As coffee is a beverage that we can enjoy in both hot and cold forms, it’s possible to find various coffee drinks that have two different versions, where one is hot, and the other is iced.
Latte is one of these drinks where it’s possible to either get a regular latte that is served hot or an iced latte that is served cold. Although we don’t mind when our iced latte is too cold as it keeps us fresh on a hot summer day, a cup of latte that is too hot can cause displeasure for some, and they would rather have their latte warm.
That being said, you will find that lattes are usually served piping hot at the coffee shop for the most part, which may leave you to wonder why it’s that way if you are someone who enjoys their latte warm.
While it’s indeed possible for a latte to be hot or warm depending on preference, there are a few reasons behind coffee shops serving hot lattes by default.
Why Are Lattes Served Hot?
Lattes are usually served between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius, just like many other hot beverages, which are actually way too hot to drink without burning your mouth at the higher end of the range. Even those who enjoy their coffee piping hot would most likely have to wait for their drink to cool down a bit before they can actually drink it.
Even though these temperatures are too hot to drink, they are the perfect temperatures for a latte due to a few different reasons.
The first reason is the fact that your drink will be cooling down quite quickly soon after it’s removed from heat, meaning that it will be ready to drink in less than a few minutes anyway. If your drink was served at a lower temperature, there is a good chance that it will cool down to a point where it’s not really enjoyable to drink anymore.
The second and third reasons are attached to the ideal temperatures that are required to brew coffee and steam milk, which are quite high. Reaching these temperatures is important for the taste of your latte to turn out well, which is why baristas use thermometers to make sure that your drink is prepared optimally.
Even if you prefer your latte to be warm, it’s actually better for it to cool down after being served hot.
Effects of Brewing Temperature on Espresso
As brewing temperature plays an important role in the extraction of coffee grounds, it’s very important to use the optimal brewing temperature range between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius to ensure that the coffee grounds are extracted optimally.
If a temperature that is above this range is used for the brewing process, the coffee grounds will most likely end up being over-extracted or even burnt in some cases. Since coffee extraction is a very delicate process, a few degrees can quickly turn your coffee into a bitter mess.
On the other hand, using a temperature that is below the ideal will cause coffee grounds to be under-extracted instead, which would end up with your coffee turning out very acidic with no real flavor or body.
For this reason, any respectable coffee shop is obliged to brew your coffee with the optimal brewing temperature to ensure that they provide the best possible coffee experience for you. In the case of espresso, espresso machines are configured to use these temperatures by default.
You will notice that the optimal brewing temperatures for a shot of espresso are way above safe drinking temperatures. While espresso makes up for a small portion of a latte by volume, it’s part of the reason why lattes have to be served hot.
Ideal Temperature for Steamed Milk
Just as the coffee brewing process has an ideal temperature, so does steaming milk. A range between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius is often preferred for steamed milk, especially for a latte.
The first reason why these temperatures are preferred for steaming milk is to ensure that milk doesn’t lose its taste. As the temperature rises, the proteins in milk will start breaking down and burn, causing the milk to taste burned. Since a temperature that is around 75 degrees Celsius is enough for milk to be burned, it’s important to keep a close eye on it with the help of a kitchen thermometer.
Using the ideal temperature also plays an important role in the creation of milk froth that is required for a latte. Since making microfoam is a very delicate process as it’s used for making latte art, milk being steamed at the ideal temperature is of utmost importance.
Since there isn’t a lot of room for customization when it comes to ideal temperatures for brewing coffee and steaming milk, it’s only natural for a cup of latte to be served hot.
What Temperature Should a Latte Be?
Just because a latte has to be served at a certain temperature because of the temperatures required for brewing coffee and steaming milk, it doesn’t mean that you have to drink it at those temperatures.
After the brewing process is over, there is no set temperature that a latte should be. The temperature you prefer to enjoy your latte at is completely up to your preference, so feel free to wait until your latte cools down to a temperature where you feel comfortable.
In fact, drinking a latte that is too hot will prevent you from tasting most of its flavor, which is why we recommend everyone to wait a minute or two before starting to drink. That being said, letting your drink cool too much can also prove to be displeasing, which is why it’s important to find a middle ground.
If the waiting is taking too long, stirring your latte can help it cool down faster.
We recommend going for a temperature that is between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius for an enjoyable coffee drinking experience.
Why Is My Latte Too Cold?
If the latte you prepare at home is turning out to be too cold, the first thing that comes to mind is your milk not being warmed up enough.
As milk increases in volume as you steam it, there is a good chance that the milk fills your container before it becomes warm enough, especially if you’re not using the proper steaming technique and letting your milk bubble up way too much.
To start with, ensure that you are using the proper steaming technique. Simply put, you need to submerge the tip of the steam wand in the milk to prevent it from bubbling. If you are still having problems even though your milk doesn’t increase in volume too rapidly, it could be a good idea to check the amount of milk you are using as it could be too much.
If you are still unsure, you can use a kitchen thermometer and see whether your steamed milk is at the recommended temperatures or not.
If there is no problem with the initial temperature of your latte, but it becomes cold way too fast, your coffee mug may not be doing a good job of keeping your coffee warm. The best thing to do here is to try a different mug and see if you’re having the same problem.
That being said, a trick you can use to keep your coffee warm in the mug is to pre-warm the mug by letting hot water stay in it for a few minutes. As a mug that isn’t pre-warmed is at room temperature, hot coffee that comes to contact with it drops in temperature quite rapidly. By pre-warming your mug, you ensure that the drop in temperature is minimal.
Keeping Your Latte Warm
If you are someone who enjoys coffee slowly, there is a good chance that it will go cold before you are done. While there isn’t a lot to be done about your coffee eventually losing its warmth, there are a few things you can do to slow it down.
Using a Mug with a Lid
Since your coffee gets colder as it gets mixed with the outside air, sealing your mug with a lid can greatly improve the time your coffee stays warm.
Both mugs with built-in lids and external lids are items that are quite easy to find nowadays, and they provide a cheap and easy way of keeping your coffee warm.
Using a Mug Warmer
If you’re looking for something better, you can go for a mug warmer that keeps your coffee warm.
Mug warmers operate similarly to hot plates that are found in drip coffee makers, radiating enough heat to ensure that your coffee doesn’t go cold.
Even though it’s logical for a latte to be served hot, nothing is stopping you from enjoying it at the temperature you want after it’s brewed.
While waiting for your coffee to cool down can feel like a bit of a hassle sometimes, remember that it’s in your best interest.
Enjoy your coffee!