How to Make Lattes and Cappuccinos at Home with a French Press

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Last updated on January 4, 2024


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As fellow coffee lovers, we totally get it—there's nothing quite like sipping on a perfectly crafted latte or cappuccino from your favorite cafe. The luxuriously silky steamed milk, the rich espresso, the pretty latte art—it's an experience that's hard to replicate at home. 

But what if we told you it was possible to make coffee shop-quality lattes and cappuccinos from the comfort of your own kitchen? No expensive espresso machine required—just your trusty French press, some basic equipment, and our handy guide. 

We'll walk you through everything from choosing the right coffee and milk to frothing and brewing methods. Whether you're a total beginner barista or looking to step up your home coffee game, read on for pro tips and tricks to crafting delicious lattes and cappuccinos with a French press.

After Reading this Article, You Will . . . 

  • Understand the equipment needed to make lattes and cappuccinos at home with a French press.
  • Learn how to brew strong, concentrated coffee using a French press.
  • Discover techniques for frothing and steaming milk to create silky, creamy foam.
  • Get step-by-step instructions for assembling beautiful lattes and cappuccinos.
  • Pick up tips for customizing your drinks with flavors and latte art.

The Short Answer

Yes, you can absolutely make delicious lattes and cappuccino-like drinks at home with a French press. All you'll need is some basic equipment and a few key techniques. 

In short, you’ll . . .

  • brew a coffee concentrate in the French press,
  • froth the milk (either with a separate frother or with the French press itself),
  • and finally assemble the drink.

When you're ready to dive into the nitty-gritty details, read on for our step-by-step guide to mastering French press lattes and cappuccinos. 

We cover choosing the right coffee and milk, brewing methods, frothing techniques, and pro tips for assembling smooth, creamy drinks worthy of your favorite cafe.

Equipment You'll Need

While you can make do with less, here is the basic equipment that will make the process easier:

  • French press – This is for brewing the base of your drink. Any size press will work. →You can also use it to froth your heated milk! (Details below.)
    Popular models we like include Bodum Kenya and Espro P3 (affiliate links). 

  • Stove or microwave – To heat the milk. 
  • Optional but helpful tools include:

  • Small whisk or electric frothing wand (optional).
  • coffee-frothing-wand
    • Small glass measuring cup (with handle and spout for your “milk frothing pitcher”) – Use to heat and froth milk. One with a spout allows you to attempt “latte art” on your drink.
    • Coffee grinder – Grinds beans to the ideal size for French press.
    • Scale – Weigh coffee and water for an optimal ratio.

    While handy, these tools are not absolutely necessary. You can still make great drinks with pre-ground coffee and careful pouring.

    Choosing the Right Coffee

    Coffee is the star of your drink, so choose wisely! Here are a few tips:

  • Use a medium grind –- For a French press latte you’ll want a stronger extraction from your coffee. Start with a grind size a few notches finer than you would usually use for French press.
  • coffee-grounds-for-latte
    • Aim for a higher coffee-to-water ratio – 1 gram of coffee to 13 ml of water (a 1:13 ratio) is a good place to start. This produces a stronger, more concentrated brew that can “cut through” your milk. 

    (Psst: If you want to go really bold and want more coffee flavor to cut through the milk, you can also consider brewing a French press espresso.) 

    • Try a darker roast – Go for a full-bodied roast that can stand up to milk (think nut and cocoa). Flavors of lighter roasts may get lost when hot-frothed milk is added. 

    The right coffee and grind allows you to extract maximum flavor for your homemade lattes.

    Brewing Strong Coffee in the French Press

    To make coffee that shines in milk-based drinks, follow these steps:

  • Bring fresh water to a boil in a kettle. Don't use boiling water—let it rest about 30 seconds off the boil.

  • Grind your coffee.
  • beans-in-coffee-grinder-top-view

    • Measure your ground coffee into the French press carafe based on the stronger 1:13 ratio suggested above. 
    • Pour the hot water slowly over the grounds until fully incorporated. 
    • Let the coffee steep for 3-4 full minutes, giving a stir to break the crust at the end. This allows for full extraction.
    • Slowly press the plunger down. Don't force it or you'll get gritty coffee. Stop when you feel resistance.
    • Pour your coffee into a serving carafe or cup to ensure extraction stops and no more grinds find their way back in. Do not agitate, allow any remaining fines to settle out while you froth your milk.
    • And that's it—you'll be left with a smooth, rich, concentrated brew ready to transform into a latte or cappuccino-like drink.

    Frothing Milk

    Frothed milk is what makes these drinks so luxurious. Here's how to do it:

    • Heat the milk – Pour cold milk into a microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave until it reaches 140 - 155°F / 60 - 68°C or heat in a pan of water. This temperature range makes the proteins more pliable for foaming. (Borcherding, Hoffmann, Lorenzen, & Schrader, 2008) 
    • Froth the milk – 3 Options

      • Whisk or frothing wand: Once heated, whisk your milk vigorously until the volume doubles. Look for a creamy microfoam texture.
    • Mason jar: Half-fill a mason jar with heated milk and shake vigorously until bubbles form. Transfer to a measuring cup or frothing pitcher with a spout for pouring.
    • French press: Pour your milk into your cleaned French press, leaving enough room for the milk to double. Pump your plunger up and down quickly and steadily for half a minute or until bubbles are forming.   
    • Pour immediately – Milk starts to deflate quickly, so pour into your mug right after frothing for best results.

    It takes some practice, but you'll get the hang of milk texturing with time. The payoff of silky-frothed milk is so worth it!

    Putting It All Together

    Now for the fun part—assembling your drink!

    • Brew coffee in your French press as outlined above
    • Steam and froth milk in a separate container
    • If you haven’t already, pour your coffee into your mug, filling about halfway to leave room for the foamed milk.
    • Slowly pour your frothed milk over the back of a spoon into the coffee. The spoon helps prevent the layers from mixing too much.
  • For a cappuccino, use more froth; for a latte use less.
    • Top with an extra dollop of foam and enjoy! 
    • Optional finishing touches include sprinkling with cinnamon or cocoa powder.  

    Have fun customizing your drink.


    James’s Personal Notes:

    While writing this article, I made my own French press latte using medium-dark roasted beans from Thailand and whole milk purchased locally here in Japan. I double-boiled the milk to 154°F (68°C) and frothed with the electric frother I picked up at the Japanese equivalent of the dollar store. 

    Honestly, I was very surprised and pleased at how thick and foamy the milk turned out. 

    I brewed the coffee using the stronger 1:13 ratio and a slightly finer grind—I steeped for four minutes, breaking the crust and stirring towards the end.

    I tasted the coffee before adding the foamed milk—it was much stronger and more bitter than my usual French press brew—which made me optimistic.

    I then poured the steamed milk into the coffee, added a few dollops of the very thick foam, and sprinkled some cocoa powder on top.

    My impression?

    No, it's not the perfect steamed microfoam experience from a coffee shop—but the foam was VERY nicely textured and held up very well. The coffee and milk blended very nicely too—the warmed milk frothed with the cheap electric frothing wand was just as sweet and tasty as anything I'd get at most coffee shops.

    While not nearly as strong as espresso, the stronger ratio-ed French press brew cut through the milk nicely and made for a very satisfying French-press-brewed alternative to an espresso-based cappuccino or latte.

    James’s Notes on Frothing:

    For those who don’t have a frothing wand, we’ve also suggested “frothing” you warmed milk either by plunging it with your French press or shaking it in a Mason Jar. I went ahead, brewed some more coffee, warmed more milk to 65C and then “frothed” it using all three methods described. I created short lattes/cappuccinos in glass cups so you can see the difference in the milk.


    While the electric frothing wand seemed to me to be the quickest and best way to create decent frothed milk, using the French press plunging method was a close second. 


    Both produced thick milk foam that stood up against the coffee and stayed firm without collapsing even after 5 minutes and even while drinking the coffee. The only real difference was the extra effort required with the French press method - half a minute of plunging up and down.

    I was also concerned about wear and tear - and the risk of breakage - repeatedly plunging the filter in my glass French press for this method. Probably not an issue if you’re careful or have a stainless steel French press.

    On the other hand, the mason jar method came deep in last place.

    While shaking the warm milk in the jar did create a little bit of froth, it collapsed quickly when added to the coffee. I also quickly learned to check that the cap was screwed very tight. My first attempt had hot milk shooting out of the jar all over the table.

    After shaking for half a minute or so, there was enough texture in the milk for the drink to pass as a latte, so it is a step up from just using warmed milk. I’d use this if I didn’t have a wand and didn’t want to take any risks with my French press.


    Here you can see how all three methods held up after 5 minutes:


    Satisfying the Craving at Home

    Part of what makes lattes and cappuccinos so enjoyable is the total sensory experience—the texture, warmth, sweetness, and aroma. 

    With the right techniques, you can recreate many of those satisfying elements at home with just a French press:

    • Texture – Frothing milk properly (see our instructions above) and using whole milk or 2% milk creates a smooth, creamy texture.
    • Warmth – Preheating your mug and equipment keeps the drink hot and cozy.
    • Sweetness – Frothing incorporates air to naturally sweeten the milk. You can always sprinkle a bit of sugar on top if you have a sweet tooth too.
    • Art – Etch fun designs in the foam to bring an artistic touch.
    • Milk cuts bitterness – The milk balances and mellows the coffee's acidity.
    • Change of pace – It provides a nice break from regular ol’ brewed coffee.
    • Something to savor – Sip slowly and enjoy the experience.

    While it might take some effort to nail down the perfect foam-to-coffee ratio that you like best, the French press can absolutely produce delicious lattes and cappuccino-like drinks with texture, flavor, and satisfaction comparable to drinks from your favorite coffee shop.

    Let us know how your French press lattes and cappuccinos turn out. 

    From heating milk to pouring foam, we hope you enjoy the whole meditative process. The delicious results are well worth it.



    What type of milk works best?

    Whole milk and 2% milk froth the best due to higher fat and protein content. Skim is harder to foam, while non-dairy milks vary.

    Can I froth milk without special equipment?

    Yes! Shake milk vigorously in a jar or use a French press to plunge up and down. Not as effective as a small whisk or an electric frothing wand, but still works.

    How do I make latte art?

    Pour your heated and frothed milk gently and steadily from your measuring cup or French press to allow the foam to float over the coffee. Tilt and wiggle the cup to etch patterns. 

    This takes practice. Since you aren’t using a dark, concentrated shot of espresso for your coffee base, expect less light/dark contrast in your design.

    What's the most budget-friendly approach?

    Using your French press to also foam your milk saves on needing to buy a whisk or electric frothing wand. 

    Buy dark roasted whole bean arabica or arabica / robusta blends created especially for French press or espresso. These are often less expensive than gourmet or specialty coffees sold for pour over brewing and are much better suited for milk-based drinks.


    Borcherding, K., Hoffmann, W., Lorenzen, P. Chr., & Schrader, K. (2008). Effect of milk homogenisation and foaming temperature on properties and microstructure of foams from pasteurised whole milk. LWT - Food Science and Technology, 41(10), 2036-2043.

    About the author, James Allen

    James is a seasoned coffee enthusiast, dedicated home roaster, and brewing aficionado with over 15 years of immersion in the world of coffee. His passion for the bean has taken him on an incredible journey, from assisting locals in establishing farm-to-cup micro-roasteries and cafes in Bali to pioneering one of the first blockchain projects aimed at enhancing traceability in coffee supply chains. Based in Japan, James spends a significant portion of his year embarking on travels to coffee-producing countries with a recent focus on the rapidly advancing Thailand arabica scene.