5 Easy Tips That Will Make Your Latte Art Flourish
Latte art is quite often the most attractive thing for a new barista, and it is an excellent gateway to the exciting world of coffee. It is easy to start with, but to master it, you need a lot practice and determination. Here are my tips that helped me a few years ago!
1. Make your milk silky and smooth
Steaming milk may seem hard, and people usually tend to think that it is the hardest thing when making espresso based drinks. I’d like to disagree. In my opinion espresso is a lot harder and more complex. I’m actually quite convinced that I won’t ever completely understand espresso. But making that silky smooth milk is easy and with few tips learned in seconds. There are three things you need to get right:
1. Position of your wand
We’re looking for a huge whirlpool in your milk pitcher that will suck all air bubbles and make your milk smooooooth. Only with smooth milk you’re able to make latte art. Position your wand in the middle of your pitcher and lean your pitcher just a little so that the wand is third of the way of the side of the pitcher. This position will guarantee a huge whirlpool!
2. Right amount of air in the milk
Once you hit your wand on, you should hear a sucking sound. If you don’t, lower your pitcher just a bit until you do. Making latte art with really cloudy or foamless milk will be really challenging, so you need to have a perfect amount of air. With cappuccino milk (a bit more foam) I usually try to stick with basic hearts and tulips. With latte milk (just a bit of foam) you can make everything: hearts, tulips, rosettas, swans, caffeinated zebras etc.
3. The temperature for your steamed milk
Perfect temperature for steamed milk is between 55 and 62 degrees Celsius. Some might say that for latte art perfect temperature is 50 degrees, but I don’t recommend doing so low temperature drinks for customers if you don’t want them to hate you. Biggest problem latte-art-wise is if you go over 70 degrees.
What is the problem with “boiled” milk? The heat starts to change and denaturise the proteins in the milk, which will cause lack in texture and in flavour and in sweetness too. It is almost impossible to have microfoam when the milk is heated above 70 degrees. Stay in between 55-62 degrees and educate your customers if they want their latte “really hot”.
2. First the base, then the art
Contrast is the thing people usually forget when making latte art. Without contrast, even your perfectly poured swan will look like a mess. That’s why you should pour first really gently in a way that your milk goes through the crema. The dark brown mixture will be your canvas where you can draw, or in this case pour, your art.
I tend to use two pouring heights when I pour latte art: 5cm and 0,5cm from the surface of the drink. The 5cm distance I use when I want to make the base/canvas for my art. I start pouring to the middle of the cup and pour in spiral moves all around the cup. I will continue this until my cup is 40-70% full depending on what kind of pattern I’m going to do. The cup’s surface tension will raise the fuller the cup is. If you want to make big patterns, you need to start early so that the surface tension won’t prevent the pattern from spreading.
3. Get closer – lean your cup
Once you’ve made the canvas, it’s time for the art. To make the art, you need to get really close to the surface (~0,5cm). To get really close to the surface, you need to lean your cup. Otherwise, if you’re keeping your cup straight, you’ll either be too far or you need to pour really fast when your pattern won’t most likely be controlled. Once you’ll get close to the surface, you’ll notice that you are able to pour quite slowly and there is no rush. Tulips will just keep on appearing. Trust me. They will.
Also, one thing to consider is the way you’re keeping your cup in your hand. Are you holding it from the bottom, side or handle? Find the most comfortable position to yourself. Pouring latte art should be comfortable and fun.
4. Film yourself and others
This helped me a lot. In the moment of pouring you’re not able to analyse what went wrong, but if you film yourself, you will be able to improve your skills. See if you are close enough to the surface or should you go close to the surface earlier. Have fun filming each other with your working buddies when it’s quiet in your café. Feedback always takes you forward.
5. Have determination and practice
This is probably the most important tip! There is a saying that it takes 10 000 hours to become a top athlete. It might not take as long to master latte art, but certainly it will require determination. Don’t worry if you’re not able to make a heart after one week’s practice. It took me almost half a year. And to become quite good in latte art took me several years. The number of pours will definitely transfer into beautiful latte art.
I hope these tips will help you! If you feel like you’re stuck with something, you can always send us pm in Instagram (@baristainstitute) and we will help you! Be creative and have fun!