French Café au Lait: A Morning Ritual

When you think of a French morning, perhaps you envision a quaint bistro, the aroma of fresh croissants wafting through the air, and, of course, a steaming cup of Café au Lait. This iconic French coffee drink is as integral to France’s culinary landscape as the Eiffel Tower is to its skyline.

What is A French Café au Lait

The history of Café au Lait is intertwined with France’s love affair with coffee. Introduced to the French court in the 1600s, coffee soon became a staple in French households. The term “Café au Lait,” literally translating to “coffee with milk,” succinctly describes this comforting beverage.

French Café au Lait: Simplicity at its Best

Unlike its Italian counterparts laden with foam or its American peers with added syrups, the Café au Lait shines in its simplicity. It’s a harmonious blend of equal parts brewed coffee and steamed milk, creating a gentle, creamy beverage.

Coffee Roast Recommendation For French Café au Lait

For a genuine Café au Lait experience, opt for a medium roast coffee. A French press is the traditional brewing method, producing a rich and full-bodied coffee essential for balancing the milk.

Milk Mastery

While any milk can work, whole milk is preferred for its rich texture. Gently steam the milk until it’s warm but not scalding, ensuring it melds seamlessly with the coffee.

Serving Traditions

In France, Café au Lait is typically served in a wide-brimmed bowl, ideal for dipping your morning croissant or baguette. This isn’t just a drink; it’s a full sensory experience.

How to Make a French Café au Lait


Coffee: Freshly ground coffee beans (preferably medium roast): 2 tablespoons (or to your taste preference)

Milk: Whole milk: 1 cup (240ml) (You can adjust the ratio based on your preference, but the classic Café au Lait has an equal part of coffee and milk.)

Optional: Sugar, vanilla, or cinnamon for added flavor.

  1. Begin with freshly ground coffee beans.
  2. Preferably use a French press for authenticity; otherwise, a drip coffee maker or other methods are acceptable.
  3. For the French press: Combine coffee grounds with hot water (just off the boil) and steep for 4 minutes.
  4. Press the plunger after steeping.
  5. Warm the milk in a saucepan on medium heat, ensuring it doesn’t boil or scald.
  6. Once the milk is hot, remove from heat.
  7. Froth the milk using a frother or by vigorously whisking to achieve a creamy texture.
  8. Fill a large cup halfway with the brewed coffee.
  9. Gradually pour in the steamed milk, aiming for a 1:1 ratio with the coffee.
  10. Sweeten with sugar if desired.
  11. Enhance with a sprinkle of cinnamon or a dash of vanilla for extra flavor.
  12. Transfer the Café au Lait to your preferred cup, traditionally a wide-brimmed bowl-like cup in some French regions.
  13. Savor while warm.
French Café au Lait coffee

Taste and Aroma

When you take your first sip, the robust notes of coffee are beautifully tempered by the creamy milk. The aroma is a comforting blend of roasted beans with the gentle sweetness of warm milk..

Nutritional Insights

A typical Café au Lait, when made with whole milk, contains:

  • Calories: ~110
  • Fat: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Protein: 6g

French Café au Lait: A Morning Ritual

Prep Time7 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 110kcal


  • 1 Espresso Machine or Moka pot


  • Coffee: Freshly ground coffee beans preferably medium roast: 2 tablespoons (or to your taste preference)
  • 1 cup Milk: Whole milk 240ml (You can adjust the ratio based on your preference, but the classic Café au Lait has an equal part of coffee and milk.)
  • Optional sugar, vanilla, or cinnamon for added flavor.


  • Start with freshly ground coffee beans. For a more authentic flavor, use a French press. However, if you don’t have one, a drip coffee maker or other methods can also suffice.
  • If using a French press: Add the coffee grounds and pour over hot water (just off the boil). Let it steep for about 4 minutes. After steeping, press the plunger down.
  • In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Watch carefully to ensure the milk doesn’t boil or scald.
  • Once the milk is hot, remove it from the heat. If you have a milk frother, use it now. If not, vigorously whisk the milk until you achieve a creamy, frothy consistency.
  • Pour the brewed coffee into a large cup, filling it halfway.
  • Gently add the steamed milk over the coffee. Aim for an equal ratio of coffee to milk to balance the flavors.
  • If desired, add sugar to taste.
  • For an added touch, sprinkle cinnamon or add a dash of vanilla.
  • Pour your Café au Lait into your favorite cup (a wide-brimmed bowl-like cup is traditional in some parts of France) and enjoy while it’s still warm.

FAQs – Café au Lait Recipe

How does Café au Lait differ from a Latte?

While both drinks incorporate coffee and steamed milk, a Latte uses espresso as its base, and the Café au Lait employs traditionally brewed coffee.

Can I flavor my Café au Lait?

Purists might say no, but the world of coffee is all about personalization. Feel free to add a dash of vanilla or a sprinkle of cinnamon to make it your own.

Is it similar to Cappuccino?

Not quite. A Cappuccino has a distinct layer of foam on top, while Café au Lait is a smooth blend of coffee and milk without the foam.

Wrapping Up French Café au Lait Recipe

Café au Lait is not just a beverage; it’s a testament to the French art of living, the “joie de vivre.” It represents taking a moment out of one’s day to savor the simple pleasures, embracing every sip, and starting the morning with grace and elegance. Whether enjoyed at a bustling Parisian café or in the comfort of your home, a Café au Lait is always a good idea.

While the French Café au Lait holds a special place in the heart of many, the world of coffee offers a diverse array of flavors and traditions. If you’re keen to embark on a global coffee journey, don’t miss our compilation of the ‘Top 10 Coffee Recipes from Around the World.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

Recent Posts