Are Lattes Sweet Or Bitter? Let’s Find Out :)

By Mark •  Updated: 04/22/23 •  10 min read

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As the steam rises from the cup and the rich aroma fills the air, it’s no wonder that lattes have become a favorite among coffee enthusiasts worldwide.

Their perfect blend of bold espresso and creamy, steamed milk offers a luxurious and comforting experience. Lattes have captured the hearts of countless home baristas and coffee shop patrons alike.

But amid all this adoration, a seemingly simple yet perplexing question arises: are lattes sweet or bitter?

Are Lattes Sweet Or Bitter
Are lattes sweet or bitter?

Lattes can be both sweet and bitter, depending on various factors. The natural sweetness of milk and added sweeteners can make a latte taste sweet, while the espresso’s flavor profile and roast level contribute to its bitterness.

In this article, I’ll explore the fascinating world of lattes, diving into the factors determining their flavor profile. I’ll answer your pressing question of sweetness versus bitterness.

What Is A Latte?

A latte, short for caffè latte, is an Italian coffee drink that translates to “milk coffee.” It has gained popularity across the globe for its smooth, creamy taste and delightful presentation.

What Is A Latte
What Is A Latte?

The critical components of a latte are:

  1. Espresso: The foundation of a latte, providing the bold, robust flavor that coffee lovers crave.
  2. Steamed milk: This component adds creaminess and mellows the strong taste of the espresso, resulting in a balanced, velvety drink.
  3. Optional flavorings: Lattes can be customized with various syrups, spices, or toppings to suit individual preferences and create unique taste sensations.

Factors Affecting Latte Taste

As coffee lovers, we all have unique preferences, so understanding these factors can be a game-changer in crafting the perfect latte to suit our taste buds.

Quality Of Coffee Beans 

The beans used for the espresso can significantly impact the flavor profile of a latte. High-quality beans, often sourced from renowned coffee-growing regions, typically yield a smoother, more balanced taste that entices your palate. 

Quality Of Coffee Beans 
Quality Of Coffee Beans 

On the other hand, lower-quality beans may result in a harsher, more bitter flavor that can leave you craving a more enjoyable coffee experience.

Roast Level 

The roast level of coffee beans is crucial to a latte’s taste.

Roast Level 
Roast Level

Lighter roasts tend to have brighter, more acidic flavors that accentuate the fruity or floral notes in the coffee. In contrast, darker roasts often bring out deeper, more bitter notes that give the coffee a bold, intense character.

Brewing Process – The Art Of Extracting The Perfect Espresso Shot

The art of extracting the perfect espresso shot can significantly affect the final taste of a latte.

Factors such as grind size, water temperature, and extraction time play a crucial role in determining the strength and balance of flavors in the drink. 

Brewing Process
Brewing Process

Mastering these variables can unlock the true potential of your coffee beans, providing a rich and satisfying base for your latte.

Milk Choice And Preparation 

The type of milk used and the way it’s steamed can impact a latte’s sweetness and creaminess. 

Different milk types, such as whole, skim, or plant-based milk, will alter the drink’s taste and texture, allowing you to personalize your latte experience. 

Milk Choice And Preparation 
Milk Choice And Preparation 

Moreover, adequately frothed milk with the right amount of microfoam can enhance the milk’s natural sweetness, adding a velvety touch to your drink.

Added Flavors 

Optional flavorings, like syrups, spices, or toppings, can significantly influence a latte’s sweetness.

These delightful additions can enhance or mask the sweetness or bitterness of the espresso and milk combination, allowing you to create a unique flavor sensation that is perfect for your taste buds.

By understanding these factors, we can begin to appreciate a latte’s complex interplay between sweetness and bitterness. 

Sweetness in Lattes

One of the key components of a latte is milk, which contributes a certain level of natural sweetness to the drink. Milk contains lactose, a raw sugar that can bring out subtle sweet notes in a latte.

The type of milk used, such as whole, skim, or plant-based, can also impact the degree of sweetness, as different milk varieties have varying levels of lactose and sweetness.

Frothing milk for a latte creates a creamy, velvety texture and enhances the milk’s natural sweetness. 

Sweetness in Lattes
Sweetness in Lattes

When milk is steamed and frothed, it undergoes a chemical Maillard reaction, which caramelizes the sugars and creates a richer, sweeter taste. Well-frothed milk can make a latte taste noticeably sweeter, even without added sugars.

If you prefer an extra sweetness in your latte, a variety of sweetened flavorings and syrups can be added to the drink. Popular options include 

  • Vanilla
  • Caramel (yum!)
  • Hazelnut
  • Chocolate

These additions enhance the sweetness of a latte and provide unique flavor combinations, allowing you to customize your drink and create a personalized coffee experience.

Bitterness in Lattes

The yang to sweetnesses yin, it’s essential to recognize the role of bitterness as well. 

So, what affects a lattes bitterness?


Espresso is the foundation of a latte and imparts a bold, robust flavor to the drink. The natural compounds found in coffee, such as caffeine and certain acids, can contribute to its bitterness. 

Bitterness in Lattes
Bitterness in Lattes

The intensity of these bitter notes can vary depending on factors like the coffee bean’s origin, quality, and roast level.

Of course, the barista plays an important part here too. For example, pulling an espresso for too long can make your espresso taste bitter.

The coffee bean type and its roast level can significantly impact the bitterness of a latte. 

Arabica beans have a more delicate, nuanced flavor profile, while Robusta beans are known for their stronger, more bitter taste. 

Regarding the roast level, darker roasts generally exhibit more bitter characteristics, as the roasting process releases certain bitter compounds.

Personal Taste Preferences

Do you know what’s great about coffee? It’s how personal and unique our tastes can be. No two people enjoy their coffee the same way, making the coffee world fascinating and diverse.

When it comes to taste, there’s no right or wrong answer. 

Personal Taste Preferences
Personal Taste Preferences

The perfect latte for me may not be your cup of tea (or coffee, in this case). Our taste buds and preferences are incredibly subjective and can be influenced by our backgrounds, experiences, and even genetics.

A lot of factors come into play when determining our taste preferences. 

Cultural influences, childhood memories, and even the foods we eat daily can all shape how we perceive and enjoy flavors.

This means that your go-to latte might differ from your best friend’s or coworker’s, which is perfectly okay.

Lattes are just one of many delicious coffee drinks that grace the menus of cafes worldwide. 

To help put the sweetness and bitterness of lattes into perspective, I’ve looked at how they compare to other popular coffee drinks:

Coffee DrinkMain ComponentsSweetnessBitterness
LatteEspresso, steamed milk, optional flavoringsModerate (Adjustable with flavorings)Moderate (Balanced by steamed milk)
CappuccinoEspresso, steamed milk, frothy foamModerateSlightly higher (Stronger coffee flavor)
AmericanoEspresso, hot waterLow (Adjustable with sugar or milk)Higher (Lack of milk exposes espresso flavor)
MochaModerate (Balanced with steamed milk)High (Chocolate adds sweetness)Moderate (Balanced by chocolate sweetness)
MacchiatoEspresso, small amount of frothy milkLowHigh (Espresso flavor dominates the drink)

The Role of Acidity in Coffee

Acidity is an important aspect of coffee flavor that can significantly influence the overall taste of your latte.

When I talk about acidity in coffee, I’m not referring to the pH level. 

Instead, acidity describes coffee’s bright, lively flavors, often associated with fruity or wine-like notes. Coffee acidity is influenced by the coffee beans: 

  1. Origin
  2. Altitude
  3. Processing method
  4. Roast level. 

A coffee with high acidity is considered to have a bright, vibrant flavor profile, while a coffee with low acidity might taste more mellow and subdued.

How Acidity Affects the Perception Of Sweetness and Bitterness 

Acidity can significantly affect how we perceive sweetness and bitterness in coffee. A well-balanced acidity can enhance the natural sweetness of a coffee while also counteracting any potential irritation. 

However, if the acidity is too pronounced or overpowering, it can make the coffee taste sour or astringent, masking the inherent sweetness and amplifying the bitterness.

Balancing Acidity in a Latte 

When crafting the perfect latte, it’s essential to consider the acidity of the espresso used. 

You can experiment with different coffee beans, roast levels, and brewing techniques to achieve the right balance. 

Additionally, the choice of milk and the steaming process can impact how acidity interacts with other flavors in the latte.

Using high-quality, fresh milk and steaming it to the right temperature can help create a silky, creamy texture that complements and balances the acidity in the espresso.

How to Customize Your Latte: My Journey

As a coffee lover, I’ve always enjoyed crafting the perfect latte. I’ve experimented with various beans, roast levels, milk types, and flavors to create a latte that genuinely reflects my unique taste preferences. 

I’ve tried beans from different regions and roast levels, discovering unique flavor profiles. 

One of my favorite finds was this medium-roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, which gave the latte a delightfully fruity and floral taste. 

I also enjoyed this darker roasted Colombian coffee that provided a rich, chocolatey flavor with a hint of nuttiness. 

I recently tried lactose-free and plant-based milk like almond and oat milk.

I was pleasantly surprised by the nutty flavor of almond milk added to my latte, while oat milk brought a subtle earthiness that complemented the coffee beautifully.

Side note: my 4-year-old daughter loves a babycino made with oat milk, which surprised me!

When it comes to sweeteners and flavors, I’m not a huge fan. 

What I rather enjoy, though, is a touch of honey in my latte, as it adds a delicate floral sweetness that enhances the natural flavors of the coffee without overpowering them.

Latte FAQs

Does a Latte Taste Sweet?

Does a Latte Taste Sweet

A latte can taste naturally sweet because milk contains lactose, a natural sugar. However, the overall sweetness of a latte is influenced by the type of coffee beans, roast level, milk choice, and any added sweeteners or flavors.

What Is a Latte Supposed to Taste Like?

What Is a Latte Supposed to Taste Like

A latte is typically characterized by a balanced flavor profile that combines the bold, rich taste of espresso with the creamy, slightly sweet taste of steamed milk. The specific taste of a latte can vary depending on factors like the coffee beans used, the roast level, and the choice of milk.

Is Latte Coffee Sweet or Not?

Is Latte Coffee Sweet or Not

A latte can have a naturally sweet taste due to the lactose in milk. However, the sweetness of a latte can be affected by factors such as the coffee beans used, the roast level, and any added sweeteners or flavors. Some lattes may be sweeter than others, depending on these factors.

Why Does My Latte Taste So Bitter?

Why Does My Latte Taste So Bitter

If your latte tastes bitter, it could be over-extracted espresso, dark roasted coffee beans, or an imbalance between the espresso and milk. Try using a lighter roast, adjusting your brewing technique, or experimenting with the espresso-to-milk ratio to reduce bitterness.

Is Latte More Sweet Than Cappuccino?

Is Latte More Sweet Than Cappuccino

Lattes and cappuccinos contain espresso and milk, but lattes generally have a higher milk-to-espresso ratio, making them taste sweeter than cappuccinos. Cappuccinos have an equal balance of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam, resulting in a more robust coffee flavor and a less pronounced sweetness than lattes.


G'day from Australia! I'm Mark, the Chief Editor of Portafilter. I'm super passionate about everything coffee-related and love to spend endless hours mastering pulling the perfect shot on my Breville Barista Express. Follow on: Linkedin and Facebook.

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