What’s better than a creamy, steaming cup of cafe au lait? Here’s how to make it at home…the French way.

Cafe Au Lait

What’s better than a creamy, steaming cup of cafe au lait? This French method of serving coffee is smooth and satisfying, with the perfect ratio of rich milk to bitter coffee. It’s the perfect sophisticated touch to a cozy brunch, or to pair with a croissant or muffin. This method is simple to make at home: and even easier to achieve than the perfect latte.

What is cafe au lait?

Café au lait (“coffee with milk” in French) is a coffee drink made of strong coffee and hot or steamed milk. The drink originated in France, and uses equal parts coffee and milk. It’s similar to a traditional Italian cafe latte, but it uses strong coffee instead of espresso. The drink is popularly served in New Orleans using scalded milk instead of steamed milk. Here’s what you’ll need to make a great cup of cafe au lait:

  • Strong coffee
  • Whole milk

The cafe au lait ratio is typically equal parts coffee and milk. In contrast, a latte is 2 parts milk to 1 part coffee. We prefer the 1 to 1 ratio, which we find is easier to drink and not as rich. So we always pick cafe au lait over a latte!

Cafe Au Lait

Best coffee for cafe au lait

What’s the best coffee for a cafe au lait? Strong coffee. The coffee in Fance is much stronger than American coffee. The Moka Pot (aka Bialetti) is the best bet for the strength of coffee you can get in country. We like using Moka Pot here because it’s closest to the flavor we remember from our travels to Paris.

Of course, you can use your preferred coffee method and just make strong coffee. Either way, we recommend using dark roast beans here. Here are the best coffee methods for this drink:

Moka pot

Use whole milk for best flavor

The best milk for cafe au lait? Whole milk. It’s the ideal richness for pairing with the bitter coffee. It also gets the best foam when it’s steamed. If you prefer, you can use 2% and it still has good flavor.

Want to make vegan cafe au lait? Oat milk is your best bet. This dairy-free milk froths better than any other type of vegan milk. It’s not quite the same as dairy milk, but it’s a nice option.

Steam or froth the milk

Another advantage of cafe au lait over a latte, other than tasting better? It’s easier to make. The steamed milk for a latte is a little touchy: it requires just the right microfoam texture to make a perfect latte (especially if you’re making latte art). Cafe au lait is a little more free form, and just needs foamy milk! Here are our top methods:

  • Froth the milk with a hand-held frother, French press, or whisk. The frother is a great investment if you often froth milk (you can even use it to make Cold Foam). Go to How to Froth Milk.
  • Steam the milk using an espresso machine. Use the instructions for stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height. Go to How to Steam Milk.

Ways to serve cafe au lait

If you’re making cafe au lait for company with a brunch, you’ll want to vary the method a little bit. A Moka Pot makes 2 cups at a time, so you may want to make a few pots in advance and store in a thermos. A large Chemex can make up to 4 cups. Then, make a big batch of frothed milk (the frothing tool is best for a large batch, but any work).

Topping it with a sprinkling of cinnamon is nice too! Here are a few great brunch items to pair:

And that’s it! Let us know how you like this recipe, and what coffee method you use to make it.

Cafe Au Lait

More coffee drinks

Make all the best coffee drinks at home! Here are a few top drinks to try:

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Cafe au lait

Cafe Au Lait


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

What’s better than a creamy, steaming cup of cafe au lait? Here’s how to make it at home…the French way.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) strong dark roast coffee (like Moka Pot)
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) steamed whole milk (or oat milk for dairy free)

Instructions

  1. Make coffee using a Moka Pot, or strong dark roast coffee using your method of choice (French press, Chemex, Aeropress, or other).
  2. Steam the milk with an espresso machine (stretching the milk to 20 to 25% in height), or froth the milk with a frother, French press or whisk.
  3. Pour the coffee in a cup. Add the steamed milk and serve immediately.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Coffee
  • Cuisine: Coffee

Keywords: Cafe Au Lait, what is Cafe Au Lait

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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