The Tip Jar - Pour Your Heart Out! Tips to Help You Master a Free Pour Latte Art Heart

Friday February 12, 2016 // By Matthew Moseley

‘Pour your heart into it!’ A motivating reminder that our best work in life occurs when we are committed and determined to accomplish something.  In the case of latte art, we can literally pour a heart into a latte, tea latte or hot chocolate.  However, the point remains, that as a barista pouring latte art proves that you’re so committed to the overall drink experience and determined to take the time to carefully pour a design on top of a meticulously crafted, tasty beverage!  

With the help of our friend, Derrick Wessels, co-founder of Beagle Coffee Company, we will show you the basic steps to follow when free pouring a latte art heart.  Derrick will demonstrate two different heart shaped designs, and the video below will break down each step then show you the entire pour from start to finish in realtime.  

Step 1: Pour Slow, High *(above the espresso), and in the Center of your mug or cup

TIP: You’ll notice Derrick, begins by swirling the freshly steamed milk within the pitcher.  This process is referred to by many as polishing the milk.  In other words, this process should settle the microfoam produced by stretching, or introducing air, into your milk and remove any large air bubbles on the surface.  The large air bubbles can interrupt the stream of milk during your pour and result in breaks in your design or unwanted displacement of the crema atop your espresso.

- You’ll notice that in our video the barista tilts the mug so that the espresso is contained within a single corner.  He tilts the mug to help quickly build a dense base that will allow the lighter, aerated milk to rest on the surface with the crema which creates the white design.

- This first step is crucial to not only the amount of distinction between your design and the crema of your espresso, but also the overall size of your design in the cup.  The key is to build the base quickly but in a controlled manner to avoid disrupting the surface of your espresso.  You’ll want to start with your pitcher high above the surface of the espresso but not so high that it separates the crema and diminishes the chances of getting a crisp and distinct design.

- Begin the free pour high, approximately 4 inches above the crema, at a slow pace while maintaining a consistent stream and striking the center of the espresso. You’ll notice that Derrick moves out from the center and circulates the stream of milk over the entire surface area of the espresso. This accomplishes two goals.  This motion not only expedites the process of quickly integrating the espresso and milk to create the base for your design; it also allows you to submerge any areas where excess foam may have marked the espresso. This will produce a consistent color and result in a strong distinction between the white design from the microfoam and the light tan of the espresso. When there is not a stark contrast between the white of the microfoam and the tan of the espresso this is referred to as a blown out design.

- When moving from building the base to introducing the design, you can either stop your pour and move your pitcher as close as possible to the surface of the espresso before beginning to pour again or you can continue pouring while quickly moving your pitcher from a high pouring position to a low, close position.  If you choose to continue your pour, keep in mind that the shorter the amount of time between the high and low pouring positions of your pitcher the more definition, or color pop, you will see in your design.

- Pay close attention to the height of your espresso in the mug and level it out as necessary to avoid spillage.

Step 2: Pour Fast, Low *(close in proximity to espresso), and Centered in the mug.

TIP: For a heart, and most other designs, you will want to make sure your stream of milk is directly in the center of your mug as you lower your pitcher to begin your design.  This will help your design to appear centered in the mug and symmetric once you’ve finished.  

- To begin introducing your design, move the pour spout of your milk pitcher as close to the

crema as possible.  Sometimes you can actually see baristas get so close they touch the

spout of the pitcher to the crema; however, the point is to pour at a close proximity so the

microfoam can rest on the crema and reduce the force of your milk stream so it won’t

penetrate the surface.

- Once you lower your pitcher, begin pouring faster by gradually increasing the tilt of your steaming pitcher, in turn, increasing the speed of the flow of your milk.  This should cause a design to begin to appear.

- For the soft heart design, shown first in the video, you’ll want to keep the position of your steaming pitcher centered in the mug while gently rocking the pitcher back and forth.  This wiggling motion allows the crema to appear between the strokes of the white microfoam of the milk. The wiggling motion should not be a drastic motion of your entire arm but rather a slight wiggle of the wrist or pitcher handle within your fingertips.

- For the hard heart design, shown second in the video, you’ll want to keep the position of your milk pitcher centered in the mug and as steady as possible.  Once, your design begins to appear you’ll want to keep the rate at which your milk stream is flowing as consistent as possible in order to produce a solid white heart without any ‘bleed’, or faint hints of espresso showing through.

- Once, the surface of the liquid reaches the brim of your cup or mug, you’ll move into the final step, the strikethrough.

Step 3: Pour Slow, High *(above the espresso), and Strikethrough 

TIP: Pay as close attention as possible to the level of your drink in your serving vessel, without rushing this step.  If you rush the strikethrough, you might ‘twist’ your design or lose the distinct heart shape that narrows drastically from top to bottom and produces the sharp point.

- The strikethrough motion is typically how you complete any free pour design, and simply creates the symmetry of your design.

- To perform the strikethrough, you will gradually raise your pitcher high above the surface of the liquid while incrementally reducing the flow rate of your steamed milk.  Once you’re pitcher has reached the desired height, which should be about as high as where you were began the pour in step #1, you will quickly push the stream of milk forward *(away from your body or current position in the mug), in other words, strike directly through your design. The strikethrough should pinch the center of your design and create to desired point at the bottom of your heart.

Congratulations you’ve just poured your first free pour latte art heart!  O.K. so maybe you didn’t pull it off first try but that’s perfectly normal, and if you did you should consider competing.  Latte art requires a very steady hand and specific skill set; it will take time to master any design you wish to create so be patient!  In the meantime, if you want to hone your latte art skills without wasting your espresso and milk or spending countless sleepless nights from indulging in all of your practice pours.  You can practice your milk steaming technique with just tap water and hand soap.  The soap will actually foam similar to dairy milk and cleans your wand at the same time; just be sure to thoroughly purge your wand before serving any drinks.  Remember without properly steamed milk, even the most skilled latte artist would be rendered incapable of producing high-quality latte art. So, start by training to perfect your milk steaming skills.  For dialing in your pouring technique, simply practice this three step process with a water instead of milk and pouring into an empty mug.  This will allow you to build muscle memory for the pace, or rate of flow, for your milk as well as a steady strikethrough.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-866-776-5288.

Be sure to check out Beagle Coffee Company’s website to learn more about their mission and keep up-to-date on the progress of this exciting specialty coffee lab. In their own words, Beagle Coffee Company exists for the ‘honest search for the perfect cup of coffee’ by staying ‘dedicated to pursuing the best in coffee roasting, education, and equipment development.’  Help us give Derrick Wessels and Beagle Coffee Company a huge ‘THANK YOU’ by following them on their exploration into refining the machinery and processes that produce our ever-coveted cup o’ joe!

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