Latte Art 101
While latte art has essentially nothing to do with pulling great tasting espresso it’s inextricably linked to the practice. Luckily, it’s pretty fun and it’s what gives espresso and milk drinks their iconic look. In the video below, Charles will guide you through the process of pouring latte art. If you haven’t already, I recommend watching our primer on steaming milk beforehand because you’ll need perfectly steamed milk in order to be successful.
Pouring is the step where everything comes together — and there are three key stages. We’ll call them the “fill up”, the “drawing,” and the “final cut” stages.
With a nice shot of espresso in our cup, let’s start pouring in our milk. We’ll want to start pouring from 4 or 5 inches above the cup with a good pencil-width stream of milk. This is the fill-up stage, and pouring from higher up ensures that all the milk and foam will dive through the surface and blend in with the brown color of the espresso. We’re not trying to do anything fancy here, and we’ll keep pouring like this until the cup is a little over halfway full.
Now it’s time to lower our pitcher toward the surface of the milk for the drawing stage. This is how we’ll get our white design on the surface of our drink as the foam spills out onto the surface and rests there. There are 3 things you need to focus on as you do this. One, you want to keep your flow rate consistent. If you slow down most of your foam will sit at the back of your pitcher while you pour a stream of warm milk. If you pour too fast you’ll just end up with a blob of foam, and potentially overflow the cup.
Second, you want to pay attention to the position of your pitcher. We want to start pouring near the far side of the cup and then move slowly toward the near side over the course of the pour. This will make sure our design covers the entire surface of the drink. Starting right in the middle or at the front will put our latte art off-center.
Last, there’s the wiggle. In order to help spread our design out to both sides of the cup, and to give it a nice feathered appearance, we want to gently wiggle the pitcher from side to side. Doing this too aggressively will disrupt the nice pattern you’re creating but wiggling too slow never really hurts, it’ll just give your latte art a slightly different look. Whether or not you like that is totally down to your own preference. As your design begins to fill up your cup you’ll want to keep your pitcher right where it is and let the pretty blob you’re creating expand.
At the last second, we want to put the finishing touch on our pour by cutting it down the middle, giving it a clean line and a touch of symmetry. This is the final cut stage. To do this we need to lift the pitcher back up to our height of a few inches above the surface and slow down our pour to just a thin stream. Then we want to drag that cleanly down the center of our cup and then stop pouring. Pouring too heavy here will drag all the art you’ve poured up to this point down into the drink.
That’s it! You should have a heart, or at least something roughly resembling a heart. Any amount of definition or detail is a small achievement in its own right. It may feel like a lot, but these last few steps are the ones you really need to remember and practice. If you’re having trouble it can be helpful to just focus on nailing one step at a time. For instance, get really comfortable with that wiggle and don’t let the stress of the Final Cut Step hang over you.
For more in-depth training, check out Intro to Milk Steaming and Latte Art now available through Coffee School.