If you’re looking to add a touch of Parisian charm to your coffee routine, look no further than this easy-to-follow recipe for Cafe Au Lait using the French press.
Trust me – once you’ve tried it, you’ll make it a regular in your mix of morning routines.
What is a Café au lait?
Café au lait simply means coffee with milk. Originating in France in the 19th century, today, it is the counterpart of:
- the Italian caffè latte,
- the Spanish café con leche,
- the Dutch koffie verkeerd,
- and many other similar variations of milk mixed with coffee.
The combination of strong coffee (not espresso) and steamed milk creates a smooth and rich flavor that many coffee drinkers love. Anyone can enjoy this tasty treat with just a few steps and without investing in expensive equipment.
This recipe may seem daunting if you’ve never used a French press before, but don’t worry, no barista skills are needed here. I’ll guide you through each step so that even beginners can master this iconic drink.
The preparation time is about 6-7 minutes total, including boiling water, grinding, steeping, and steaming milk. It’s not much longer than any other immersion or pour-over method, making this recipe perfect for busy mornings when you want something quick yet satisfying.
As someone who’s spent some beautiful days in Paris in springtime, sipping on café au laits while enjoying views from cozy café terraces overlooking stunning streetscapes, I feel confident recommending this recipe as one of my personal favorites.
Equipment and Ingredients for a Café Au Lait
Here’s everything you’ll need for 2 servings:
- French press – a special type of coffee maker that brews coffee by steeping ground coffee in water and then pressing the mixture to separate the brewed coffee from the grounds.
- Coffee grinder – used for grinding roasted coffee beans. It’s ideal to grind your beans right before brewing for a fresher taste.
- Pot or kettle – for boiling water.
- 20 g of ground coffee – will serve as the base of this drink.
- 236 ml of filtered water – for brewing.
- 100 ml hot water – for pre-heating your French press. Hot tap water will do.
- 236 ml of steamed milk – gives the trademark creamy flavor.
Step-by-step Guide to Making a Café au Lait
Keep reading, and let’s get brewing:
1. Measure and grind the coffee beans
I’ve found that the best French press coffee to water ratio is 1:12. We want to make 2 servings of this drink, so we’ll use 236 ml (1 cup) of water. This means that we’ll start by grinding 20 g of coffee beans, the 1:12 ratio.
Use a coarse percolator setting to grind your beans at the store, or use your own grinder at home. The grind size should be as coarse as breadcrumbs, with large, uniform grounds.
Grinding right before brewing is ideal to maximize the aromas of your coffee, but if you grind at the store, make sure to store your coffee grounds properly use your grounds within a couple of days of grinding so it stays fresh.
2. Boil the water
Pour filtered water into a pot or kettle and bring it to a boil.
Once boiling, turn off the heat to let it cool for a minute down to about 190ºF or so. You don’t want boiling water when you pour it into the press pot.
3. Preheat the French press
While you’re waiting for the water to boil, turn on your hot water and preheat your French press. Leave it for about a minute until everything warms up, and remember to dump it before adding in coffee grinds 🙂
4. Add the coffee grounds + half the brewing water and steep for 1 minute
In this step, we’ll steep the coffee before letting it brew completely.
- Add the 20g of ground coffee
- Pour in half of the brewing water
- Stir a few times so that all of the grinds are submerged
- Let it steep for 1 minute
5. Pour the rest of the water in
After a minute, add the rest of the brewing water and stir once.
Let it sit again for another three minutes until ready.
6. Froth your milk
While the French press is brewing itself, prepare the milk using any of these frothing methods or steam it in a pot on the stove.
When the 4-minute timer rings, press down all the way on the French press plunger evenly.
Combine the steamed milk and coffee in equal amounts into your cup.
Voila, your perfect Parisian-styled breakfast delicacy is ready.
What kind of cup should a Café au lait be served in?
Helpful Tips for Brewing a Café au Lait
What more can you do for a perfect cup? Take note of the following:
- It’s crucial that you don’t let your coffee soak in the French press after the 4 minute mark is hit, since that can over-extract your coffee and bring out bitter profiles.
- As with almost every coffee, it’s best to consume it quickly once ready. Letting it sit for too long will alter its taste profile, and your coffee will end up darker than you originally wanted.
I hope this guide has inspired you to discover the magic of making your very own Café au Lait – no passport required 🙂
With just a few simple steps, you can enjoy an authentic taste of Paris in your kitchen and even impress guests by serving one of France’s most beloved breakfast drinks. And don’t forget the croissants.
Please let me know how it went in a comment below!