Café au Lait – How to Make this Coffee





Starbucks café au lait is a French coffee with added milk. This type of drink originated from France; hence the French name. The drink is not made using espresso coffee; rather a dripping coffee mixed with steamed milk. The coffee often contains an equal portion of coffee and milk.

However, there is no fixed ratio between the milk and coffee. If you order this drink from Starbucks, on the menu it’s called Café Misto. Café au lait is one of the easiest and simplest coffee that tastes great that can be made at home and at any coffee shop.

This is because the coffee does not require the use of any espresso.

What do You Need to Make Café au Lait


  • Coffee

When you want to make this coffee, use the normal coffee machine and brew it the normal way. If you don’t have a coffee brewing machine, you can also use the French press coffee maker to make it. Any type of coffee can be used to make café au lait.

  • Milk

When making this type of coffee, you can use any type of milk you want. There is no specific type of milk you have to use for café au lait.

How to make café au lait at home:


1. Choose the Right Coffee Beans

If you want your drink to have a great taste and flavor, then you need to select the best type of coffee beans for the coffee you intend to brew. There is some coffee like coffee from Central America that loses their taste once they are mixed with milk. This means you shouldn’t use that type of coffee beans to make café au lait.

Also, the mild and light roast coffee is not suitable for making café au lait. You should use the Java, Brazilian, or Sumatran coffee for it; dark roast coffee also works to make the drink.

  • You can also use the espresso beans to prepare the drink, but you will have to brew the normal way through drip machines, or manual French Press.

2. Brew an Extra-strong Cup of Coffee

If you want your coffee to maintain its taste and flavor when the milk is added, then you need to prepare a strong pot of coffee from the beginning. Some people will suggest that you should use espresso coffee and add milk to it. But once you do this, it is no longer a café au lait, it is a latte.

  • If you are using a coffee maker to make the coffee, let the ratio of coffee grind to water be 2:1. This will help you produce a stronger pot of coffee
  • When you are using the French press to make the coffee, you can add some extra spoons of coffee to the pot to make it stronger.

3. Warm 1 Cup of Milk

Scaling is a culinary word used in place of heating milk. You need to carefully do this so the milk will not start foaming. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat it gently under low heat.

Continue doing this until the milk starts to bubble; do not allow the milk to bubble too much. You can also make use of the steaming wand that comes with the espresso machine. This will help you heat the milk and it won’t get burnt.

  • Use the whole milk it makes a better café au lait
  • Normally, the café au lait shouldn’t have foam, but it is essential for drinks to have a little foam. Carry a whisk and whisk the milk for about 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Pour the Brewed Coffee and Hot Milk into the Cup Simultaneously

pouring-milkIf you want the same amount of coffee and milk in the drink and you also don’t want to stir the drink because of foaming, there is a solution to that. All you have to do is to pour the milk and coffee into the cup simultaneously, or you can first pour the coffee till you fill half of cup, then pour the milk till  you fill the cup.

  • Although the ratio of milk to coffee in the drink ought to be the same, they don’t have to be exact. If you want a stronger cup add less milk and for a weaker cup, add more milk
  • If you have issues with pouring the coffee and milk at once, pour the milk first and then pour the coffee.


5. Serve Your Drink Immediately

It depends on how you want to serve the drink; if you want a French style, then serve it in a large bowl. If you want the Italian style, then serve in a tall glass.

Note and Tips for café au lait

  • There is no specific ratio you have to follow when you are making the café au lait. The best way to know the amount of milk you need to add to the drink is by tasting the drink itself. It is advisable you start with a 2:1 ratio of coffee to milk. Once you don’t like the taste of the coffee from here, you can start adjusting it until you get what you really want
  • If you want to prepare your café au lait and you need a coffee that has a low acid content, the best type of coffee to use is the one from Brazil. When you use a coffee that has high acid content, you might not be able to taste the coffee in the drink as the taste might get lost
  • Different coffee shops have their own ratio they use when they are making the café au lait. If you don’t know the ratio the shop is using, you are free to ask them
  • When you are making the café au lait, there is no restriction on the type of coffee you can use. You can use any type of coffee you have, and the drink will still taste good.

FAQ about Café au Lait

  • Is the café au lait the same as the latte style of coffee?

The answer is No; they are not the same though, they are similar to each other. They are two different drinks; the café au lait is made using a drip coffee while the latte is made using espresso coffee and they taste different.

  • Can a half-and-half drink be frothed?

The answer is yes, a half-and-half drink can be frothed and this type of drink is called the breve. If you want your café au lait to be a half-and-half, all you have to do is to tell the barista you want a breve café au lait.

  • Is the white coffee the same as the café au lait?

Many people confuse the white coffee with the café au lait, but they are not the same. Although both coffees are similar to each other, they still have some differences. The difference between the two coffees is the milk used. For the white coffee the milk is cold while the one used in the café au lait is steamed, which makes them both taste different

Latte vs. Café au Lait

  • Espresso/Coffee

The café au lait does not need an espresso before it can be brewed; you can use a regular brewed coffee to make it. The latte is made from the espresso type of coffee and you cannot use any other type of coffee to make it.

  • Drink Size

The latte and the café au lait often come in the same cup size. They come in about 8 ounces to 20 ounces of coffee.

The Difference between the Cappuccino and the Café au Lait

  • Espresso/Coffee

The café au lait can be made using the drip coffee machine, while the cappuccino is made from the espresso brewing.

  • Milk

When you are making the cappuccino, the texture of the milk is important. However, this is not so for the café au lait. You don’t need to do anything special for the texture of the milk while making it. As long as the milk you are using to make the café au lait is steamed and hot, it will definitely work perfectly.

  • Drink Size

Normally, the volume of the cappuccino is 6 ounces, but when it comes to the café au lait, there is no fixed volume for it. As long as the drink is a combination of steamed milk and coffee, it is a café au lait.

 Café au Lait



The café au lait is known as Caffe Misto at the Starbucks; so when you want to order for it, just ask for Caffe Misto. The drink is made using half steamed milk and half brewed coffee. Even if the coffee is not on the menu in Starbucks, you can still order the drink and they’ll make it.

The drink is a simple one, and most baristas will know how to make the drink for you. If you don’t specify the amount of milk you want in the drink, they will make it by default with 2% milk.

If you want a caffeinated drink that has steamed milk with it and you don’t want to go for the expensive latte, you can buy the café au lait. The price of the café au lait is half that of the latte and this makes it an affordable option for you to try.


The Takeaway

cafe-au-laitThe café au lait is one of the types of making coffee; it is a mixture of dripping coffee and regular milk. In this article, we looked at the materials needed to make this delicious coffee, and I have explained the steps involved. Practice making the café au lait yourself at home until you reach the perfect ratio mix of coffee and milk, and enjoy the flavor.





If you have any comments, please leave them below, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re a coffee lover and a dog lover check this lovely dog feeder out.




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4 thoughts on “Café au Lait – How to Make this Coffee”

  1. Thanks for an educational post on how to make my very own Starbucks Café au Lait.  Its so annoying to have to spend 10 bucks on a cup of coffee every time I walk into a Starbucks and so hard for me to resist the temptation! Maybe if I make my own at home I wont feel as tempted to stop at every drive through Starbucks I see and I may actually save some money.  Thanks for a great article.  What is your top suggestion for best coffee maker for specialty coffees? Nespresso? Keurig?

    • Ashley, thank you for your comments. I wrote this post because I know many coffee lovers want to save money during these tough times, and are willing to try and make great coffee drinks at home which is very possible. To answer your question, I personally have use a super automatic DeLonghi coffee maker which makes any coffee you like at a push of a button. Its pricey, but I have it for 10 yrs, and still going strong. My second machine is an Nespresso machine(inexpensive) that uses the Vertuo line of capsules. Best espresso coffee from any capsules on the market. Its inexpensive, and in 10 seconds you’ll have your delicious espresso. Much cheaper rout than Starbucks.

  2. I didn’t know even the temperature of the milk added to coffee will cause it to taste different, that is incredibly fascinating. I also didn’t know that coffee can be served in a bowl! Would be great for dunking pastries I bet. I am not much of a coffee drinker as I find most coffees too bitter. I’m sure this is great for coffee fanatics at home, though!

    • Christina, I appreciate your comments. There are great types of coffee for people that does not like the strong bitter coffee. The cafe au lait is one of them. It’s light, and with a bit of sweetener, you may like it.



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