Cafe au Lait, it sounds delicious already. Say it with me, cafe au lait. That’s a nice-sounding drink!
This French specialty is just coffee with milk, but the authentic kind tastes like no other drink in the barista repertoire. It’s creamy and mild but flavorful and robust at the same time.
To make authentic French café au lait, there are some things to consider. First, the French love their coffee, but they don’t drink concentrated espresso as the Italians do — they use a French press to make theirs.
The French press is one of the nicest-looking coffee makers out there, and it’s the very definition of beauty in simplicity. There’s the vase and the plunger, that’s it.
Grind the coffee coarsely, not like the fine powder you’d use in an espresso machine or stovetop coffee maker. Then, place around two tablespoons of coffee in the bottom of the French press, place the plunger (it has a filter attached) and pour hot water.
A pro tip is to let the coffee steep for a few minutes before pressing the plunger. Then pour it in a cup or mug immediately to avoid too much bitterness.
How does French press coffee taste like? It tastes fruity and mild, especially if you use medium-roasted coffee. The French press is quite gentle with the beans, so it never over-extracts too much flavor or texture.
Once you have the coffee, you want to work fast. We want that coffee nice and hot. It’s time to steam the milk — alternatively, you can heat it for 1-2 minutes in the microwave.
Don’t add cold milk to the coffee, or it will cool it down immediately. That, of course, if you’re not making an iced cafe au lait, which is also pretty tasty, especially on a warm morning.
Finally, we have the sweetener. Although any sugar or sugar alternative will work, I recommend sourcing vanilla sugar — it comes as powdered sugar. The good stuff is infused with vanilla bean, so it’s delicious!
Two tablespoons of vanilla sugar will make your cafe au lait taste as if you’re drinking it in a Parisian café. If you can’t find vanilla sugar, sweeten the coffee with whatever you can and add two drops of vanilla extract.
Brew the coffee with a fresh press. Pour it into two cups.
Top with steamed milk, leaving a foamy layer on top.
Sweeten to taste and enjoy!