Just Stay Home: Dairy Free Café-Style Latte

There are times when I really miss my barista days. Yes, it's minimum wage food service work, with sometimes intense hours and under-caffeinated customers. But there was something about my assumed role as a friendly, perky coffee girl that I found really freeing. Not that the forced cheer came easily; my boss let me know more than once that mellow and sardonic was not what her customers were looking for at 6 a.m. But once I got the hang of it, I had a lot of fun trying on extroversion for an afternoon.

I confess, my enjoyment of taking on an eternally chipper attitude may have been fueled by a regular dose of quad-shot americanos. I have yet to meet someone who took a position at a coffee shop without a serious caffeine addiction. For good reason, I believe. There is nothing like a combination of an everlasting stream of espresso and newly gained knowledge of how to make all sorts of drinks you previously didn't even know how to pronounce. (Speaking of coffee pronunciation, one of my favorite regulars at my old shop never failed to order a "vanilla lottie." No matter how many times we said "La-Tay" to him, he never changed his ways. I loved his tenacity and cutesie drink name.).

Unfortunately, once my supply was cut off (i.e. I quit to get a full time job), I realized how expensive this habit was. Two lattes cost about as much as a barista makes in an hour (tip your baristas, folks). Fortunately, I was able to apply some of my functional coffee shop knowledge at home.

In this recipe, I tried to capture the richness of a coffee shop latte without using any fancy equipment. If you have things like a french press, stove top espresso maker, or espresso machine, you can definitely use those items as short cuts.

The only tools you will need for this latte are a quart mason jar, pot, and whisk. The café-style look and taste are achieved by including plenty of fat from canned coconut milk (it doesn’t pay to be fat-phobic here) and layering the ingredients the way a barista would: milk, espresso, then foam.

Dairy Free Café-Style Latte
Makes 2 drinks.

½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cinnamon stick (opt.)
2 ounces strong cold brewed coffee
½ cup full fat coconut milk (from a can)
1 tsp coconut palm sugar (or sweetener of choice)
Nutmeg for garnish (opt.)

Before you get started, you are going to need to procure some cold brewed coffee. You can buy cold brew, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of the exercise. So, the day before you want to be sipping on lattes, throw about 1 ½ cups coarsely ground coffee in a quart jar and fill it with water. Seal it and let that hang out overnight. For a more in-depth explanation of making cold-brew, read here.

Gently heat your almond milk in a pot over low heat. I like to add a cinnamon stick to slightly flavor the milk and add some depth. Try to get your almond milk nice and hot (baristas aim for about 140 degrees) but avoid scalding or boiling it. Once heated, pour your milk into 2 coffee cups.

 In the same pot, heat your cold brew. Don’t dilute the coffee. This is an espresso substitute, so we want it strong. Once heated, add to your waiting cups. You can use shot glasses to measure if you want to be sure each cup gets its fair share.

In the same pot again (can you tell I hate doing dishes?), combine coconut milk and sweetener. Most coffee shops will use a sweetened soymilk for their dairy free lattes, so this is a good way to approximate that flavor while reining in the sugar.  This coconut milk will be the “foam” that you usually get in a properly steamed latte.

Whisk the coconut milk/sugar mixture over low heat until bubbles form. Beaten well enough, the coconut milk should maintain a foamed look and texture.

To add coconut milk to your cups, use a spoon to hold back the foam while you pour the liquid into the cups. Top with a few spoonfuls of foam.

Sprinkle nutmeg on top, if you desire.


  1. And to think I thought I needed to get you an espresso machine! Very crafty Elle...can you make one for me :)


Post a Comment