How To Layer Iced Lattes So The Ingredients Don't Separate

Making your iced lattes at home is much cheaper and just as delicious, but it can be hard to get the look just right. Being served a perfectly layered latte and stirring it together just before drinking is part of that summertime coffee charm; and while it might seem tricky at first to replicate at home, all it takes is a little know-how to get it right every time. The biggest factor in keeping your lattes layered is making sure you have a good layer of ice between your milk and coffee.

Whether you're putting in just a handful of ice or filling your cup from top to bottom, there should be a generous layer of firmly packed ice cubes at the top of your milk. Sparsely floating ice just won't do: This layer needs to serve as a tray that not only dampens the pouring impact but also gives the coffee a stable place to sit instead of bleeding down into the milk. If you want to cut down on the amount of ice, using a tall and narrow glass helps hold the ice together for a nice and sturdy surface.

Adapting your method to different kind of iced lattes

One unfortunate caveat to layering lattes is that the type of coffee and milk you're using can have a big impact. The reason a layer of ice is more than enough for the traditional iced latte — cold milk and espresso — is because the espresso is much hotter than the milk and basically guaranteed to float once its pour has been buffered by the ice. The problem with this is that if you're using cold brew, coffee concentrate, or cold-mixed instant coffee, there isn't enough of a temperature difference to really ensure it won't start sinking through the ice.

That's where fluid density comes into the picture. If you're having trouble keeping your cold coffee floating, try mixing in some sweetener to your milk beforehand to bulk it up. The added density will help keep it at the bottom without leaving any room for the coffee to sink. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to add more sweetener depending on the kind of milk you're using: Thinner liquids like skim milk and rice milk will need a lot of extra weight to reliably stabilize the layering. Just keep in mind that what you want on the bottom needs to be either colder or heavier than your top layer, adjust accordingly, and you'll be able to make yourself a beautifully layered latte no matter your coffee preferences.