What Is The Difference Between Latte And Café Con Leche?

The difference between latte and café con leche is the espresso-to-milk ratio. Read on to know how to make the latter at home.

Difference between latte and Café con leche
Café con leche is a popular drink in Spain

We’ve all been there. You’re at the trendy local coffee shop staring at the menu, feeling a little out of your element—which is exacerbated by the fact that you don’t even know the difference between some menu items. You pride yourself on having learned the difference between the latte and the cappuccino. But what about the café con leche?

Café con leche is not a popular drink on American cafe menus but is incredibly popular in Spain and Latin America. This Spanish drink is very similar to a latte, but the difference lies in the milk to espresso ratio. 

Keep reading to learn about the difference between a latte and a café con leche. Maybe next time, you can even try ordering one when you’re at your favorite coffee shop!

The Difference Between Latte And Café Con Leche

art at the top of a latte
A latte does not have equal amounts of milk and espresso

The cafe con leche originated in Spain and is now widespread in Spanish-speaking countries worldwide. Literally meaning “coffee with milk,” café con leche is a bit more complicated than the latte. 

Both lattes and café con leches are made from a mix of espresso and milk. They’re both rich, creamy, and caffeinated.

However, café con leche is made with a blend of equal parts espresso and milk. A latte has a 1:3, 1 part espresso to 3 parts milk ratio. 

Because café con leche contains more espresso, it also has more caffeine and is the perfect drink to energize your morning!

The Milk Makes It

In addition to the different espresso to milk ratios, the milk in café con leche is scalded rather than steamed or frothed. The café con leche also does not have a foam like a latte. 

Steamed Milk

Steamed milk is produced when milk is heated through a steam wand or an espresso machine to create a version of frothed milk that doesn’t have as much foam. Steamed milk, unlike frothed milk, has to be served hot. 

Steamed milk can be used in all types of coffee drinks but works best for poured latte art. In addition, all milk, including non-dairy plant alternatives, can be easily steamed. 

Frothed Milk

barista preparing a coffee with milk froth
Dairy milk is best for frothing

All frothed milk is steamed milk if we’re getting technical about it. You can create frothed milk pretty easily by heating milk and shaking it or using a frothing wand so that the added air creates thick bubbles. 

Frothed milk can be served hot or cold and is commonly used in coffee beverages like lattes, americanos, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. However, frothing works best on dairy milk. 

Scalded Milk

To create scalded milk, heat it to just under its boiling point, either with a steam wand or on the stove. The scalded milk and espresso combination creates a rich, sweet, creamy drink without foam. 

Making Café Con Leche At Home

Café con leche is a simple, creamy, sweet drink that is easy to try at home! 

All you need is:

  • Coffee
  • Espresso maker (or a french press or coffee machine if you don’t have an espresso machine)
  • A pot
  • Milk (traditionally whole milk is best, but you can use whatever milk you want)

To make café con leche:

  1. Brew your espresso. If using coffee instead, make your coffee very strong.
  2. Scald your milk by heating milk in your pot on the stove just before it reaches a boil. If you stir the milk at this point, it will become even thicker and creamier.
  3. Mix your café con leche by putting the coffee into a mug (or glass-like it is served in Spain) and pour the scalding milk into the coffee. 


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.