Café au Lait vs. Caffè Latte: The Milky Way of Coffee

Posted by: Coffee King

Café au Lait vs. Caffè Latte: The Milky Way of Coffee

Are you a coffee lover looking to explore the world of milky coffee drinks?

We will break down the differences between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte, two popular choices that combine the richness of coffee with the creaminess of milk.

From their origins to the ratio of coffee to milk, from flavor profiles to caffeine content, we will cover it all.

Learn how to make these delicious drinks at home and decide which one is the perfect choice for you.

Key Takeaways:

  • Café au Lait and Caffè Latte are both milk-based coffee drinks that originated from different countries and have distinct flavor profiles.
  • The main differences between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte are the ratio of coffee to milk, the type of milk used, and the serving size.
  • When it comes to caffeine content, Caffè Latte has more caffeine than Café au Lait, but both drinks can be made with decaffeinated coffee for a healthier option.
  • What Is Café au Lait?

    Café au Lait is a classic coffee beverage that originated in France and typically consists of equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk.

    This beloved drink has a rich history dating back to the 19th century when it first gained popularity in Parisian cafes. Known for its smooth and creamy texture, Café au Lait offers a delightful balance of the robust flavor of coffee and the velvety touch of steamed milk. The warm, inviting aroma of this beverage is complemented by a subtle sweetness, making it a favorite for many coffee enthusiasts.

    When served, Café au Lait is often presented in a large bowl or cup to accommodate the generous portions of coffee and milk. Alternatively, some variations call for the milk and coffee to be poured simultaneously for a layered effect, adding not only to the flavor but also to the visual appeal of the drink.

    What Is Caffè Latte?

    Caffè Latte, also known simply as a latte, is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk, offering a creamy and smooth flavor.

    Typically, a caffè latte consists of one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, topped with a thin layer of milk foam providing a delightful visual appeal. The brewing process starts with a shot of rich, intense espresso poured into a cup, followed by the addition of velvety steamed milk to create a smooth and indulgent base. The balance between the espresso’s robust notes and the sweet creaminess of the milk results in a harmonious blend that is not too overpowering in either direction.

    What Are the Differences Between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte?

    What Are the Differences Between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte? - Café au Lait vs. Caffè Latte: The Milky Way of Coffee

    Credits: – Austin Baker

    The differences between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte lie in the milk type used, the preparation method, and the overall flavor profiles of these two beloved coffee drinks.

    In terms of milk, a Café au Lait typically uses equal parts of brewed coffee and steamed milk, creating a smooth and creamy texture. In contrast, a Caffè Latte is made with a single or double shot of espresso mixed with a larger amount of hot milk and topped with a thin layer of milk foam.

    While both drinks boast a comforting warmth and richness, the notable difference in their preparation method lies in the ratio of coffee to milk and the texture of the final beverage.


    The origins of coffee can be traced back to the 17th century in Europe, with France and Italy playing significant roles in popularizing this beloved caffeinated beverage.

    Coffee made its way into Europe through trade routes and started gaining popularity among the aristocracy due to its exotic nature and stimulating effects. In France, coffeehouses quickly became social hubs where intellectuals, artists, and revolutionaries congregated to discuss ideas over a cup of coffee.

    In Italy, the first European coffeehouse opened in Venice in 1645, paving the way for the famous Italian espresso culture that would later spread worldwide. The concept of espresso, derived from the Latin word ‘expressus,’ meaning ‘pressed out,’ revolutionized the way coffee was brewed and enjoyed.

    Ratio of Coffee to Milk

    The ratio of coffee to milk in a café au lait is typically equal parts, while a caffe latte may have a higher proportion of milk to espresso, depending on personal preference and regional variations.

    Understanding the coffee-to-milk ratio in these beverages is crucial as it determines the overall flavor profile and texture. In a café au lait, the equal parts ratio creates a harmonious blend where the robust coffee flavor is balanced by the creamy richness of milk. On the other hand, a caffe latte, with more milk than espresso, results in a smoother, milder taste with a velvety mouthfeel.

    The brewing method also plays a significant role in achieving the desired ratio. For example, in a pour-over method, the barista has more control over the ratio by adjusting the pour speed, whereas in an espresso-based drink, the ratio is predetermined by the extraction process.

    Milk Type

    The type of milk used in café au lait is typically steamed whole milk to achieve a creamy texture, while caffe latte may feature frothed milk or microfoam to create a velvety consistency.

    Steamed whole milk adds a rich and full-bodied flavor to café au lait, complementing the boldness of the coffee without overpowering it. On the other hand, frothed milk for a caffe latte introduces a light and airy texture, enhancing the sweetness of the espresso. Microfoam, crafted by incorporating a smaller amount of air into the milk, results in a luxurious mouthfeel that elevates the taste of specialty coffee drinks like flat whites or cappuccinos.

    The varying milk textures play a crucial role in balancing the bitterness of the espresso, adding creaminess, and contributing to the overall sensory experience of the drink. By mastering the art of steaming, frothing, and texturing milk, baristas can customize the flavor profiles and textures of coffee creations, catering to different preferences and elevating the coffee drinking experience.

    Serving Size

    Serving sizes for café au lait and caffe latte can vary depending on the region and cultural preferences, with some establishments offering larger portions for a more indulgent coffee experience.

    Across Europe, particularly in France and Italy, café au lait and caffe latte are traditionally served in smaller cups or glasses, emphasizing the rich flavor and quality of the brew. In contrast, in the United States, larger sizes are often preferred, aligning with the American coffee culture that values convenience and quantity. The size of the serving can influence the overall coffee-drinking experience, from the intensity of flavor to the satisfaction derived from the drink. These variations reflect not only culinary traditions but also societal attitudes towards consumption and enjoyment.

    Flavor Profile

    The flavor profiles of café au lait and caffe latte can vary based on the brewing methods, coffee beans used, and individual preferences, offering a range of taste options for coffee enthusiasts.

    For those who enjoy a milder, well-rounded flavor, café au lait made with equal parts of coffee and steamed milk provides a creamy and velvety texture with subtle hints of coffee. On the other hand, caffe latte typically consists of a shot of espresso mixed with steamed milk, creating a bolder espresso taste enveloped in the smoothness of milk foam.

    These nuances in flavor are further accentuated by the choice of coffee beans – whether it’s a rich and robust dark roast or a lighter, fruitier blend, each bean type adds its unique essence to the final cup.

    Preparation Method

    The preparation method for café au lait and caffe latte involves brewing a strong coffee base and combining it with steamed or frothed milk, often requiring specific machinery and equipment for optimal results.

    For a classic café au lait, the process typically begins by brewing a robust cup of hot coffee, traditionally using a French press or a drip coffee maker to extract rich flavors. Meanwhile, the milk is heated separately until it reaches a silky texture with microfoam bubbles, giving it a velvety consistency. Once both components are ready, the coffee and milk are gently poured together in equal parts, creating a harmonious blend of coffee and milk that is both smooth and comforting.

    On the other hand, crafting a perfect caffe latte involves pulling a shot of espresso using a high-quality espresso machine – a skill often mastered by experienced baristas. The rich, concentrated espresso is then poured into a serving cup, followed by a carefully steamed mixture of milk and velvety foam created by a reliable milk frother. The art of pouring the milk into the espresso with precision and finesse is key to achieving the signature layered look of a caffe latte that is not only visually appealing but also delivers a balanced flavor profile.

    Which One Is Stronger?

    Which One Is Stronger? - Café au Lait vs. Caffè Latte: The Milky Way of Coffee

    Credits: – Logan Brown

    In terms of strength, Caffè Latte is usually considered stronger than Café au Lait due to its higher concentration of espresso compared to brewed coffee.

    While Caffè Latte typically contains one or two shots of espresso mixed with steamed milk, Café au Lait is usually made with equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk.

    This difference in the espresso-to-milk ratio directly impacts the perceived strength of these beverages. The higher proportion of espresso in a Caffè Latte lends it a bolder flavor and a more pronounced caffeine kick, making it a popular choice among those seeking a robust coffee experience.

    Which One Has More Caffeine?

    In terms of caffeine content, Caffè Latte typically contains more caffeine than Café au Lait, as espresso has a higher concentration of caffeine compared to brewed coffee.

    When looking at brewing methods, the preparation of espresso involves a quick extraction process under high pressure, resulting in a potent and concentrated shot of coffee, attributing to its elevated caffeine content.

    Conversely, Café au Lait is crafted by mixing equal parts of brewed coffee and steamed milk, which dilutes the caffeine concentration. The type of coffee beans used also plays a role; darker roasts tend to have slightly less caffeine than lighter roasts due to the longer roasting process that can reduce caffeine levels.

    Which One Is Healthier?

    In terms of nutritional value, Café au Lait and Caffè Latte can be healthy choices when made with low-fat milk and consumed in moderation, providing essential nutrients like calcium and antioxidants.

    These popular coffee beverages are not only a source of caffeine but also offer health benefits due to the presence of antioxidants, which help in fighting inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. The calcium content in milk used in these drinks promotes bone health and muscle function.

    To make these drinks even healthier, consider opting for plant-based milk alternatives like almond or oat milk for a dairy-free option. Choosing natural sweeteners like honey or agave syrup over refined sugar can also enhance the nutritional profile of your café au lait or caffè latte.

    How to Make Café au Lait and Caffè Latte at Home?

    Making Café au Lait and Caffè Latte at home is a rewarding experience that requires a few key ingredients, basic equipment like an espresso machine or French press, and a simple step-by-step process.

    To create a perfect Café au Lait, you’ll need freshly brewed coffee and hot milk in equal parts. Begin by heating the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, ensuring it doesn’t boil. Next, brew a strong coffee using your preferred method. Once the milk is steaming, pour it into a cup, followed by the brewed coffee.

    To make a classic Caffè Latte, focus on frothing the milk by using either a frother or a French press. Pour the frothed milk over a shot of espresso, and enjoy the rich, creamy flavors.


    The key ingredients for Café au Lait and Caffè Latte include freshly brewed coffee, steamed or frothed milk, and optional flavorings such as syrups or spices to enhance the taste of these beverages.

    Freshly brewed coffee forms the base of these classic drinks, providing a rich and bold coffee flavor. The steamed or frothed milk adds a creamy texture and balances the strong coffee taste, creating a velvety mouthfeel. The combination of these ingredients results in a harmonious blend of coffee and milk, perfect for those seeking a comforting and indulgent beverage.

    Optional flavorings like syrups, such as vanilla or caramel, can add a hint of sweetness and depth to the drinks. Spices like cinnamon or nutmeg can introduce a warm and aromatic element, elevating the overall flavor profile.

    To personalize these beverages, consider adding whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top. These extra touches can enhance the visual appeal and offer additional layers of flavor to suit individual preferences.


    To create Café au Lait and Caffè Latte at home, you will need basic coffee brewing equipment such as an espresso machine or a French press, along with a milk frother for achieving the perfect foam consistency.

    Espresso machines are the heart of the operation when it comes to brewing the rich, concentrated coffee that forms the base of these popular beverages. These machines force hot water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure, extracting the flavors and oils efficiently.

    On the other hand, French presses offer a more hands-on approach, allowing you to steep the coffee grounds in hot water and then press the grounds down to separate the liquid. This method produces a fuller-bodied coffee with a distinct flavor profile that complements the milk in these drinks.

    Milk frothers play a crucial role in creating the velvety, creamy texture that tops off a well-made Café au Lait or Caffè Latte. By aerating and heating the milk simultaneously, frothers transform it into a silky foam that enhances the overall taste and appearance of the beverages.

    Step-by-Step Instructions

    Follow these simple step-by-step instructions to brew a delicious Café au Lait or Caffè Latte at home, starting from preparing the coffee base to steaming the milk and assembling the final beverage.

    To begin, gather your favorite medium-to-dark roast coffee beans, ensuring they are freshly ground to a coarse consistency. The key to a rich flavor profile lies in the quality of the coffee used. Next, heat water to a temperature just below boiling and add it to your French press or drip coffee maker for brewing.

    Once the coffee is ready, heat the milk gently in a saucepan on medium-low heat, or use a milk frother for a creamier texture. Be cautious not to let the milk boil, as it can impact the taste. The ideal milk temperature is around 150°F (65°C), creating a velvety smooth finish for your drink.

    Now, combine the brewed coffee with the steamed milk in a ratio that suits your preference. A typical guideline is equal parts coffee and milk for Café au Lait, while Caffè Latte usually leans towards more milk than coffee.

    Which One Should You Choose?

    When deciding between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte, consider your preferences for coffee strength, milk consistency, and flavor profiles to choose the beverage that best suits your taste preferences and caffeine requirements.

    One of the key differences between the two popular coffee drinks lies in their composition. Café au Lait, originating from France, is made by mixing equal parts of steamed milk and brewed coffee, resulting in a smooth and mellow flavor with a balanced coffee-to-milk ratio.

    On the other hand, Caffè Latte, an Italian creation, consists of a single shot of espresso topped with a generous amount of steamed milk, offering a stronger coffee flavor and a creamier texture compared to Café au Lait.

    When selecting between the two, if you enjoy a less intense coffee flavor and a lighter texture, Café au Lait might be the ideal choice for you. If you prefer a bolder coffee taste with a velvety mouthfeel, then Caffè Latte could be more to your liking.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the difference between Café au Lait and Caffè Latte?

    Café au Lait and Caffè Latte are both popular coffee drinks that include steamed milk, but they differ in their origins and preparation methods.

    Café au Lait originated in France and is made with equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk. Caffè Latte, on the other hand, originated in Italy and is made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk.

    Which drink has a stronger coffee flavor?

    Caffè Latte has a stronger coffee flavor due to the use of espresso, while Café au Lait has a milder coffee taste.

    Do they both contain the same amount of milk?

    No, Café au Lait and Caffè Latte have different ratios of coffee to milk. Café au Lait has equal parts coffee and milk, while Caffè Latte has a higher concentration of coffee to milk.

    Is there a difference in the milk used for these drinks?

    Yes, there is a difference in the type of milk used for these drinks. Café au Lait traditionally uses whole milk, while Caffè Latte can be made with any type of milk, such as skim, almond, or soy milk.

    Which drink is more suitable for those who prefer a stronger milk taste?

    Café au Lait is more suitable for those who prefer a stronger milk taste, as the equal parts of coffee and milk create a creamy and rich milk flavor.

    Are there any other factors that differentiate these drinks?

    Yes, Café au Lait and Caffè Latte also differ in their serving sizes. Café au Lait is typically served in a larger mug, while Caffè Latte is served in a smaller, espresso-sized cup.

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