Latte art is the barista’s signature in a milk based espresso drink.
Over the years latte art has shifted from being ‘etched’ chocolate sauce designs and foamy ‘hand spooned’ structures, to a fragile and carefully constructed pattern where the slightest movement of the hand can make or break a masterpiece.
There are 3 major components to world-class latte art: espresso, milk and execution.
Ideal learning tools:
- A steaming pitcher that has perfect spout symmetry. Using the same jug every time is vital to getting comfortable with latte art.
- A wide ceramic cup of around 8 oz. is great to start with. This gives you plenty of breathing space.
- An environment where you can concentrate and not be bumped!
Perfect espresso is your canvas. Well-executed fresh extraction with a thick stable crema sets the foundation for your latte art. A double shot or around 40 grams of yield and medium roast is a great starting point. This helps create contrast in the cup. Espresso and milk preparation should happen simultaneously to ensure crema does not have time to dissipate.
The colder your milk, the better. This gives it more chances at rotation in the pitcher before reaching temperature, which in turn increases your milk’s texture. Once the steam wand is in position slightly below the surface of the milk and sit slightly off center, engage the wand and slowly lower the jug adding small amounts of air while simultaneously keeping the milk spinning solid. All air should be added prior to the milk reaching room temperature for great results. Turn off the steam when you reach your desired temperature.
If everything worked out (and trust me it takes practice even getting to this point) you should have beautiful espresso and a hot pitcher with milk resembling freshly applied paint. Its time to pour!
Tilting the cup at 45 degrees, pour into the center of the espresso at a height of 2-3 inches. Imagine a diving board and a diver trying to pierce the espresso without disrupting the surface. Keep an even flow for the entire pour.
Once the cup gets to the low edge of the cup, two things need to happen:
Firstly, flatten out the cup while simultaneously bringing the pitcher all the way down to almost full contact with the espresso. This will increase the amount of microfoam allowed from behind the pitchers spout and a white dot will begin to appear (remember keep the same flow the whole time!)
Secondly, in the final moment of the pour, exit the cup by lifting the jug and cutting through the center of your white dot. Imagine the milk from the spout is an airplane taking off.
Perfect love heart!
Once you master your love hearts, move on to a two-stack tulip.
The big secret
- stick to one design for days, weeks if needed. Get each design mastered before progressing to the next. This is the way to get good fast and an understanding of what each movement will result in.
Spill milk, make a mess and most importantly have fun! That’s what coffee should be all about. Just don’t forget that latte art certainly makes coffee look great, but great espresso and milk are more important!
By Jai Lott, Coffee Director for Bluestone Lane