Latte Art 101

Monday July 1, 2019 by Steven McCoy, Customer Service Barista @ Barista Pro Shop

The Origination of Latte Art:

Latte Art (image by Nathan Dumlao)Latte art first became popular in the late 80’s in American coffee shops. Many baristas pioneered and spentyears perfecting what we would consider a simple design today. After mastering foundational pours like the heart and rosetta, skilled baristas began combining them to create more complex designs. Once you have the basic pours down, you can put them together as you see fit to create new, more exciting designs.

Preparing to Pour:
Latte art starts before you steam the milk or pull the shots. There are so many intricacies that go into crafting the finished product.

Steaming the Milk:
The best milk for latte art is thick enough to cut the crema and thin enough to still flow (sort of like the consistency of house paint). Start by placing the tip of the steam wand just beneath the surface of the milk. After you turn on the steam you want to let it chirp for a few seconds. The foam should overtake the tip of the steam wand on its own and the chirping should stop, at this point drop the steam wand a little deeper into the pitcher. This should create a whirlpool in the center. You want it to spin and also fold over itself incorporating the micro foam throughout the pitcher. This creates a velvet consistency all throughout. Be careful not to burn the milk–steam to
Lively Libations: Steven’s Mah-Stachio Matcha Latte (September 2019)140-150 degrees fahrenheit. If you see bigger bubbles, don’t worry. After you finish steaming, you can groom your milk by smacking the bottom of your pitcher down on the counter. This helps the bubbles rise to the surface and pop. Finally, swirl your milk and shake it left and right to reincorporate your foam vertically throughout the pitcher. If you find that there is some fluffy foam that will not blend in with the rest of your milk you can always dump it off before the pour.

Espresso Quality:
I am just going to touch on espresso. There is a mountain of information on espresso that you can climb… just to find another mountain to climb after that. Your espresso should be as fresh as possible and it should be ground immediately before extraction. You will want to pack it evenly in the portafilter and tamp it with roughly 30 pounds of even pressure.
Latte Art TermsThe shots should take about 30 seconds to pull and you will want a nice thick head of crema on your shot since that is what you will be actually drawing into with your milk. (Ultimately, you probably should not worry about latte art until you sort out your espresso.)

Flow & Dynamics of The Pour:
So, the time has come, you have your fresh espresso and your beautiful milk and you’re ready to make some latte drinker very happy.

Latte Art DesignsGetting comfortable with the right approach and flow required for latte art will come in time. The more you pour the more predictable the espresso becomes and the better you will understand the flow dynamics.

Hearts:
There are a few different approaches to hearts. Try to keep your design more centered with these ones by pouring more in the center of the cup rather than the back middle of the cup.

Ripple the Milk to Create Layered Lines & Wraps:
Latte Art Ripple/Wiggle PourRippling/wiggling the milk is another key technique used to create more complex designs. The approach is the same as the heart except you will let the milk flow on this one. Pour close to the espresso in order to draw with the milk. As you begin to see the white milk glide on top of the crema, start to wiggle your pitcher back and forth (side to side). You can wiggle as slow or fast as you want. Faster ripples yield finer, closer together lines. Slower ripples produce thicker, farther apart lines. It’s all about what makes you happy. The finish is the same (seeing a pattern yet?), raise your pitcher up away from the espresso and cut through.

Rosettas (Ferns):
Rosettas are a crowd favorite. They always seem to look so nice and there are so many possible variants. They can be wiggled and stacked in all sorts of configurations. You want to start these pours in the back middle of the cup. Go in for the pour with a pretty quick flow. As the milk begins to draw start to wiggle your pitcher back and forth pushing the design into the back of your cup. This should take those first little bits of wispy milk and incorporate them into a crisp outer line. As you fill the cup the design should wrap around the rim of the cup. Continue to wiggle the pitcher as you pour and begin to move the pitcher backward (toward the front of the cup) to create the rosetta leaves. When you reach the other side of the cup, hold for a moment. You can continue to wiggle if you like or just hold still and let a blob form (so that you can create a small all-natural heart when you strike through). Finally finish by pulling the pitcher up away from the cup and cutting through the center of the design. To mix it up, you could also stop pouring just before you hit the other end of the cup. Then use the remaining space to stack a few blobs to make a stacked heart. The world is yours.Pouring Latte Art

Tulips:
Tulips are the ultimate combination of both Hearts and Rosettas. Any combination or wiggles, wraps and stacks can make an awesome looking tulip.

I feel like the combinations of Tulip stacks and wraps could go on forever. The Tulip is the most interchangeable latte art style so I will wrap up my explanation here.

Swans:Latte Art Service Pour
Do you think you could pour a rosetta and then draw a line with a heart at the top? That is all a swan is. Pour your rosie and instead of cutting straight through the center, cut down the side and lower your pitcher in close to draw a line from the base of your rosetta to the top of the cup.
Hold that position to create a blob to an all-natural heart by cutting through just this 'head' of the swan. Go with whichever side feels natural to cut down and draw on that side, it is all personal preference.

Service Pours:
When you’re busy at the bar, your main priority shouldn’t be seeing how many stacks you can fit into a cup. Speed and efficiency are key in those moments. Find a pattern you can replicate quickly and easily. I find hearts and rosettas, can be poured without ever pulling the pitcher away from the cup (between building the base and drawing the design) which will help keep everything moving on the bar. No customer is judging your latte art, it could be your “worst pour ever” and it will still get the classic “oh it is so pretty I don’t even want to drink it”. Your goal is to serve amazing tasting drinks, if you can top it with some latte art, good, but it is not going to make or break you as a barista. You aren’t measured by how good your latte art is.

Make great drinks. Make customers happy. Drink great coffee.


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