Caffe Misto: What is it and How to Make it at Home

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The first time I came to know about Caffe Misto was at Starbucks when the customer in front of me in the queue ordered it. I was so intrigued that I placed a similar order to find out what Misto coffee really is.

So what exactly is Caffe Misto?

Caffe Misto is a Starbucks coffee drink that is made from equal parts of brewed coffee and steamed milk. Caffe Misto is a Starbucks adaptation of Cafe au lait whose origin is France.

Cafe au lait originated in France and goes by different names in different parts of the World such as milchkaffee in Germany and biala kawa in Poland. The preparation of cafe au lait may vary depending on the coffee shop or region.

In France, the drink is prepared using equal parts of espresso and hot milk, and some milk foam may be added. It is served in large mugs so that the drinker can dunk pastries in the coffee.

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Caffe Misto (Cafe au Lait) Overview

Caffe Misto
A picture of Cafe au lait

Caffe Misto involves adding hot milk to bold brewed coffee. At Starbucks, you can order Caffe Misto in a Tall, Venti, or Grande cup.

Like the other Starbucks coffees, you can customize your Misto coffee order by changing the type and quantity of milk, toppings, sugar, and sweeteners.

You can also add espresso shots for a bolder flavor and a higher caffeine content.

Outside Starbucks, Misto coffee has differing preparations. Some people simultaneously add equal parts of brewed coffee and milk into a cup and then add milk foam. Others add more coffee than milk and top the drink with a few scoops of foam.

Adding milk and coffee simultaneously eliminates the need to stir the drink so the foam on the top is not disturbed. If you are adding sugar, you can add it to the coffee before adding the milk. This also prevents milk or creamer from curdling in coffee.

Personally, I see no difference between simultaneously or individually adding milk and coffee. I would suggest that you try both and see which method you like more.

Is Caffe Misto (Cafe au Lait) the Same as a Latte?

There are three key differences between Cafe au lait and a latte:

  • The ratio of milk. Misto coffee uses a 1:1 ratio of milk to coffee and sometimes less milk than coffee whereas the amount of milk in a latte is at least twice the amount of coffee
  • Amount of coffee. Cafe au lait uses at least a half-cup brewed coffee whereas a latte uses espresso shots only. Therefore, Misto coffee is an excellent choice when you want more coffee in your drink. A latte has a softer coffee taste and is, therefore, a great choice for people who are trying to acquire the taste of coffee. Some people adding espresso shots to the Caffe Misto for a stronger coffee drink
  • Caffeine content. Caffe Misto usually has more caffeine than a latte as it uses more coffee

Cafe au Lait in the United States

Adding chicory to coffee is a long-standing tradition in New Orleans, where cafe au lait is also popular.

The roots of chicory are roasted and ground and then mixed with ground coffee. The mixture is brewed and mixed with milk in the “au lait” style.

Chicory coffee has a nutty, woody flavor.

How to Make Cafe Misto at Home

The best coffee for Cafe Misto is brewed coffee which you can make using a drip coffee maker, a French press, or even a simple coffee percolator.

Whether you prefer to call it Caffe Misto or Cafe au lait, it is easy to make at home because you do not need perfect foam as you are not making latte art. You just need a few scoops of foam to add to the drink.

I find that a French press is super handy for this recipe because I use it to brew a bold and flavorful coffee and rinse it out to foam my milk. It’s also portable for brewing coffee outdoors during picnics and camping.

See my detailed guide about frothing milk at home using regular kitchen tools which would be perfect for making cafe au lait at home.

As with any coffee drink, you can sweeten with your choice of sweeteners. You can also use your choice of milk and milk substitutes such as creamer. Some people prefer to top cafe au lait with whipped cream instead of foam.

See our comprehensive guide about foaming creamer.

If you wish to add chicory you can add it at a ratio of 80:20 for coffee to chicory and grind the mixture to a uniform size.

Equipment: A coffee maker, hand whisk, mug, spoon

Caffe Misto: What is it and How to Make it at Home

Recipe by PatrickCourse: DrinksCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy/Beginner


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Cooking time




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Easy beginner-friendly Misto coffee recipe without special equipment.


  • A half-cup brewed coffee

  • 1 cup of hot milk

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla syrup

  • Nutmeg powder


  • Brew: Make a half-cup of coffee using a coffee maker of your choice. I brewed mine in a French press.
  • Milk: Heat up a cup of milk and add half of it to the coffee without filling to the brim.
  • Foam: Use a hand whisk to foam the remaining half-cup of milk and add 3 tablespoons of foam to top the coffee
  • Garnish: Sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg on the foam


  • A French press is quite handy because after brewing your coffee, you flush it with water and add hot milk for frothing. A couple of plunges will make enough foam for your Misto coffee.
  • If you prefer more coffee than milk, use about a two-thirds cup of coffee and top it with milk and foam.
  • For lesser calories, you can do away with the vanilla syrup to save about 25-30 calories per tablespoon
  • A pinch of nutmeg adds about 5-10 calories
  • If you wish to make some art on the foam, you can sprinkle the nutmeg through a decorating stencil

Misto Coffee Recipe: Extra Information

I like my coffee in a 10 ounces mug so I add five ounces of coffee and five ounces of milk for my Caffe Misto. You can use any amount of coffee and you do not have to use a scale or a measuring cup.

Just use the cup that you are going to drink the coffee from, to get the right amount of milk. If you prefer to add more foam, leave more space in the cup when adding milk and coffee.

You can foam the milk before warming it. Personally, I prefer to warm the full cup of milk and add about half of it to the coffee and foam the rest. It takes about 45 seconds to foam the milk in the French press.

A five ounces cup of brewed coffee has about 60mg of caffeine.

Making Art on Caffe Misto at Home

You can make beautiful art on Caffe Misto using a nutmeg powder, cinnamon, chocolate powder, or any powdered spice that you can add to coffee.

Simply add a generous amount of foam to the coffee and use a salt shaker to sprinkle the powder over a coffee stencil that has the pattern of your choice to make a beautiful pattern on the foam.

A reusable coffee decoration stencil is a handy tool to have at home for your lattes, cappuccinos, Cafe au lait, and blended drinks.

You can surprise an ailing family member or a friend with a simple pattern of their Caffe Misto and you will be amazed how much joy this simple gesture can bring to them.

Coffee stencil
Coffee stencils


Cafe Misto is the Starbucks version of Cafe au lait and is a coffee drink with equal parts of milk and coffee and topped with a little foam. From this recipe, you can see that it is fairly easy to make Misto coffee at home.

What I like about simple recipes is that you can go wild and switch the ingredients to see how you like the new drink. Whether you decide to use dairy milk, heavy cream, or non-dairy alternatives, it’s difficult to get the recipe wrong.

Other than adding chicory, a popular practice in places like New Orleans, you can sprinkle some cacao powder or powdered spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves.

You can sprinkle powdered spices over a decorating stencil to make art on the foam.

FAQs about Caffe Misto

How Does Caffe Misto Taste Like?

Caffe Misto has a rich coffee taste. Compared to a latte, Caffe Misto is more intense because at least half of the drink is coffee. A latte has more milk than coffee so the coffee taste is much lighter.

Does Caffe Misto have Sugar?

Caffe Misto is not sweet and has no sugar but you are at liberty to add your choice of sweeteners and toppings at a small upcharge when ordering at Starbucks.

Similarly, when making Caffe Misto at home, you can sweeten it to your liking. Vanilla syrup is a popular sweetener and you can also add any of its substitutes.

Is Cafe au lait the Same as White Coffee?

Cafe au lait is different from white coffee as it is topped with foam, unlike white coffee which is usually just coffee and hot milk without foam.


Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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