Coffee lovers are locked in a heated debate over whether a latte should be hot or cold. The answer to this question is more complex than you might think.
And yet, if you walk into your local coffee shop and order a latte, chances are good that you will be served a hot rather than a cold drink. So, where does the cold latte come in?
If you’re new to the coffee world or aren’t new but are curious about the great coffee debate, this is the post for you!
Today’s post covers what’s in a latte, the difference between an iced and blended coffee drink, and simple reasons why you may choose one over the other. And stay tuned for a few of my favorite hot and cold latte recipes!
What is a latte?
A latte is a combination of espresso and steamed milk. The word “latte” is short for “caffè latte,” which means coffee and milk in Italian.
The drink has been around since at least the 17th century, although variations exist in how it’s prepared worldwide.
And the version that is popular in America today was likely introduced in the 1950s. The drink became famous in the 1980s with the rise in trendy coffee shops.
One distinct difference between European and American caffe lattes is the addition of sugar and flavorings. The American latte is known for flavors ranging from pumpkin spice to white chocolate mocha.
Although lattes have generally been prepared hot, the iced version has gradually become the more trendy choice.
What is an iced latte?
The iced latte combines espresso, milk, and ice cubes. There is almost always added sugar or flavoring as well.
Although some coffee shops feature blended beverages, they are usually called “frappes,” “frappuccinos,” or simply “blended coffee drinks.” This drink is generally made with a milk-based powder with binding ingredients to give it a creamy texture.
And blended coffee drinks aren’t generally referred to as “blended lattes.” Order an iced latte at your favorite coffee shop, and you will get espresso, milk, and flavoring over ice.
It’s also worth noting that most baristas will assume you mean a hot latte when ordering a latte. You usually have to specify that you want the iced version.
Looking for a recipe for your own copycat blended coffee drink? Click here.
Pros and Cons of Iced Lattes
Although I love any drink with espresso, there are some definite pros and cons to iced lattes.
One of the best advantages of an iced latte is that it’s infinitely more refreshing than a hot one on a sultry summer day.
If you’re new to coffee or don’t like a strong coffee flavor, iced lattes are a great way to start drinking coffee. Hot lattes tend to have a bold espresso flavor. But adding flavor syrup and milk in a cold latte gives you a more subtle coffee flavor.
If you’re making your own latte at home, iced lattes are quicker than hot ones because you don’t need to heat the milk. But if you like a little body to the drink, you can still froth the milk.
Another benefit of an iced latte over a hot one is that you can drink it immediately and don’t have to wait for it to cool down.
The biggest con of an iced latte is that adding ice tends to dilute the flavor. You can minimize this by using coffee instead of water ice cubes.
And if you live in a cold climate, an iced latte won’t give you the same warm, cozy feeling as a warm one.
How do you make an iced latte?
Making an iced latte takes slightly less time than a hot one because you don’t have to steam the milk.
Start by pouring a cup of ice into your favorite glass.
Pull a shot (or two) of espresso. Small coffee shop drinks typically contain 1 shot of espresso, mediums have a double shot of espresso, and larges include 3 or more.
And if you’re avoiding caffeine, use decaf espresso. It has all the flavor of regular espresso with a fraction of the caffeine.
If you’re adding flavor to the drink, mixing it with the espresso is best before pouring it into the glass with ice. Add the milk of your choice and stir it.
If you’ve never tried making an iced latte at home, here are a couple of my favorite recipes!
Iced Raspberry Caramel Latte
Although caramel and raspberry sound strange, I promise you will fall in love with this drink!
It’s a refreshing drink and has just the right amount of sweetness. And it’s one of my go-to favorite latte recipes!
I like to make this drink in a mason jar. For that size, you will need the following:
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup (click here for an easy recipe)
- 1/4 teaspoon caramel extract
- 1 (or 2) shots of espresso
- 1 teaspoon raspberry syrup
- 8 ounces of milk of your choice
Fill the mason jar halfway with ice, then pour in the milk. Add the raspberry syrup and stir.
Pull a shot of espresso. Add the simple syrup and caramel extract to the espresso.
Hold a spoon upside down over the mason jar to give this drink a layered look. Slowly pour the espresso over the back of the spoon, and the espresso layer will sit on top of the milk layer, creating a stunning look to this deceptively simple drink.
Chocolate Coconut Latte
The chocolate and coconut flavor combination is delightful and perfect to cool off on a hot day! Although you can make it both ways, I prefer this latte iced rather than hot.
And I love making this one in a mason jar as well. Here’s the recipe:
- 1 teaspoon simple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon of coconut extract
- 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
- 1 (or 2) shots of espresso
- 8 ounces of milk of your choice
Fill the jar halfway with ice. Pour in the milk and add the chocolate syrup, stirring to mix thoroughly.
Pull a shot of espresso and mix the simple syrup and coconut extract together. Pour the sweetened espresso into the chocolate milk and have a delicious and refreshing iced latte!
What are the pros and cons of hot lattes?
The main benefit of the hot version is its warmth and comfort, especially during colder months. And as someone who lives in a cold midwestern state, this is a huge benefit!
Hot lattes also have more pronounced espresso flavors than their iced counterparts. The heat brings out the more intense flavor of the espresso and is balanced by steamed milk. The foam is also less dense in a hot latte, giving it a light and airy texture.
The downside is that hot lattes take slightly longer to make. And depending upon how hot the drink is, you might have to wait a bit to take your first taste.
How do you make a hot latte?
Making a hot latte is very similar to making an iced one. The main difference is that you have to take a bit of extra time to heat the milk.
When making a latte at home, you can heat it to your personal preferences. Coffee shops generally heat lattes to a standard temperature of around 160 degrees, the perfect temperature for a warm latte.
Although you can order an extra-hot latte, the resulting drink often has a bitter taste. You also have to wait longer to enjoy it.
And if you’ve never made a hot latte at home, check out my favorite recipe. I hope you love it as much as I do!
Cinnamon Dolce Latte
There’s nothing more warm and comforting than warm cinnamon! And this is the perfect latte to enjoy on a frigid winter evening.
- 1/4 cup White sugar
- 1/4 cup Water
- 2 whole Cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 cup Milk
- 1 or 2 Espresso shots
- Whipped cream Optional
- 1 tsp White sugar Cinnamon Dolce Sprinkles
- 1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon Cinnamon Dolce Sprinkles
Combine the sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves.
Continue heating until the syrup reaches your desired consistency. Stir the mixture to avoid burning it.
Remove the cinnamon stick once the syrup has the strength of the cinnamon flavor that you prefer. Add the vanilla extract.
Pull a shot of espresso.
Heat and froth the milk to your ideal temperature and pour it into a mug
Add 1-2 tablespoons of the cinnamon syrup and the espresso shot.
Stir and top with whipped cream.
Mix together the white sugar and cinnamon.
Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar on your drink, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are lattes bad for you?
Aside from the caffeine content, a latte’s simple espresso and milk combination aren’t bad for you.
But American lattes tend to be full of sugar. Depending on the drink size ordered at your favorite coffee shop, you could easily consume over 500 calories and over 50 grams of sugar. And if you’re curious, 50 grams equals 1/4 cup of sugar.
Many coffee shops typically offer sugar-free flavor options, but most seasonal drinks often don’t have a sugar-free option.
You can also make your own latte at home and use way less sugar without much sacrifice in how it tastes. Or you can mix up your own sugar-free syrup.
Either way, you save yourself a ton of sugar, calories, and money.
What are ways you can decrease the amount of sugar in a latte?
Using flavor extract instead of flavor syrup can be a great way to decrease the amount of sugar. You can also add less flavor syrup than the coffee shops generally add to their drinks.
Lastly, using stevia, you can make your own sugar-free flavor syrups at home.
Is coffee good for you?
There is some research out there that supports coffee as beneficial for healthy blood sugar levels. It can also boost brain health and lower one’s risk of depression.
Although coffee boosts energy and alertness, getting a quick caffeine fix too close to bedtime can cause insomnia.
Can you make a latte at home without an espresso machine?
Yes. A Moka pot is an excellent alternative to an espresso machine if you want to make espresso drinks at home. And if you’re making an iced latte, you can also use cold brew coffee instead of espresso.
And you can make iced coffee drinks at home with cold brew. They are slightly different from a caffe latte because they don’t contain espresso. However, they’re still a delicious way to enjoy cold coffee!
Do iced lattes have frothed milk?
Not typically. But if you’re making a latte at home, you can certainly froth cold milk to give your drink a bit of extra body.
You can use an electric mixer, French press, electric frother, or even a mason jar with a lid to froth milk.
What kind of milk is best for an iced latte?
Any kind of milk works in cold lattes. Depending upon the flavor of the latte you’re making, certain types of milk may blend better than others.
For example, suppose you’re making a raspberry caramel latte. In that case, you don’t want to use coconut milk because it may add an extra flavor that doesn’t blend well.
But if you’re making a copycat cocomo, coconut milk is exactly what you need to recreate that flavor.
What kind of milk is best for a hot latte?
Any type of milk can work for a hot latte. In dairy milk, skim milk produces the most foam with frothing.
Half-and-half or whole milk produces less foam than skim, so either is a good option if you want a creamier flavor without a lot of foam.
Almond or oat milk are also good options.
The ultimate answer to whether a latte should be hot or cold is admittedly anti-climactic. Both can be delicious and the perfect solution for that mid-afternoon slump.
I hope this post has inspired you to make your own hot or cold latte at home the next time a craving hits. Making lattes at home is a fantastic way to control the ingredients (sugar content) and save money.
If you need equipment recommendations, check out this selection on Amazon. But remember that you can use something other than an espresso machine. You can use a Moka pot or even coffee brewed more strongly than you would typically to replace the espresso in a homemade latte., ,
So go ahead, experiment with all the different types of lattes in the comfort of your own home, and decide for yourself – is a latte supposed to be hot or cold? Cheers!
If you loved this post, check out my other coffee-inspired posts!