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How To Make Latte Art

Posted by Erwin Bryan Young on

It’s official: latte art is hot, trendy, and popular.

What exactly is this trend? Latte art is a method of preparing coffee by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso. This results in a pattern on the surface of the latte. Or, if you wish, you can create latte art by working in the microfoam of an espresso and drawing in the top foam.

The result is judged by the difference in light and dark colors, its definition, and how crisp the edges of the design are.

Not surprisingly, this type of art is difficult to create consistently. And, of course, it is quite short-lived.

Interested in trying it for yourself? How can you do it and get the results you want?
Keys to Creating Latte Art That Impresses

While a class in latte art can certainly help, you can learn by trying it on your own at home instead. Here is what you will need to begin:

• a pitcher with a pointed spout
• whole milk that is very cold and in a cold pitcher
• espresso
• an espresso machine with a powerful steam wand
• a 14-ounce latte cup and thermometer

Why whole milk? Because it is easier to work with — its foam is more flexible. Nonfat milk produces foam that is stiffer. And the milk needs to be cold – in a cold pitcher – so the milk can aerate properly.

To achieve the kind of foam you require, you need to create a whirlpool in the pitcher. The vortex motion gives you even air distribution. The result: smooth, tight foam.

You create this perfect foam by doing the following:

1. Pour cold milk (34 degrees F) into a steam pitcher.
2. Refrigerate the pitcher for 30 minutes (use the thermometer).
3. Place a steam wand near the bottom of the pitcher.
4. Allow the milk to reach 100 degrees F, gently spinning the milk.
5. Continue to heat the milk to 155 degrees F, then shut off the steam.
6. After the milk settles, swirl it vigorously to create the whirlpool effect.

Once you’ve got your foam, it’s time to make some art!

The way you do this is simple – but definitely not easy. Designs are created by waggling the spout of the pitcher in the foam. This will make zigzags that you can try to manipulate into a particular shape. What kind of shape?
What Kinds of Latte Art Can You Make?

Ultimately, you can do whatever you want. There are, however, a number of common designs that artists favor. Some of these include:

• Hearts. Relatively simple, hearts are easiest to make using thick milk.

• Rosetta flowers. These take more skill than hearts and should be reserved for more advanced artists. Traditionally they go in lattes, where the milk is somewhat thinner.

• Swans. Few latte designs are more beautiful than swans, but unfortunately, they are easily ruined. There’s simply little margin of error in creating them.

• Geometric patterns. When done well, these can be quite impressive, but like swans, geometric patterns are easily ruined. They are generally better left to more advanced baristas.

You can also embellish latte art with chocolate.

Latte art only lasts briefly – we’re talking mere minutes here – as the chemistry of the coffee and the microfilm is not stable. The foam becomes dry, and then eventually turns to liquid milk again.

But regardless of how long it lasts, latte art is something special. It’s a fantastic way of honoring and celebrating the coffee – and impressing your friends and loved ones.

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