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If a trip through the Starbucks drive-thru is the highlight of your morning, you know how disappointing a mediocre cup of home-brewed coffee can be. Never fear… if you have a single-cup brewer (such as Keurig or Senseo), a microwave, and a milk frother (optional), you can be out the door with your own satisfying latte in under 5 minutes.
My travel mug holds 16 ounces, the same as a Starbucks grande. If you’re not sure of the volume of your mug, fill it with water and pour the water into a measuring cup. The capacity of your mug will determine your measurements, for each of the steps below.
You will need:
- Keurig or other single-cup coffee maker (or any way to produce the desired amount of coffee)
- K-Cup (or single serve cup or pod) of choice
- Microwave-safe measuring cup
- Flavored syrup(s)
- Milk frother (optional)
- Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
Step 1: Choose your coffee wisely
Any Keurig owner knows that all K-Cups are not equal. As with all coffee, growing region and bean type create significant flavor variations, but grind type and roasting darkness are also very important factors. K-Cup and single-serve grinds are generally consistent, unless you’re using a refillable cup, in which case you should consult the manufacturer. My favorite refillable cup is the Ekobrew, and the manufacturer provides “Four Fundamental Brewing Rules” to help you perfect your grind and output. By the way, the Ekobrew works great with loose tea too, but that’s another article.
Since a latte is only roughly half coffee, you will likely prefer a bolder brew than what you would drink black. On some K-Cup varieties, look for “extra bold” on the box, which basically means there are more coffee grounds in the K-Cup than in standard varieties. However, if you think bold coffee tends to taste too dark, or burnt, look for an “extra bold” that is a medium, rather than dark, roast. So far, I’ve found only one, and it is one of my two go-to flavors: The Original Donut Shop medium roast extra bold. My other go-to is Starbucks Caffè Verona, which, though dark and not marked as extra bold, is smooth (like most Italian roasts versus French roasts) yet able to provide full flavor. When using a refillable cup, ground Caffè Verona is my preferred choice too.
Step 2: Fill your coffee maker with water
For a grande-sized (16-oz.) mug, choose the 8-oz. setting (or fill with 8 ounces of water). If your mug is a different size, fill with half the capacity of your mug (12-oz. mug = 6 ounces of water, for example). If you have a heroic 20-oz. mug, choose the 10-oz. cycle, if equipped, or you may need to run two cycles (through the same K-Cup). It is not recommended that you brew less than 4 ounces at a time.
Step 3: Prepare your add-ins
My version of a latte has only three primary ingredients: the coffee, the milk, and the syrup flavoring. You’ve staged the coffee production; now choose your syrup and milk and measure them out.
My favorite syrup is Torani brand, and since they have so many sugar-free options, I don’t have to worry about added calories (or a sugar rush). For a 16-0z. latte, measure 2 ounces of syrup (1/4 cup), and feel free to be creative! I often use a combination of sugar-free chocolate and either raspberry or hazelnut… mmm! Pour the measured syrup directly into the bottom of your empty mug.
For the milk, choose your favorite variety, even non-dairy variations. I prefer skim (fat-free), and measure out 3/4 cup for a grande latte. I pour it directly into a microwave-safe measuring cup (and add a little unsweetened cocoa powder for texture and richness for my mocha), and nuke for a minute and a half. While the milk is heating, start the coffee brewing cycle.
Step 4: Putting it all together
When the milk has finished heating, you can use a simple frother to get that beautiful coffee-shop foam. If you’ve added cocoa, the natural fats in the powder will prevent any significant foam from developing, but the frother will still help to blend the mixture. If the milk is au natural, then you’ll be amazed at what this simple battery-operated device can do. While name brand frothers can cost $20 or more, look no further than IKEA for a great deal. For around $2.50, you’ll be able to top your latte like a true barista!
Now since the coffee brewed directly onto the syrup, all you need to do is pour the milk (mixture) on top and you’re ready to enjoy your homemade creation!
Step 5: Atmosphere
Just because you made it at home doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the coffee shop experience while you work. The folks at Coffitivity.com have thought of that for you, and created a web-based app the adds the ambient sound of a café to your remote work day.
So with your perfect 5-minute single-serve latte in hand and the ambience of a coffee shop mingling with your own motivating music, you are your own barista. Now go… conquer the day!