Cafe Au Lait vs. Latte: An Overview

Given the numerous variations of coffee-based drinks out there, it is easy for coffee drinkers to confuse some of the most popular ones, including the latte and cafe au lait, as they are very similar. Although both have the same base ingredients, coffee, and milk, they still differ from everything else, from their origin to the preparation method. To settle things once and for all, we have provided you a guide to cafe au lait vs. latte to help you know which between the two to order next time.

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Making Cafe Au Lait vs. Latte

Cafè latte is a famous drink alongside macchiato, cappuccino, and other espresso-based beverages, but what is a macchiato vs. latte? What makes these drinks so similar? In their purest form, these drinks use the same base ingredients: coffee and milk. Many people get confused between these popular coffee drinks, especially café au lait and classic lattes.

To help you start seeing the difference between these two popular beverages, we will discuss how to make the drinks correctly, and you can try to make them at home to enjoy their unique flavors and taste. But if you want to get the best results, you need to know how to use French press coffee maker and what are the 4 types of coffee beans to apply for the perfect brew.

How to Make Café Au Lait

Although there are several variations of this popular coffee drink in the US and Europe, the original way of making this popular beverage involves the following:

  1. Brew extra strong drip coffee. 
  2. Warm a cup of milk, or more, depending on how much of the drink you plan to make. 
  3. Pour coffee and milk into a glass or bowl simultaneously and ensure you have equal parts of the two ingredients. 
  4. Serve immediately.

The United States has its version of this popular drink, which follows the same steps but uses coffee, chicory, and scalded milk instead. A local coffee shop in New Orleans popularized this variation, and it is customary in the state to have it with sugary beignets.

How to Make Lattes

Making lattes requires more effort; you need to have an automatic or manual espresso maker and a milk steamer. Once you have these items in hand, the following are the steps to follow when making a traditional café latte:

  1. Extract one to two shots of espresso into a tall glass.
  2. Add 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk into the glass.
  3. Pour a thin layer of foam on top. 
  4. Add latte art if you want, and serve immediately.

What is in a café au lait?

The traditional version consists of one part of brewed coffee and warm or steamed milk. A popular variation of the drink served in New Orleans coffee shops in the American Civil War till now uses very different ingredients from the popular coffee drink in Europe. The Southern version consists of chicory root, milk, and brewed coffee, enhancing the drink’s taste and aroma.

Is café au lait the same as a flat white?

No, a flat white is an espresso-based drink that boasts a more dominating coffee taste because it only contains a small amount of milk, topped off with a thin milk froth layer. The café au lait has equal parts of coffee and milk and traditionally does not have a milk foam layer.

Is a latte stronger than regular coffee?

A latte is made with one to two shots of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam. Twelve ounces of café latte have one espresso shot, and each espresso shot has a caffeine content equivalent to a 12-ounce cup of regular brewed coffee, meaning both have the same strength. However, it depends on the content of lattes, if the drink has more than one espresso shot, then lattes will contain more caffeine, becoming more potent than regular coffee.

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What is the Difference Between Cafe latte and Cafe Au Lait

There is confusion about the difference between café au lait and café lattes; they both mean coffee with milk in different languages and use the same ingredients. These drinks are European in origin and have been a staple of the European breakfast for generations.

You can also make these iconic coffee drinks on any brewer, from the Best Latte Machine, the Best Nespresso Machine for Latte, to the classic Keurig K Cafe Brewer. However, there are still differences, and to settle the battle between café au lait vs. lattes, we have listed their differences.

The Origins

While both popular coffee drinks originated from Europe, they come from various countries. The café au lait originated from France, and directly translates to coffee with milk, explaining why many people use it to describe lattes. Meanwhile, lattes are the older of the two, and it is an Italian coffee drink that has been a staple for most Italian breakfasts for many centuries. It is a shortened term of the Italian phrase “cafe latte” which also means coffee with milk.

The Making

Lattes are made using a single shot of espresso, steamed milk, and topped with a thin layer of milk foam while when making café au lait you use brewed coffee, steamed milk, and no foam.

The Ratios

The correct ratio for a traditional cafè au lait is equal parts of coffee and milk, which means 1/2 warm milk and 1/2 brewed regular coffee. The right beverage ratio is 1/6 espresso, 4/6 steamed milk, and 1/6 frothed milk for lattes.

The Brew Size

The typical brew sizes for a traditional café au lait served in most coffee chains are 10 ounces or 12 ounces. The conventional size is 8 ounces for lattes, but recently, there are varying sizes for different countries. For instance, in the USA, most individuals prefer bigger brews, making the standard size for this classic drink between 10 ounce and 12 ounces.

The Serving Method

Café au lait is traditionally served in a small wide-brimmed glass bowl, and to this day, the French still drink this beverage this way. However, most coffee shops globally place it on a smaller cappuccino cup to retain its heat. Meanwhile, lattes are traditionally served in a tall glass that lets you see the distinct layers of the intricate drink.

The Appearance and Flavor

Café au lait consists of equal parts of milk and coffee. The flavor of this popular drink is also balanced thanks to the simple ingredients, but depending on the beans you use to make the coffee and brewing method, it will usually be more robust than lattes.

Lattes boast intricate designs that are hard to miss, and the most traditional latte arts range from the classic heart to animal faces. The flavor of this drink is milder because of its higher content of steamed milk, subtly feeling the espresso’s boldness, making it the perfect drink for casual coffee drinkers.

Which has more milk latte or cafe au lait?

Lattes have more milk than a café au lait because the ratio of lattes is typically 2 to 1, meaning it contains two parts milk, and one part coffee while the latter has equal parts of coffee and milk, having a 1 to 1 ratio.

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Conclusion: Enjoying your latte and cafe au lait

Now that you know the differences between cafe au lait vs. latte, you can now order with confidence the next time you visit your favorite local coffeehouse, or make these iconic drinks yourself and enjoy it at home. Feel free to add your twists to these beverages, such as adding dessert sauces or syrups, creating your very own masterpieces at home. Happy brewing!