poor man’s latte

Two lattes from overhead
Look at that frothy milk!

Matt and I love to go to a coffee shop or bakery on the weekends for pastries and lattes. We love the ritual of sipping them together at a coffee bar, comparing whatever we were currently drinking to lattes from different shops. If we ever wanted coffee at home, for years we only had a French press, and that was largely the extent of our at-home brewing knowledge. 

On a layover in Portland last year, I visited a coffee shop in search of latte and pastry and stumbled upon Heart coffee shop. The store was beautiful and minimal, with a wall of their different coffee beans on the wall as you entered. I chatted with the barista about them, and decided to bring a bag of their Stereo blend beans home with me. The beans smelled and tasted incredible, unlike any coffee either of us had experienced before. If I opened the bag in kitchen, Matt could pick the smell out from the other side of the living room. I was so impressed and started wondering if he would be able to do that with other beans. So whenever I had the opportunity, I would try to pick up a bag of coffee beans on layovers, which I thought would make much more interesting souvenirs than refrigerator magnets.

Assorted coffee bag labels
Some of the labels I’ve saved from coffees I brought home from different cities

Just like that, a new hobby was born.

We experimented with my seldom used Moka pot. Matt started playing around with making his own cold brew. For my birthday, my mom gave us a Chemex coffee maker. We bought an Aeropress and a gooseneck kettle too. As the icing on the cake, Matt’s parents gave us a Barazza Virtuoso+ coffee grinder for Christmas. That’s when things got serious. We started learning all about the importance of grind and freshness, demoting the hand-me-down blade grinder we had been using to the back of the cabinet.

Even with all these different methods though, we still cherished our occasional latte outings, willingly forking over $10 for the one last coffee method we didn’t have at home: an espresso machine. Now though in the time of COVID-19, outings in general are few and far between. We’ve gone out for coffee here and there, but it just isn’t the same when you have to take everything to-go, missing the opportunity to linger in the shop, soak up the vibe and people watch.

But we still missed our lattes. Unwilling to financially commit to an espresso machine, I did a little research on how to make our own with all the tools we already have. Our first attempt this morning was a great success! We’re excited to have found a way to bring the latte experience home that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I use an Aeropress to make our “espresso shots”. This is an inexpensive, lightweight coffee brewer that you can buy from Amazon for $30, that is loved by coffee aficionados and hiking enthusiasts alike. The different brewing options it offers are seemingly endless, making it an affordable way to play around with lots of different coffee methods. I think I’ll make some homemade syrups next. I see no reason you couldn’t try this with alternative milks if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan. Have fun with it and comment below about how your lattes turned out!

Close up of coffee mug


  • About 17 grams whole coffee beans
  • Hot water
  • 8-10 oz of milk

Special tools:

  • Food scale
  • Coffee grinder
  • Thermometer
  • French press
  • Aeropress

Fill a mug with very hot tap water and let sit. Measure one rounded Aeropress scoop (about 17 grams) of whole beans into a grinder and grind on a fine setting on your grinder (2-6 on the Barazza grinder), about as fine as table salt. Alternatively, if you don’t have a coffee grinder, buy pre-ground coffee ground for espresso. Heat a kettle of water to 195 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat 8-10 ounces of milk over low heat (less milk = stronger coffee taste). Remove milk from heat once it reaches 150-165 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, this will be when the milk starts to steam. Don’t let the milk get to a boil. Pour the milk into a French press, then plunge vigorously in and out for 5-10 seconds. Alternatively, you can vigorously whisk the milk right in the pan you used to heat it. Let sit while you make the “espresso shot”.

(This recipe uses the Aeropress inverted brew method. You could use a Mokapot instead here to make espresso style coffee. If you don’t have either of these, you could buy an instant espresso powder to get a similar flavor.) 

Dump the hot water from your cup and have ready. Rinse the filter paper and filter cap with hot water to create seal. Plunge the Aeropress about halfway into the chamber and turn upside down onto your food scale. Pour your ground coffee into the chamber and zero out the scale. Start a timer as you start pouring the hot water over the grounds, aiming to pour 55 grams of water slowly, in about 10 seconds. Stir for 15 seconds, making sure all the grounds are wet. At the 25 second mark, attach the filter cap and flip onto your cup, plunging as hard and fast as possible, stopping when you hear a hissing sound.

Remove the lid from the French press of milk and pour into your mug, using a large spoon to hold back the foam until the end.

Makes 1 latte

Close up of latte from above

One Reply to “poor man’s latte”

  1. Mimi says:

    I’m having to find coffee beans that have low acidity. Don Pablo from Costco is the only one I’ve found so far.


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