Caffe Misto vs Latte: Unveiling the Key Differences

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Whether you’re a diehard Starbucks fan or just getting to know their menu, there are two basic drinks everyone must try: the caffe misto and the latte. These two coffee drinks are staples of the Starbucks menu, but what are they really? Let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two popular choices in this side-by-side comparison of caffe misto vs latte!

Related: Americano vs cappuccino, best almond milk to froth, coffee chocolate chip cookies, can you heat up cold brew coffee, Americano vs black coffee

Caffe misto vs latte featured image.

When faced with the decision between a caffe misto vs latte, consider whether you prefer the rich texture of a latte or the opportunity to explore diverse coffee bean blends in a misto. Follow along as we break down what each each popular coffee drink consists of as well as what the main difference is between the two!

What is a Caffe Misto?

A caffé misto is one of Starbucks’ original menu items. It’s a simple coffee beverage with plenty of deliciousness to savor! 

The Starbucks cafe misto is made from one-half brewed coffee and one-half steamed milk. Simply think of this drink as a 1:1 ratio of coffee to milk. Typically, the black coffee in the misto will be your choice of their daily drip coffees; however, you can also ask for a French press of your favorite beans instead. Caffe mistos can also be made with decaf coffee beans.

Steamed milk is a key element. The baristas usually use a steam wand to steam fresh milk for your drink. This is a great way to achieve a latte consistency for the warm milk foam and will make for a smooth, creamy texture and sippable coffee. 

Best almond milk to froth featured image.

The whole milk in a misto can be swapped, just like the coffee. Trade the dairy for your favorite non-dairy milk, like almond or soy milk, to make a vegan and lactose-free version of this beautiful misto coffee.

Unlike the traditional cafe misto, an Americano misto is an espresso-based drink with 1-2 shots of espresso, hot water and steamed milk. 

Is a Caffe Misto the Same as Cafe au Lait?

Yes, caffe misto is just another name for cafe au lait or coffee with milk. Both drinks are made with equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk, so if you mix up and call your caffe misto a cafe au lait, don’t worry, your barista will know exactly what you mean!

Other coffee houses, like your local cafe, can also make the caffe misto. Most baristas, even those not working at Starbucks, are familiar with this original recipe and can whip up your favorite cup of coffee in no time!

Can I Change the Flavor of a Caffe Misto?

Yes! As mentioned above, you can tweak the beans and the milk to suit your personal tastes and diet, but you can also have fun adding flair to the caffe misto. 

You can add any of the delicious sweet syrups the cafe offers to make this milky coffee drink more exciting. Just remember to start small with flavor syrups. Often a little bit of syrup goes a long way, especially if you’re used to taking your coffee black or with only milk. 

Coffee beans used to make caffe misto and latte.

What is a Latte?

A latte is arguably one of the most popular drinks amongst coffee lovers. It is a simple yet incredible way to get your daily caffeine, and it only uses two easy ingredients!

A café latte is composed of espresso and steamed milk with a layer of milk foam on top. Because espresso is much more concentrated in flavor than traditional brewed coffee, the ratio of espresso to milk in a latte is about 1:3 espresso to steamed milk. 

This light and balanced ratio results in a luscious yet sippable coffee concoction with just the right amount of caffeine. That perfect balanced ratio is not all that stands out in a caffe latte. It’s also the incredible layer of foam that keeps fans sipping this delicious drink. Some fans who prefer a stronger coffee flavor will order this drink with multiple espresso shots although it’s typically made with one. 

The steamed milk in lattes is made to have an even thickness throughout, so every sip is creamy and foamy. The thickness of latte milk is less airy than a cappuccino but more frothy than simply hot milk. 

This perfectly foamy milk can be expertly poured into the espresso drink to make rosettes, hearts, and other lovely latte art. These little touches make enjoying a latte a fully unique experience that recharges your whole body. 

Making latte art.

Can I Change the Flavor of a Latte?

You can absolutely change the flavor of a latte! Most coffee shops have menus built around the basic latte with added flavorings. Our personal favorite is a lavender latte! Below, are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • You can make your latte according to your personal preference by choosing which espresso roast to use; at Starbucks, they have their classic roast, the blonde roast, and the decaf espresso. That means you can enjoy lattes all day long, just remember to switch to decaf if enjoying late into the evening! 
  • Another way to add a different taste to this popular drink is by ordering it with a double shot of espresso instead of a single shot! 
  • You can also try a different type of milk in your latte like oat milk and adding sweeteners, or mixing in some flavors. Have fun making your drink one-of-a-kind!
  • Try the cafe’s variety of craft syrups!

Key Differences Between a Caffe Misto and a Latte

Both caffe mistos and lattes are made with coffee and steamed milk, so what really makes them different? The major difference between these two drinks comes down to two factors: ratio and methods. The amount of each ingredient and the way the ingredients are used is what makes each cafe classic its own unique drink. 

Let’s explore these two areas to see the details that set these two drinks apart.

Ratios

Since there are only two basic ingredients in each of these drinks, it’s really all about how much of each goes into the recipe. 

For a classic caffe misto, the ratio of brewed coffee to steamed milk is 1:1. A latte has an espresso to steamed milk ratio of 1:3. This means you will have more milk in your cup when you order a latte, but both have a strong coffee taste. 

The coffee ratio to milk also determines the amount of caffeine and the results may surprise you. Even though espresso is very strong, the misto actually has more caffeine. A tall Starbucks caffe misto has about 115 mg of caffeine, whereas a tall latte has about 75 mg of caffeine.  

Pouring milk froth into coffee paper cup.

Methods

The brewing technique is everything in coffee. Different brewing methods and ways of steaming can result in different coffee flavors and varying milk textures. 

The coffee in a caffe misto is most often coffee brewed in a drip coffee maker, but lattes use espresso. Espresso is made when finely ground beans are brewed with very hot water and high pressure. This process requires special equipment like an espresso machine. The result of this brewing method is a more concentrated flavor and caffeine content. 

That means it takes less espresso to feel the caffeine buzz vs. drip-brewed coffee. And while the caffeine in a latte is slightly lower than in a misto, you are still getting comparable amounts of caffeine with an even more luscious, creamy milk flavor. 

Espresso machine making espresso for latte.

Caffe Misto vs Latte: Who Wins?

The answer to that age-old question is really up to you! Each of these classic drinks has its own smooth, velvety texture and delicious coffee flavor.

When it comes to the world of caffe misto vs latte, lattes emerge as a great choice for those keen on experimenting with diverse flavors and textures. On the other hand, mistos provide a fantastic opportunity to explore the variety of bean blends available at your local coffee shop.

For coffee enthusiasts, the ultimate goal is to enjoy the process, experiment with both options, and discover their own delightful coffee preference. After all, when it comes to the type of coffee and milk combination, there’s no wrong choice—just have fun, explore, and savor your perfect cup!

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