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If you’re like me and other coffee lovers alike, you might find it difficult to decide on which drink to enjoy some days. If it’s hot and sunny outside, then a smooth iced coffee or iced latte sounds delectable. But if I’m engrossed in an excellent self-help book on a lazy winter’s day by the fire, then a latte will suffice just fine!
But with so many variations of coffee drinks, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes; no wonder there’s so much confusion.
Bottom line; it’s not a latte without milk. Latte is Latin for “milk” and originated in Italy as a coffee made with espresso shots and steamed, or foamed, milk.
The latte started becoming quite popular in Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s and became even more widespread in the early 1990s. And with so choices on the menu at cafes and specialty coffee shops, even an avid coffee drinker might begin to scratch their head wondering what the hell is even in their coffee, except for maybe coffee.
In this blog post, we’ll share the difference between an iced latte vs iced coffee and the similarities the traditional latte shares with both, so you’re better informed next time you need your caffeine boost.
Iced Latte Vs Iced Coffee—So What's the Difference?
The major difference between an iced latte vs iced coffee drink is that an iced latte contains both espresso coffee and milk and an iced coffee uses regular brewed coffee and doesn’t necessarily contain milk, although it still can. An iced latte will also typically have flavoring added to it, like vanilla or caramel.
You Said, "Espresso Coffee"—What Is Espresso?
Espresso is a 1 ounce shot of concentrated coffee typically brewed by forcing nearly boiling water at 9-10 bars of high pressure (130-150 psi) through finely ground, tightly packed coffee beans. The result is an espresso shot; a very intense, concentrated coffee with a thick syrup-like crema on top, which you can’t achieve with lower pressure brewing methods.
I would encourage you to explore the many forms of espresso by experimenting with different coffee beans (different origins) and roast degrees, for an almost endless variety of experiences. In the end, this will only help you step up your iced latte game.
What's the Difference Between an Iced Latte and a Traditional Latte?
They are both very similar, but it’s not as simple as throwing some ice cubes in your drink.
Both an iced latte and regular latte contain one or more shots of espresso and milk, with difference being, instead of steamed milk, you use cold or cooled milk with an iced latte since you’re trying to keep your ice cubes from melting. Similar to a traditional (hot) latte, though, is an iced latte can contain many of the same flavorings/syrups.
In my iced latte at home, I like to add half and half as well as my favorite creamer for an extra surge of awesomeness.
So, What is a "Traditional" Latte?
Lattes, as popularized by the masses, are hot coffee drinks that contain steamed, frothed milk, an espresso shot (or shots), and sometimes different flavorings and/or syrups.
A latte contains around 8-15 ounces of steamed milk (usually per shot of espresso) that’s brought up to a temperature of around 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit. This steamed/frothed milk contains the smallest amount of visible foam (called microfoam because of its intricate bubble structure) at the top.
The steamed milk has a thicker consistency which also enhances the perceived sweetness in your mouth. It’s also important because it helps balance the flavor of espresso and rounds out the intensity of its bitterness.
Espresso coffee differs largely from regular brewed coffee in that it’s brewed using finer grinds than conventional brew methods, it’s brewed with a much less volume of water, and it’s brewed under many bars of pressure (900–1,000 kPa; 130–150 psi).
Because of this, it comes out at a much higher and stronger concentration than regular coffee; the concentrated liquid gold we know as espresso coffee!
Last, there are about 1001 flavors and syrups you can add to your latte; cinnamon, chocolate, caramel, and vanilla, to name a few.
How Do You Make a Latte?
If you’re fortunate enough to have a decent espresso machine at home, then you’re in luck!
Methodically crafting your own latte at home is incredibly satisfying, especially when you consider the overall cost savings. All it takes is a little time and know-how to make your favorite coffee drink in just minutes.
To make the perfect latte with your home espresso machine, I’ll share the method I use:
Turn on your machine and let the internal water storage get up to temperature.
With your portafilter attached, run an empty 1 cup cycle into your espresso shot glass or latte mug to heat all of your components.
Using your coffee scale, weigh out around 17 – 23 grams of either pre-ground espresso coffee (pre-ground is sacrilege) or grind your own favorite, fresh roast coffee beans on a fine to very-fine setting using a quality burr grinder. This will be enough for a double shot.
Place the grounds into your clean, preheated, portafilter (that is, if your machine doesn’t grind directly into your portafilter) and tamp with a downward pressure of around 30 pounds using a tamper.
Place your portafilter with grounds into your machine.
Fill your milk jug to the bottom of the pour spout with fresh, cold milk. Most times I put in a little of my favorite creamer here too. Just try not to go above the bottom of the spout.
Turn your steam wand on and let it get up to pressure.
Steam your milk to a temperature of around 150 – 155 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a standard cooking thermometer for this or purchase one specifically intended to clip onto your milk jug. Purge and clean your steam wand when finished. No excuses!
Rid your shot glasses or latte mug of any water and place under your group head. Pull a double shot of espresso (around 2x the weight you used for your coffee beans), e.g., 36g of water for 18g of coffee. Use an affordable scale for consistent results.
Pour your steamed milk into your delicious espresso (along with your world-class latte art) and enjoy!
Remember: don’t be afraid to check out YouTube for insightful videos on the subject. They can be very helpful and so much better than learning via trial and error.
Sans Espresso Machine? Getting Creative On Making a Latte.
You can still achieve espresso-like coffee even if you don’t have an espresso machine…yet. Follow these simple steps for an “almost” perfect latte:
Brew a single serve or partial pot of coffee that is extremely dark and strong. To do this, increase your coffee to water ratio anywhere from 1:2 – 1:4 parts coffee to water. When completed, you’ll end up with a very bold few ounces of coffee. You’ll want 2-3 ounces of extremely potent coffee when completed.
To get to a steamed and frothy milk, pour 8-15 ounces of cold milk into a mason jar and shake it until the volume increases and you start to see bubbles forming. Then heat in the microwave WITHOUT the lid for around 30 seconds, making sure it doesn’t overflow.
Pour your strong brewed coffee into your mug, add your sweetener and stir, then pour your heated, frothy milk on top. The liquid will pour first, leaving the foam for the top of your coffee drink.
Sprinkle with your choice of extra flavor (nutmeg, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla extract, etc.) for an extra burst of flavor.
This is a fairly straightforward process, and you can always adjust your coffee to water ratio for an even stronger coffee base in your latte.
What is an Iced Coffee?
Not to be confused with cold brew coffee (a different process altogether) or an iced latte, an iced coffee is just what it sounds like. Coffee and ice cubes.
You can easily make your own delicious iced coffee using very strong, regular brewed coffee, poured over ice.
The reason for using extremely strong coffee is that your iced coffee can quickly become a nasty, watered-down coffee when all the hot coffee melts your ice. Using rocket fuel strength coffee is simply a way of compensating for the expected dilution.
After pouring or brewing your fresh coffee over your ice cubes, add your favorite creamers and/or sweetener. Keep this in mind though; you’ll probably want to substitute the granulated sugar for a simple syrup or another water soluble sweetener, as the sugar won’t easily dissolve in the cold ice.
Explore different tastes and experiment with beans of various roast levels to discover your perfect iced coffee.
How Do You Make an Iced Coffee With a Drip Coffee Maker or Keurig?
If you’re a fan of iced coffee like me, making it is relatively easy, especially if you own a single serve coffee maker such as the Keurig or something similar.
There are a couple ways you can go, depending on your patience level and need for a caffeine fix!
You can brew a slightly stronger, normal cup or pot of coffee and wait for it to cool down to room temperature or chill completely in the refrigerator.
You could brew much stronger coffee directly over ice. I’ll describe that process here.
Making an Iced Coffee Using a Regular Coffee Maker and Brewing Over Ice:
As I mentioned, brewing stronger coffee will prevent your iced coffee from becoming too diluted when all your ice melts from the hot coffee.
Also, if you’re grinding your own beans, be sure to grind to a medium to medium-fine consistency for optimal taste and flavor.
The required ratio of coffee to water will depend on your specific tastes, but a 1:5 to 1:4 ratio is a good place to start and will give you high potency coffee that will compensate for the melted ice.
So, for example, if you wanted 3 fluid ounces of this strong coffee, you would divide your desired 3 (fl oz) by the 5 (in the 1:5 ratio) or the 4 (in the 1:4), which would give you roughly 0.6 to 0.75 ounces of coffee needed (or 17g to 21g; 3.4 to 4.2 tablespoons).
But one problem with this scenario is that most standard drip coffee makers won’t be able to brew a small quantity like 3 ounces.
This is where your math skills will come in handy. You’ll have to apply proper multiplication/division to your variables. Good thing you were an academic anomaly.
So, if 12 fluid ounces is the minimum capacity your machine will brew, you’d know that you’d have to multiply the 3 fluid ounces you want, by 4 to get to 12 (or just divide the 12 fluid ounce minimum by the 3 fluid ounces you’re after).
When you get your number (4, in this example) you need to multiply your coffee quantity by it as well. So, 17g x 4 = 68g.
In this example, this would provide enough really strong coffee for 4 servings since you’re only using 3 fl oz of strong brew at a time.
Making an Iced Coffee Using a Single Serve Coffee Maker:
It becomes a lot easier if you’re using a single serve coffee maker like a Keurig; simply brew it on the smallest water capacity setting available or add a bunch more grounds to your single serve coffee maker.
As you’ve probably noticed in the past, most of the brew strength is extracted in the first few seconds of the brew process anyhow.
Give it another go on the same pod if you feel you need a bit more liquid. Remember, though, your ice will melt significantly.
Also consider that you might add creamer/milk/sugar, so be sure to leave enough room for those.
Is an iced latte sweeter than iced coffee?
Not necessarily, but it probably depends on where you go. With major coffee chains like Starbucks, there is a large amount of sugar in most of the beverages on their menu due mostly to the syrups they use. In fact, most of their iced coffee contains more sugar than their iced latte coffee drinks, except for their Caffè Mocha.
However, because an iced latte contains mostly milk, a large part of sugar content also depends on the type of milk you choose; nonfat, 2%, whole, soy, almond, or coconut milk. Of these different milks, the almond milk has the least amount of sugar and the coconut milk the second least.
Does a latte or iced coffee have more caffeine?
Typically, an iced coffee will have more caffeine than a latte because coffee makes up the entire drink, as opposed to the 80% of steamed milk and foam in a latte.
An iced coffee (regular cup of coffee) has roughly 12 to 16 mg of caffeine per ounce, depending on several variables, of course.
Most coffee drinkers will tell you they prefer espresso based drinks, like a macchiato or cappuccino, because they believe espresso drinks contain more caffeine. Ounce for ounce, this is true. Espresso has, on average, around 63 mg of caffeine per ounce (one shot).
But to illustrate a point, at Starbucks, a 354 mL (11.97 oz.) latte contains one shot of espresso (at 75 mg). But an iced coffee of the same size contains 150 mg of caffeine.
An iced latte or iced coffee make a great summer coffee drink; and traditional lattes, a noble companion during the long, cold winter. We explored a couple ways to make them, regardless of your gear, so you can become your own barista.
But for those who don’t want to bother brewing their own iced latte or iced coffee at home, or don’t have a latte time, you can purchase ready-made latte and iced coffee at your grocery store or local coffee shops and cafes.
We hope this post has helped you better understand the difference between an iced latte vs iced coffee vs traditional (hot) latte.
Lattes, Coffees, & Beers, Oh My! (Beers???)
From a very young "growth-stunting" age, Clint Doerfler has had a deep-rooted love for coffee. As a result, he founded Coffee Gear Gurus® to share his passion for incredible home brewed coffee with others. When he's not watching true crime shows with family or playing music, he's devoted to helping fellow coffee feins make amazing coffee at home - regardless of their experience.