IT’S COLD THIS morning, but you have to go outside. Maybe you have to walk the dog, or go to work, or chase raccoons out of the Dumpster. If you’re an active person, maybe you’re choosing to go outside, heading out to your favorite hike in head-to-toe Patagonia (or even Filson, if you’ve got Alaskan bush-pilot aspirations but can afford not to work for a living). Or maybe you’re a skier, voluntarily hurling yourself down a snowy mountain to feel the edges of your life as one can do only while slightly imperiling it.
If any of the above is true, your morning will be greatly improved with an oatmeal latte.
There is nothing obviously difficult about an oatmeal latte, which consists simply of a cup of oatmeal with a cup of coffee poured on top: a two-for-one breakfast of champions. It is unclear who first put coffee to oatmeal this way, but the consensus seems to be that the idea germinated a decade ago in Colorado among skiers (bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/oatmeal-latte), for whom the oatmeal latte is tailor-made, with its initial boost of caffeine and an energy-rich, long-lasting, fiber-filled payoff.
If you’ve ever tried skiing with a bowl of oatmeal in one hand and a travel mug in the other, you’ll appreciate the efficiency of this Frankendrink, which allows you to shove your travel mug in your pocket, leaving your hands free to navigate moguls. I imagine. I personally do not ski hills with bumps on them, unless by “bumps” you mean “the other children on the bunny slope.”
Oatmeal lattes are pretty common now (the internet says you can even order one off the “secret menu” at Starbucks), but they’re equally easy to make at home. While there is not one right way to do it, I have a couple of tips for you, because there are, as with any skiing-related activity, pitfalls.
Firstly, some oatmeal lattes are basically prepared like lattes, with oatmeal or granola plonked on top or even stirred in. This is wrongheaded and will result in a face covered in wet cereal. For this drink to make sense, the oatmeal (Oatmeal! Not granola!) should sit at the bottom of the cup, and the coffee should float on top.
Then, drink the coffee first. If you try to dig into the oatmeal before you’ve finished off the coffee, you’ll just muddy your coffee and miss the point entirely. This also happens sometimes when the oatmeal is too wet, turning the whole cup into a morass of unappetizing sludge.
My solution is to use steel-cut oats. Yes; they take longer to cook, and are less convenient than rolled oats or even instant oats, but they also will maintain their consistency even sitting at the bottom of a cup under a couple of inches of hot liquid. By the time you’re done sipping the drink, the oatmeal will have absorbed the right amount of coffee-and-milk, and it’ll be ready to eat with a spoon (you should bring a spoon with you outdoors; this is fine to do).
Here is my nonrecipe recipe:
Step 1: Prepare your oatmeal. I like to make it in my Instant Pot (the Instant Pot makes the steel-cut oats a much easier ask) with a bit of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon or cardamom. Sometimes I add a handful of dark chocolate chips, or dried cranberries, or chopped candied pecans.
Step 2: Prepare the coffee with your milk of choice (for a truly meta drinking experience, use oat milk!). I use a Japanese dripper, but a French press is also fine, or a moka pot, or an espresso machine. This is not a drink for coffee snobs (the oatmeal is starchy and will mess with the frothy consistency of your perfect pour-over), but the drink is only as good as the brew. By the way, your normal cup of coffee-with-milk is fine for this; you do not need to make a true steamed milk “latte” for it to work.
Step 3: Scoop your desired amount of cooked oatmeal (I do half oatmeal, half coffee, but up to you) into your mug/travel mug of choice. Do not add milk to the oatmeal; you want it thick and starchy.
Step 4. Pour the coffee/milk carefully on top — you don’t want to disturb the oatmeal layer too much. And then, if you’re doing it for the “gram,” top with whipped cream, powdered sugar, gold flakes and an artisanal candy cane.