What’s the Difference Between Latte and Dirty Coffee?

You’ve heard of latte, but have you heard of dirty coffee?  If you don’t know what dirty coffee is, you might think it’s a type of latte. They are both made from milk and espresso, but there are some major differences between latte and dirty coffee.

To put it simply, both latte and dirty coffee are made from the same ingredients, espresso, and milk. The main difference between the two lies in how they are made. Latte is made from steamed milk with foamed milk added on top. Dirty coffee uses cold milk with a layer of hot espresso on top.  

In order to really understand the difference between these two types of coffee, I am going to explain how both are made. Once you see how they are made, you will understand how different they are. While they use the same ingredients, their recipes, how they are made, how they look, and how they taste are totally different. 

If you love learning about coffee and haven’t read much about dirty coffee, you will be fascinated to learn about its origin and how to make it.  Keep reading to find out all the differences between these two coffees

What is latte?

If you drink coffee, you’ve probably had a latte before. Latte is one of the most popular ways to drink coffee. You can find it in any coffee shop. These days most people drink it with a flavored syrup added to it, but the original version of latte was made from just coffee and milk.

In general, latte is a coffee drink that is made from espresso and steamed milk. It’s typically served in 10-12 oz sizes with a layer of foam on top.  It can be served hot or cold.  The exact ratio of espresso to steamed milk may vary depending on where it’s served.

Originally, latte was an Italian coffee drink The word latte comes from the Italian word caffè latte which means coffee and milk. A standard latte uses a ratio of 1 oz of espresso to 5 oz of milk and is served in a large cup.  Whether you prefer latte hot or cold the ingredients are the same.

How Do You Make a Latte?

Basic Latte Recipe

In order to make a latte at home you need an espresso machine. You may find recipes for making a latte at home without an espresso machine, but if you want a latte that tastes like one you’d get in a coffee shop, it needs to be made with an espresso machine. 

Basic Latte Recipe

2 oz of espresso (or 2 espresso shots)
8-10 oz of milk

*Optional 1 to 2 pumps of flavored syrup

To make a latte follow the instructions below.

Step 1: Pull 2 shots of espresso into a large cup

A latte can be made with a single shot or double shot of espresso, but most people make a latte with a double shot of espresso.

Step 2. Pour 8-10 oz of milk into a frothing pitcher

While you can make a latte without a frothing pitcher, a frothing pitcher is designed to use with an espresso machine. It makes it easier to submerge the wand and pour the milk once it’s steamed.

Step 3. Steam and froth the milk 

Use the wand on your espresso machine to froth the milk until it reaches about 140℉.

Step 4. Pour milk over espresso shots.

Pour the milk into the cup slowly so that the foam ends up on top of the latte. Pouring too quickly will cause the foam to dissipate and you’ll lose the foamy top you expect from a latte.

That’s all there is to it. If you prefer a sweetened latte, you can add a cup of shots of your favorite syrup to the espresso.

What is dirty coffee?

Dirty coffee is a newer coffee drink not everyone has heard of. It originated in Tokyo and has quickly grown in popularity. Like a latte, it’s made from espresso and milk. When you first read the ingredients, you might think it’s pretty much the same thing as a latte. But, there are some differences between these two coffees that make them taste and look different.

As a general rule, dirty coffee is made from espresso poured over cold coffee. The recipe for making dirty coffee may vary depending on where it’s served, but the basic recipe is 2 oz of espresso poured over 4-6 oz of cold milk.

Dirty coffee was created in Japan but has quickly become popular in the US. Starbucks has its own version of dirty coffee called the Undertow and smaller coffee shops make the drink as well. The original version of dirty coffee was made from simply pouring a couple of shots of espresso over cold milk, but  new variations include adding flavored syrup or whipped cream to the recipe.

How Do You Make a Dirty Coffee?

Dirty Coffee Recipe

If you’re wondering what a dirty coffee is and how you can make one, it’s easy. You do need an espresso machine to make this drink, but it’s much easier to make than a latte.  The ingredients are the same, but unlike latte that is often served hot, this drink is served with cold milk. The cold milk is part of what gives it its unique flavor.

Basic Dirty Coffee Recipe

1 oz of espresso

4-6 oz of milk

*Optional add-ins: flavored syrup, cream, or whipped cream
Read the instructions below to see how to make it.

Step 1. Pour cold milk into a cup

This recipe starts with cold milk.  Add 4-6 oz of refrigerated milk to a cup.  Although some recipes substitute cream, it was originally made from milk.

Step 2. Pour 1 shot of espresso over the milk

You can add 1-2 shots of espresso to the milk, depending on how strong of a coffee flavor you want. Use a spoon to pour the espresso over the milk so that a layer of espresso sits on top of the drink.

This drink is very simple to make, but getting the presentation right may take a little practice. The key is you want the espresso to form a layer over the milk, and drip down into the milk to create a visual appearance of dirt over the milk. This is why it’s called dirty coffee. If hot espresso is poured directly into the milk without using a spoon, the two may merge together too quickly. A cold spoon helps to keep the two liquids separated.

Latte vs Dirty Coffee: What’s the difference?

latte dirty coffee difference

Now that you know what a latte and dirty coffee are, you may already understand some of the differences.Sure they are both made from milk and espresso;. One is made with steamed milk, the other with cold, but what else is different?

History and Origin of Latte Vs  Dirty Coffee

One of the biggest differences between these two coffees is their origin and history.  Latte is a drink that’s been around a while. It originated in the same country that brought us espresso, Italy. IItalians have been drinking caffè  latte, or coffee and milk, since the 17th century. .

Dirty coffee, on the other hand, is a relatively new type of coffee. It was created by a coffee shop in Tokyo and originally called The DIrty. It’s only recently become popular. Many people still have yet to try it. As it pops up in more coffee shops in the US, dirty coffee may become a coffee staple like latte, but right now it’s more of a specialty drink.

Latte is Made With Steamed milk, Dirty Coffee is Made With Cold Milk

Although latte can be served hot or cold, it’s made with frothed milk. When you make a hot latte, you use a frother to steam and froth the milk. However, even when this drink is served cold, it still uses frothed milk.  Dirty coffee is exclusively made with cold milk. No matter how the recipe is modified, the drink is still served with cold milk and a layer of espresso on top. 

Latte is Made with More Milk than Dirty Coffee

Another big difference between these two drinks is in how much milk is used. A latte typically contains 10 oz of milk with just an oz or 2 of espresso added. Dirty coffee, while it might appear to be made with more milk, only uses 4-6 oz of milk. The reason it looks like it has more milk is because of the way the espresso sits on top. But, when you compare the ratio of milk to espresso, dirty coffee has much less milk in it than latte.

Latte Has Espresso on the Bottom, Dirty Coffee has Espresso on Top

Lastly, the most noticeable difference between these two drinks is when the espresso is added. When you make a latte, you add milk to espresso.  Dirty coffee starts with the milk, and espresso is added to the top.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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