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What’s the Difference Between a Latte and an Iced Coffee? What You Need to Know.

When I visit my local coffee shop, I always battle with the decision of ordering a latte or an iced coffee yet I never realized what the difference is, other than one is hot and the other cold.

What’s the difference between a latte and an iced coffee?  The difference between a latte and an iced coffee is the ingredients and how they are prepared.  The ingredients to make a latte include steamed milk, espresso coffee, and foam, while iced coffee is made with regular brewed coffee poured in a glass with ice.

For someone who is not a coffee drinker, the difference between a latte and an iced coffee may not make any sense.  Therefore, some interesting information can be viewed below about lattes and iced coffee, how they are prepared as well as different types of coffee drinks (including my favorite, the “affogato,” which is espresso and vanilla ice cream), and some preparation steps and methods.

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The Difference Between a Latte and an Iced Coffee

latte vs ice latte

One might immediately think that the main difference between a latte and an iced coffee is that a latte is a hot drink and an iced coffee is a cold drink (though you could also order an iced latte, which is also a cold drink and prepared differently).

However, as mentioned before, the ingredients used and how they are prepared is what makes each drink completely different.

In a latte, you use espresso coffee, which is basically a strong pressurized brewed coffee, as well as steamed and frothed milk.  Versus an iced coffee, you can just brew a stronger pot of your favorite coffee and serve it with ice.

Additionally, you prepare a latte with milk, which you steam and froth and use the foam to top off the drink (if you do not use the foam, then you have a different drink).  However, to brew your strong pot of coffee, all you need is coffee and water.

The preparation between the two is also different. 

  • Whether you make a latte with our without an espresso machine, not only do you brew espresso coffee but you need to froth the milk.
  • Also, two ways to prepare an iced coffee can be done as a pour-over or simply chilling your brewed coffee and pouring it in a glass with ice.

What is a Latte?

Latte with soy milk

A latte is a coffee drink that is prepared with a shot of espresso coffee, steamed milk, and topped off with foam.  You can also add different flavours to a latte such as Mocha or Vanilla. (If you remove the foam from a latte, then you get a different type of coffee drink, a flat white). 

The proportion of ingredients to prepare a latte is typically:

  • 6 to 8 ounces of steamed milk per shot of espresso

A larger serving of latte can include a double shot of espresso. And, even if you order a regular sized latte, you can still ask the barista to put in an additional espresso shot.

I also researched what espresso coffee is, and it is just the manner how coffee is prepared and is what gives the latte that caffeine push.  Espresso coffee is brewed under a pressurized process so that the coffee comes out at a higher and stronger concentration. 

In addition to espresso coffee, making a latte stronger, the steamed and frothed milk produces a creamier texture, and the milk tastes sweeter.

Because of the stronger concentration in an espresso coffee, the caffeine content will be greater. 

Therefore, remember that the coffee will be stronger and you will be ingesting more caffeine into your system.

How Do You Make a Latte?

Vegan Gingerbread Latte
Vegan Gingerbread Latte

If you have an espresso machine at home, then preparing a latte is rather simple (or so you’d think!). 

All you need is an espresso machine, right?

Well, to make a latte with an espresso machine, you need to:

  1. Turn on the machine
  2. Add water in the proper compartment
  3. Put the espresso coffee grind in the filter basket
  4. Prepare the milk to be frothed (you pour the milk in the cup container, insert the wand of the machine that produces the steam inside the container with milk)
  5. Insert the filter basket with espresso coffee into the slot
  6. Place your coffee cup underneath the filter basket
  7. Turn the knob to start brewing the coffee
  8. Once the coffee has finished brewing into your cup, add the frothed milk and foam

If you are more of a visual learner like myself, here is a helpful YouTube Video!

Don’t forget to clean out the machine once you are done preparing your latte!

What if You Don’t Have an Espresso Machine and You Want a Latte?

After I found out how to make a latte at home, the preparation seemed way simpler than using an espresso machine.  Plus, I have less to clean afterward.

To make a latte at home will take you at least three steps if you know how to brew coffee from a coffee pot.

  1. Start by brewing a strong pot of coffee.  Use a dark roast coffee and add more coffee grinds per water to make the coffee stronger.  I personally buy the world’s strongest coffee Death Wish Coffee (Amazon Link) and grind the coffee beans at home.  It’s an eye-opener!
  2. To make the milk frothy, all you need to do is pour some milk into a jar and shake it hard until the milk becomes frothy.  And, then place the jar of milk in the microwave without the lid and microwave it for about 30 seconds.
  3. Once the brewed coffee is in your favourite coffee mug, pour in the frothy steamed milk into your espresso coffee.  And, then add foam as desired.

I think this is pretty simple and I can control how strong I want my latte!

To jazz up your latte’s check out these recipes:
Pumpkin Spice Latte (Perfect for Winter)
How to Make Vegan Gingerbread Latte at Home
Pistachio Latte: Easy at Home Recipe

Is an Iced Latte the Same as a (Hot) Latte?

An iced latte sounds refreshing during those long hot summer months.  But can you just add ice to a latte, to make it an iced latte?

One recipe I found (from a coffee shop in Pennsylvania) to make iced latte includes a cup of ice, milk, flavored syrup and espresso coffee. 

I also learned that Starbucks uses cold milk and ice, with a shot of espresso.

So, it appears that you cannot simply pour ice into a hot latte and call it an iced latte.

But in case you want to know how to make an iced latte at home, all you need to do is:

  1. Brew some espresso coffee
  2. Pour cold milk in a glass (fill the glass about ¾ of the way)
  3. If you want frothy milk, then pour the milk in a jar, seal the jar, and then shake it
  4. Finally, pour the milk in your glass filled with ice and your espresso coffee

What is an Iced Coffee?

Ice Latte with Oat Milk

An iced coffee is simply made with coffee and water, served with ice; it is made with regular brewed coffee.  An iced coffee is not to be confused with a cold brew coffee (we can discuss a cold brew later on). 

The trick though to make a real good iced coffee is to brew a stronger pot of coffee because the ice will just water it down.  I also found it odd to learn that iced coffee is stronger than a regular cup of coffee, surprisingly because of the ice!

Brewing a dark roasted coffee and using more coffee per water will make a stronger coffee; since an iced coffee normally does not use espresso, the strength of an iced coffee will be less than a latte.

Also, because we now know how to make a hot latte into an iced latte, the main difference between an iced latte and an iced coffee is that you don’t need to use milk to make an iced coffee.

How Do You Make Iced Coffee?

Making iced coffee might sound easy, and I found that iced coffee can be made by two methods.

Here are two simple methods you can use to make iced coffee:

  • You can make it as a pour-over
  • You can also brew a normal pot of coffee and put it inside the fridge to cool down

In a pour-over, you pour hot water over coffee grind directly into ice by using the pour-over method (I’ve never prepared pour-over coffee). 

Fortunately, if making iced coffee by the pour-over method does not sound appealing, I found a simple recipe to you can use at home whenever you crave for a simple iced coffee:

  1. Brew coffee in your coffee pot and let it cool down
  2. Once your coffee has cooled down, prepare a glass with ice
  3. Pour in the cooled brewed coffee in the glass with ice
  4. Pour in milk or cream
  5. Add some sugar, if desired

For iced coffee inspiration, check out these ideas:
27 Cooling Iced Coffee Drinks
14 Refreshing Summer Coffee Drinks (You Need to Try)

What Other Types of Coffee Drinks Are There?

The local coffee shop that I go to has a variety of types of coffees.  As I see their menu board, I notice that the difference between most of the different coffee drinks is the milk and the espresso.

One of my favorite coffees that I order is the Vietnamese, which is made with condensed milk, rather than steamed milk such as a latte.  Typically, Vietnamese coffee can be made with a French roast coffee.  Also, I’ve added mocha flavor to the Vietnamese but found it to be too sweet.

However, the affogato is my favorite coffee drink during the middle of a hot afternoon. An affogato is merely a shot of hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream.  The combination of the two is even tastier than a latte or an iced coffee.  It’s better than a café mocha latte!

An affogato is also very easy to make at home.  All you need is 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso coffee.

Additional coffee drinks that you might want to try are:

  • The Cortado is another coffee drink that is also made with espresso and steamed milk, much like a Latte.  However, the difference between a Cortado and a Latte is that the Cortado uses almost the same quantity of espresso to steamed milk. 
  • Turkey coffee is made differently than a Latte, Vietnamese, or Cortado.  A Turkey coffee is made with powdered coffee, water, and sugar. 
  • A cappuccino also uses espresso coffee and steamed milk; no foam. 
  • An espresso macchiato is made with one shot of espresso and foamed milk.

Also, as mentioned earlier, iced coffee is not the same as a cold brew coffee.  In fact, a cold brew coffee is much easier to prepare than an iced coffee that is prepared as a pour-over. 

For a cold brew, you can use a French press to soak the coffee grinds in cold water or you can slowly drip cold water on the coffee grinds, also known as the “slow drip method.”

Latte Vs Iced Coffee

Though we’ve researched the difference between a latte and an iced coffee, we’ve also found that there are many other types of coffee drinks.  And, though the ingredients may sound similar, the way that most coffee drinks are prepared is different.

In the end, every coffee drinker has their own taste preferences, especially when it comes to the strength of the caffeine. 

  • If you like to drink strong coffee, then a latte with a double shot of espresso will be an ideal choice.
  • If you prefer a less caffeinated coffee, then you can brew decaf coffee at home and pour it in a glass with ice.
  • If you are not a fan of coffee and only drink it occasionally, then you can just stick to your usual coffee routine.

Personally, I am not a fan of iced coffee drinks and prefer the latte because of the espresso.  However, the affogato with ice cream and espresso is my alternative to a cold iced coffee drink.

Nonetheless, the next time you visit your local coffee shop, look at their menu and every time you order something new, try to see if you can taste the difference.

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