How to Improve Your Lattes: For Owners AND Customers
As an owner, do you know what customers prefer? It may make the difference between them coming back or heading for a shop that, as they often say, "makes really good lattes". Lattes are still the most commonly ordered drink in the industry, but differ drastically from one business to the next.
But let's start with you, the customer, because you know, you come first and everything.
Side note: steaming milk and latte art won't be covered here, sorry!
Improve Your Latte Order (Customers)
The simple truth is that all lattes can be drastically improved by asking for an extra shot or two of espresso. Many drinkers discover this quickly on their own. It usually happens one of two ways.
1: If they're accustomed to Starbucks (or any shop that uses darker, heavier coffees) and start hitting up local shops more frequently.
2: They start thinking of ways to taste more coffee in their drinks.
The only downside to a latte is that it's milk forward (2/3 milk). Although it's a standard ratio, I find that most consumers want to taste some of the coffee, even if it's not overwhelming.
Where modern coffee has excelled is in roasting primarily light, acidic coffees. These taste incredible on their own with no additives. But these also disappear in milk, unlike their darker, heavier counterparts.
If you have a shop you love that makes thin, weak lattes, just ask for some extra shots. Or, try ordering a cortado or a flat white.
Improve Your Lattes (Owners)
There are three easy options you have as an owner to improve taste AND customer satisfaction.
1. Choose a bean that's rated high in body.
Ensure it's roasted to a medium at a minimum. Don't just look for body only though. Search for something with a decently complex flavor profile that works well with milk, like chocolate, almonds, vanilla, cherry, caramel, etc.
Note that you can choose a single-origin (non-blended) bean, this is common if your orders are predominantly milk based. However, these won't taste great as straight espresso.
2. Up Dose Your Coffee
There's no law that says you have to stick with a rigid 1/3 ratio in your lattes. Add another shot of espresso. I know that's an extra 10-30 cents per double shot, but believe me, the uptick in customers is worth it.
3. Check Your Drink Prep
Some espresso doesn't shine through milk because it's just prepared poorly. Flat and bitter or sour is the most common sign of this. As an owner, you have a lot on your plate. But you can't shortcut espresso if you're a coffee shop. Check these boxes:
Espresso distribution (I recommend distribution tools like the Jack Leveler or the OCD), tamping (even, firm, but not overdone), grinder maintenance and cleaning (clean, sharp burrs make a hug difference).
4. Balance it Out
If you want to appeal to educated drinkers (and there's a lot out there) while making killer lattes, look for a balanced espresso blend. These are complex coffees which balance acidity (sweetness) with body. Sweet Maria's has an excellent write up on this. I think a 60/40 ratio works well for milk as well as straight espresso, with the 60% being a higher bodied coffee, and the rest being something bright and sweet.
If you'd ever like to talk espresso blends or anything else, contact our head roaster, Jeremy, directly, not only does he know his stuff, but he loves to talk shop!
Jonathan is in charge of Coffee Education at Redemption Coffee. He's been tinkering with countless brew methods over the last decade (even creating some of his own) and loves to help coffee shops perfect their products and service. Jonathan@redemptioncoffeeco.com