Lemon and milk may sound like a terrible combination — or a recipe for curdling. But with the help of a few simple tricks, you can make a velvety, slightly sweet lemon latte that will knock your socks off!
Keep reading to find our easy lemon latte recipe, including crucial brewing tips and a few fun suggestions. Get ready for a surprising twist on your morning coffee!
Simple Lemon Latte
- Juicer or lemon squeezer
- Small saucepan
- Immersion blender, whisk, or steam wand
- Coffee mug
Lemon Simple Syrup
- 4 lemons
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon simple syrup
- 2 shots espresso or ½ cup strong coffee
- 8 ounces milk any kind
- Lemon zest optional
Make a lemon simple syrup.
- Zest your lemons, being careful to leave the white pith (layer closest to the fruit) behind. You want the bright yellow outer rind.
- Juice the zested lemons. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice. You want about ½ cup of lemon juice.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and lemon juice. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Then remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the zest, stir, and let the mixture sit until it’s cool. Then filter out the zest.
Make your lemon latte.
- Now it’s time to start brewing! Pull two shots of espresso or brew ½ cup of strong coffee.
- Combine the cold milk with 1 tablespoon of your lemon syrup. Add the lemon syrup slowly, stirring regularly. Adding the syrup now will help you avoid curdling!
- Heat the milk and lemon syrup in your small saucepan. Then froth the mixture using an immersion blender, whisk, or steam wand.
- Pour the espresso or coffee into your coffee mug. Then add the steamed milk on top. Finish the drink by spooning on a little milk foam and adding a sprinkling of lemon zest. Enjoy!
Tips to Avoid Curdling
Why do lemons curdle milk? To answer that question — and learn how to avoid it — we have to take a quick detour into chemistry. Lemons are very acidic, with a pH of around 2. Milk, on the other hand, is basic, with a pH of about 6.5. When you mix the two, the changing acidity causes a protein called casein to clump together. That clumping is what we call curdling — and it’s not something you want in your drink!
If you add lemon to your milk when it’s hot, this clumping process happens much faster. This is because the molecules in a hot liquid move much faster. So if you add lemon syrup to cold milk and then heat the mixture, you can avoid curdling!
Now that we’ve covered the simple recipe and a few brewing tips, it’s time to think about how you can make this drink your own.
One of our favorite lemon latte variations involves adding lavender. Lavender and lemon go very well together, making a floral, summery drink! You can also substitute oranges or limes for the lemons, stir in a few fresh mint leaves, or use a different kind of milk. Try almond or soy milk for a non-dairy latte!
Too hot for a latte? You can easily make an iced lemon latte! Let your espresso or coffee cool and pour it over ice. Then add cold milk and lemon syrup, skipping the heating and frothing steps. Or try serving a simple shot of espresso with a lemon peel.
Lemon lattes are delicious, summery drinks that combine bright citrus with creamy milk and bold espresso. You can make this latte your own by adjusting the ingredients to your taste. Once you try making this drink, you may never want to go back to your favorite coffee shop!