixed with steamed milk, while a cappuccino is espresso mixed with milk and foam.
Step 2: Steam the milk Turn on the steam and watch the milk increase in volume as it heats and aerates. Turn off the steam when the thermometer reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and set the pitcher aside. Never touch the steam wand or tip once you've turned on the steam – it's hot! Be sure to hold the pitcher by the handle.
TIP: You can also heat the milk in a saucepan, and use a milk frother with a plunger to aerate the milk.
Step 3: Fill the portafilter Remove the filter apparatus – or portafilter – from the espresso machine. Pour espresso into the portafilter.
Step 4: Tamp the espresso Pack the grounds firmly with the tamper to keep water from rushing through too quickly. Many portafilters have a "fill line" ¬that the espresso should reach after it has been tamped.
Step 5: Pull the shot Replace and lock the portafilter and place the mug or latte bowl below the spout. Press the button to start the water. It should take about 25 seconds to "pull a shot" – that is, make 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of espresso.
TIP: A good espresso shot is dark and rich with a lighter-colored top layer called the crema.
Step 6: Finish the latte Flavor your latte if you'd like by adding 1/2 ounce of flavored syrup to the espresso. Pour steamed milk to fill your mug. Use the spoon to hold back the foam. Add sugar or sweetener to taste.
FACT: Each year, baristas, or coffee bartenders, from all over the world serve up their best lattes and other beverages to compete for the title of World Barista Champion.