What you need to make great lattes are top quality ingredients, a good espresso machine with a steam wand that heats and adds thickness to your milk, and a solid frothing pitcher to heat the milk in.
Producing a great latte (also called café au lait) is more than just adding milk to any old coffee.
If you haven’t made a latte before yourself, it may not be clear that you actually need an espresso machine, not a coffee maker, to get the job done.
An espresso maker will have a dedicated steam wand for frothing and steaming milk. They’re not hard to use and after a few tries, you’ll have pretty much mastered the technique.
To get you started, I’ve included a list of my favorite entry, mid and pro level espresso machines with quality steam wands to help guide you on the best pick for your home barista experience.
I also have a quick summary on how to prepare a latte like a barista. If you aren’t quite there yet, just scroll ahead a little to get to the reviews.
Any good latte has to begin with
1. A shot or two of well made espresso coffee.
Espresso is made by forcing almost boiling water through good quality roasted ground coffee beans under a pressurized system.
This is really the only way to extract the rich coffee oils for full flavor, and to produce a thick ‘crema’ on the surface of extracted shot of coffee. ‘Crema’ is still coffee, it has nothing to do with milk products.
Good espresso coffee will not be bitter and often does not require sweetening.
2. Milk that has heated by a steam wand to produce thick creamy smooth textures. A little practice and skill is required so that the milk does not become overheated or burnt.
A latte usually has one (or two) shots of espresso coffee poured into a large cup, mug or heat resistant glass. Well heated and foamed milk is then poured over the coffee, holding back top foam with a spoon then allowing it to pour the last half an inch of the coffee.
The same milk is used for cappuccinos where more of the foam is poured into the top third of the cup.
This awesome little machine is so simple and uncomplicated, yet it produces great coffee for a really economical price point.
Whatever style of coffee you prefer, you will be able to enjoy it every day and impress your family and friends with your barista skills, with a little help from De’Longhi of course.
The EC155 is so easy to use and does all the hard work for you, aided by the 15-Bar pump which is equivalent to commercial machines.
There are three optional baskets provided with the machine, a single shot, a double shot and one suitable for using prepared pods of espresso grinds which slot easily into the portafilter provided.
With the De’Longhi “Rapid Cappuccino System” there is no waiting time for the machine to again heat the water to optimal temperature so you can make continuous brews for friends and family.
Frothing milk to the preferred temperature and texture is simple with the swivel steam wand with special frother head, which helps you make cafe-style lattes, even as a beginner.
I would recommend that you do not bother to try to use the built in tamper as it too difficult to judge the pressure needed to pack the grinds perfectly. Buy yourself a nicely weighted metal one along with a good quality stainless steel jug for frothing milk. It will really improve the experience.
This espresso machine is a great entry level coffee maker that provides authentic espresso shots. Operation is simple and various lights indicate when parts of the machine are ready for use.
The Mr. Coffee Automatic Dual Shot Espresso/Cappuccino machine incorporates a thermal block heating system that heats water rapidly. The 15 bar pressure pump is more than adequate for extracting the best oils from quality roasted coffee grinds, resulting in delicious crema floating on every shot.
There are two baskets supplied to hold the coffee grinds, one for double shot servings, the other single. The baskets are designed to pressurize easily, so even beginners can produce good espresso shots with crema, no experience needed.
The portafilter is designed with two spouts to pour into dual cups or for a single serving, place the cup under both of the pouring spouts.
The steam wand has a user friendly froth-making nozzle, again to ensure beginner baristas can produce thick foamy milk without feeling overwhelmed. I recommend purchasing a good quality stainless steel pitcher to use with this machine if you want the best results from your cold milk.
The vertical water reservoir is quickly filled and can be removed for cleaning. This machine can also provide you with hot water through the steam wand, if you’re in the mood for a hot water based drink or an Americano style coffee.
The Mr. Coffee is a relatively compact machine with easy to clean metal and plastic surfaces; even the drip tray has a small spout to make pouring out the excess water easy. The tray surface at the top is perfect for storing your tamper, portafilter and jug when not in use.
The only drawback to this model is that the used espresso puck is a bit soupy-ier than an experienced home barista would expect or prefer, which can make clean up a little messier, though it doesn’t affect the quality of the espresso.
This espresso machine is great value for money. It also has a solid 4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon from almost 1,000 reviewers.
While this semi-automatic machine is more expensive than the entry-level pick, the Breville Barista Express has some built in features that really allow you to exert some controll over the process and fine tune your espresso making.
You also won’t have to make extra purchases to complete the equipment for making good espresso coffee.
One of these features is a quality conical burr grinder that comes fully incorporated into the machine. Once ground, roasted coffee beans begin to deteriorate and oxidize within minutes. Grinding beans only as required ensures the best possible quality coffee. You get rich aroma and thick crema with no bitter oils.
The freshly ground beans are delivered directly into the special pressure building baskets already fitted to the portafilter head, ready for you to tamp with the weighted tamper that also comes with the machine.
A neat feature is the magnetized socket that stores the tamper when not in use. The grind size and amount of coffee per basket can be can be easily adjusted for automation or you can choose manually when to stop grinding.
When it comes to the pour or extraction you can use automatic pours (which can be adjusted) or choose to operate the machine manually as you gain confidence and experience.
A visible pressure gauge also helps you to judge how consistent you are with each shot.
When comes to adding hot water milk, there is a designated hot water dispenser which you can use to heat cups or for making Americano.
The steam wand is quickly heated, even after the coffee shot is poured and makes foaming milk easy in the stainless steel jug provided by Breville. The machine also has a great auto-purge function which makes switching from extraction to steaming seamless.
This is a really top notch semi-automatic packed with a ton of fun programmable features. I use this machine at home and I recommend it for anyone who is looking to hone their home barista skills and move to the next level of brewing from a basic machine.
The Barista Express is a favorite on Amazon with a stellar 4.5 out of 5 rating from almost 1,000 reviewers.
I hope this survey of my favorite options for novice and experienced home baristas interested in making lattes helps with your decision-making! And keep in mind, if you purchase either the Mr. Coffee or the De’Longhi, invest in a really solid conical burr grinder. It will really up your game.
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!