Nothing says Italian kitchen like the perfect homemade Caffè Latte.
From professional-quality espresso machines to built-in coffee stations, there are a lot of options for having great coffee at home. But for those of you who don’t want to shell out several thousand dollars or who don’t have room for one more wall appliance, there is another option: A stovetop Italian espresso maker.
Bialetti is one of the benchmark brands in Italian coffee, and their espresso makers are available in classic aluminum, modern stainless (safe for induction cooktops), and electric. You can also get either an electric or stovetop milk frother—a French press-like aluminum pitcher with a plunger. Both create milk that’s richer and creamier than what you’ll get at the coffee shop because they don’t use steam to create the froth thus diluting the flavor of both foam and coffee.
Here’s how to make the perfect Caffè Latte using a Moka Express six-cup* espresso maker and La Cafetière milk frother:
Open your Moka Express and fill the bottom with water, making sure to fill exactly to the prescribed line. Stovetop espresso makers make the amount of espresso they make—there’s no such thing as a half pot.
Using a large spoon, loosely fill the basket with the grounds of your choice; do not tamp down. The best latte starts with the best coffee. We like Illy Dark Roast Ground Espresso—and the tall silver cans look great in any modern kitchen! Just make sure the grounds you’re using are roasted to be brewed as espresso (extra dark) and ground to be used in stovetop espresso makers.
Screw on the top portion of the espresso maker as tight as possible, and place on medium to medium-high heat or flame. You may have to experiment with your stove a little to find the right setting. If using a gas cooktop, the size of the flame should not exceed the size of the pot.
Meanwhile, pour at least one cup of milk (about one inch) in the milk frother; do not cover. All milk will foam, even soy or almond milk, the trick is to make sure it’s really cold when you start and not to use too much or too little. You can put up to two cups of milk in the frother to make two drinks at a time, but if you try to heat more milk than that, there won’t be enough space in the frother to create good foam.
Place the pot on the stove at a similar temperature, if not slightly lower, than the coffee. Do not walk away.
The coffee is likely to be ready to come off the heat first. The coffee will start to percolate slowly and quietly, but when you hear the pot really begin to bubble, take if off the heat. Over-cooking it risks burning the coffee and damaging the internal rubber ring. It will continue to percolate for a few more minutes. When the pot is quiet, it’s ready to pour.
The milk will be ready to come off the heat when bubbles have formed around the edges. Be careful: The milk can go from slightly bubbly to scorched and boiling over in a very short time! When the milk is done, remove the pot from the heat and plunge rapidly—60 to 90 broad repetitions are recommended. Let the milk rest for a moment before pouring.
Serve in your vessel of choice, be it a tall thick glass or a wide latte mug. We love to add a light sprinkling of raw sugar and cinnamon. And lastly, the lesson the Italians have been trying to teach Americans for many generations—have patience. Neither the making nor the enjoying of a good coffee can be rushed!
*We make two standard-sized lattes using the six-cup Bialetti espresso maker.