Are lattes hot or cold?

Photo of a hot latte on the left and a cold latte on the right. Are lattes hot or cold?

The difference between ordering a cold or a hot drink is huge in flavor and overall enjoyment. But are lattes hot or cold? Learn below what you need to know about cold and hot lattes!

Traditionally from Italy, lattes are typically served hot. They have ⅓ hot espresso and ⅔ frothed milk for a small yet powerful hot drink! Both the espresso and the milk are hot in the traditional drink.

However, since iced drinks are getting more popular, you can also get an iced latte! This uses a classic hot espresso shot with cold milk poured over ice. Both are popular and delicious but have unique taste profiles that you’ll want to choose from carefully. Read on for more information below!

Key Takeaways:

  • Lattes are traditionally served hot in Italy, typically comprising of one-third hot espresso and two-thirds frothed milk. Both elements are hot in a traditional latte.
  • A modern trend has seen the rise of iced lattes that use a classic hot espresso shot with cold milk poured over ice. These have different taste profiles compared to hot lattes.
  • Irrespective of the type of latte, traditional or iced, it should always contain hot espresso to maintain a rich and deep taste. Using coffee for a latte isn’t traditional.
  • The proper temperature for serving a latte is critical; the espresso should be precisely 200 degrees F (93 degrees C) for accurate flavor extraction, and the steamed milk should ideally be between 135-150 degrees F (57-65 degrees C).
  • The temperature can significantly impact the taste and texture of a latte; a hot latte might taste burnt due to over-heated milk whereas a cold one could taste watery and acidic primarily if the espresso is not heated enough or left at room temperature before mixing.
  • Cold or iced lattes are popular in the coffee industry, especially for those who love the flavor provided by an espresso shot. Cold lattes are typically served with ice and sometimes without.
  • The significant difference between hot and cold lattes lies in their taste and texture, where hot lattes blend a creamy milky flavor with a rich and robust espresso flavor, and cold lattes offer a rich yet smoother taste.

Is a latte hot or cold coffee?

Whether you have a traditional latte or an iced latte, it should contain hot espresso. While you can get a latte made with coffee instead, this isn’t traditional and isn’t a good choice for anyone that wants a rich, strong, and deep taste. Good Housekeeping explains that this intense taste is why many will use a piping hot espresso shot even when making an iced latte! You just can’t beat that strong and intense flavor with anything cold.

Is a latte just warm milk?

A latte has a carefully blended ⅓ espresso with ⅔ steamed milk. This milk is steamed to the proper temperature with a hot espresso for a well-mixed, hot drink! While you can simply heat the milk, steaming, it is best for that sweet flavor. Confused? You can learn about steamed milk vs. frothed milk for more support!

The proper temperature for serving a latte

To get that creamy, rich taste that you love, you have to get the proper temperatures for the two ingredients in it! The espresso should be a precise 200 degrees F (93 degrees C) for the correct flavor extraction, and the steamed milk should aim to be between 135-150 degrees F (57-65 degrees C).

While a traditional cup of coffee may not need to be quite that precise, a latte should be so that you get the ideal blend of flavors.

Does temperature affect the taste and texture of a latte?

This is your next question, right? As it should be! The temperature of your latte (be it from the steamed milk, the espresso, or the blend of the two) will impact the taste and texture of your latte!

If it’s too hot, you’ll have a burnt taste that most often comes from the steamed milk being heated too long or too high. It could be mild or intense, depending on how high you heat the milk. 

The texture will be bubbly to the point that it might not even feel like a latte anymore. The bubblier it is, the more difficult it will be for the flavors to blend neatly.

If your latte is too cold in part or a combination with its ingredients, it’s most likely going to taste watery and acidic. This is most often due to the espresso not being high enough in the heat, or it is left at room temperature before being mixed with the steamed milk. The acidity will often cut through the rest of the taste of your latte. 

The texture of a too-cold latte will be a little flat with some quickly dispersing steamed milk that isn’t the right firm texture. You’ll also likely notice that you don’t get that distinctive crema layer, which is essential for the right texture and taste of your latte! 

That’s a lot of things to factor in and get just right. Now it makes sense why latte making is such a precise art in coffee shops. And that isn’t even factoring in things like latte art, which is a huge craze. 

FUN FACT: Many latte-loving customers will pay for a latte that has impressive latte art just because it looks impressive and professional. The little extra something goes the extra mile.

Do iced lattes have latte art?

Unfortunately, iced lattes don’t have art. Since the ice is intended to disperse the drink, and the barista will stir it before serving it, there’s no opportunity to create art on an iced latte. Iced lattes are more about exploring flavor rather than creating the perfect aesthetic of the classic hot latte.

Are Starbucks lattes hot or cold?

Starbucks lattes are typically good for those who love them, provided they’re made correctly. I notice that their espresso flavor is so strong that it helps get that crisp, rich flavor that you want in a latte.

As far as hot vs. cold, Starbucks does both! If you order it hot, I recommend ordering it straight and enjoying it just as traditional Italians do. If you want to try iced, popular these days, you can try it straight. I’d recommend going for a flavor pump, especially if you like to explore your flavors a bit. I find iced drinks can be a bit more bitter than hot ones, particularly at Starbucks, so play around with a flavor shot and enjoy the coolness of a sweet, milky, iced latte!

Do lattes taste better hot or cold?

As you can likely guess, this will mostly be a question about personal preference. I know some people that will never touch an iced drink, even if it’s the hottest day on record. Others will drink iced drinks even on the coldest day of the year. 

Mostly, hot lattes will be creamy, strong in their espresso flavor, and smooth in their texture. For those that like hot drinks, a latte is a great little something special. Funny enough, 42% of sales in Australia were for lattes. Even in the high-heat climate, many still preferred the traditional method!

Iced lattes are a great choice when you want a creamy, strong, distinctively cool overall flavor. While hot lattes are enjoyed quickly, iced lattes are traditionally enjoyed longer, and the flavor and enjoyment can also last longer.

If you’re unsure what will be best for you, I recommend trying both! I find that there’s a noticeable difference in the flavor, and you’ll be able to match the right latte type to the kind of enjoyment you’re looking for!

Are cold lattes a thing?

Cold or iced lattes are a thing! They are becoming as popular as iced coffee and even more so for those who love an espresso shot’s potent flavor! They’re among the most popular iced drinks and can be made unique with flavor shops, whipped cream, and other additives. 

An iced latte is commonly referred to as a cold latte, but sometimes it can be different. Cold lattes are how lattes are deliberately cooled to room temperature before being served. Sometimes they’re served with ice, and sometimes, they’re not. 

These can be challenging because of the texture and flavor I mentioned above. I would recommend going with either an iced latte or a hot latte rather than something in between that may not give the flavor you crave!

The difference between a hot latte and an iced latte

So, now that you know the differences to look for in these different types of lattes, let’s take a moment to summarize them so that you can see just what’s best for you, your tastebuds, and your overall comfort:

  • Hot lattes are traditional.
  • Cold lattes are modern.
  • Hot lattes blend a creamy milky flavor with a robust and rich espresso flavor.
  • Cold lattes have a rich yet smoother flavor.
  • Hot lattes have to be appropriately brewed for the right temperature combination.
  • Cold lattes have more lenient since they’re served over ice.
  • Hot lattes are served with simple espresso and steamed milk.
  • Cold lattes often include creamers or flavor shots.

The other thing to think about is how you enjoy your lattes as far as the overall vibe. For example, hot lattes are a treat for sipping and savoring, and iced lattes are perfect for running errands since they stay mixed and enjoyable for longer.

FAQ: Are lattes hot or cold?

What is a hot latte made of?

Hot lattes are traditionally made with one-third of hot espresso and two-thirds of frothed milk. Both the espresso and the milk are served hot in this classic Italian drink.

What is the ideal temperature for making a latte?

The ideal temperature for a latte is precise. The espresso should be heated to around 200 degrees F (93 degrees C), and the milk should be steamed to between 135-150 degrees F (57-65 degrees C).

How do hot and cold lattes differ in taste?

A: Hot lattes blend a creamy milky flavor with a robust and rich espresso flavor, while cold lattes offer a smoother taste. The temperature of the drink can significantly affect the flavor and texture.

How is an iced latte made?

An iced latte uses a classic hot espresso shot with cold milk. The mixture is then poured over ice.

Can I make a hot latte at home?

Yes, you can definitely make a hot latte at home. You would need an espresso machine or coffee maker to brew the espresso, and a milk frother to create the frothy milk. Remember to heat the espresso and the milk to the right temperatures for the best flavor.

How is a latte served at Starbucks?

At Starbucks, you can order both hot and iced lattes. If you prefer hot lattes, it’s recommended to order it straight to get the traditional Italian experience. For iced lattes, it’s suggested to add a flavor pump, as iced drinks can be a little more bitter than hot ones.

How can I make the perfect latte?

Making the perfect latte requires attention to detail, especially when it comes to temperature. Ensure that the espresso is brewed at nearly 200 degrees F (93 degrees C) and the milk is steamed to between 135-150 degrees F (57-65 degrees C). The ratios of espresso to milk are also important – one-third espresso to two-thirds frothed milk is standard.

As you’ve learned, there are both cold and hot lattes, and both are delicious and popular. Classic lattes are traditionally hot to lock in their rich, milky flavors. Iced lattes or cold lattes use hot espresso with cold milk mixed and then poured over ice for a long-lasting, frosty drink. Both are popular and taste a little different, as I’ve described above!

If you know a latte lover that will enjoy this comparison, share it with them and spread some love!

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Robert Knowlton is an expert barista with more than 15 years of experience. Robert's main goal is to make sure everyone can enjoy the perfect cup of coffee regardless of their skill level.