parallax

LATTE ART GUIDE

Pouring latte art is kinda like dunking a basketball. Tremendously awesome, but not totally necessary.

To be a professional baller (and a professional barista) means spending years honing your craft, obsessing over fundamentals, practicing over and over again the essentials. Only when you've really mastered the fundamentals does it make sense to try to jump up there and slam one home. Without basic skills, a slam dunk (or latte art) is all flash and no substance. Before blasting out a five-tiered tulip, you've got to master the basics of espresso — grinding, dosing, tamping, and extracting — and milk steaming.

Having said that, pouring many-tiered tulips (and dunking a basketball, tbh) is really, really cool. As baristas, we want to give our customers a great experience. Just like basketball players putting on a show for the fans, we want to wow our customers with a gorgeous visual experience. Throwing down a pristine piece of art shows our talent, care, and attention to detail.

But that's enough talk. Let's get out on the court — er, espresso bar.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

  • Cold whole milk (whole milk has a higher fat content that makes ideal milk texture for latte art)
  • Espresso
  • Stainless Steel Frothing Pitcher
  • Bowl-shaped Latte Cup

STEP 1

PREPARE & STEAM MILK

Prep milk pitcher by filling it with cold milk up to about a pinky’s width below the spout of the pitcher.
Pro tip: Start steaming while the shot is extracting.

Aerate your milk (that high-pitched hissing sound) until the temperature of the milk is the same as the temperature of your hand. (Your hand will be holding the pitcher, so you'll be able to feel it.)

Then, submerge the steam wand about 2-3 centimeters below the milk's surface, creating a whirlpool motion — this gives the milk necessary texture. When the pitcher is almost too hot to touch, that's about 140 degrees — the perfect temp for properly textured milk.

STEP 2

TAP & SWIRL

Knock mug and pitcher against the counter once or twice to remove bubbles (a technique called “grooming”). Gently swirl milk in the pitcher until it has the texture and sheen of wet paint.

Hold the cup and the pitcher parallel (on the same horizontal plane) and the nozzle of the pitcher should point straight through the center of the mug.

STEP 3

CREATE A BASE

Tilt cup 20 degrees toward the pitcher. Begin pouring with a high, thin stream. You want the milk to “dive” beneath the surface of the espresso. Too fast and the milk will “wash out” the espresso — too slow and the stream will sputter, creating bubbles in the crema.

Keep pouring until the cup is between half to two thirds full. This builds a solid base for your art.

STEP 4

BEGIN DESIGN

With the cup about half-full, stop pouring and bring the spout close to the surface of the drink. It should nearly be touching the liquid. Pour quickly while rotating the cup away from the pitcher. A white dot will begin to appear in the drink (this white dot is your friend). The dot is the base of all latte art designs.

STEP 5A

HEART DESIGN

To pour a heart, continue pouring into the center of this dot until the drink is almost full. For added texture and a wider heart, slowly wiggle the pitcher from side to side. When the cup is nearly full, raise your pitcher up and pour a thin, high stream once again (just like at the start). “Pull through” (towards the thumb of your mug hand) the design to sculpt the finish.

STEP 5B

TULIP DESIGN

To pour a tulip, create your white dot, then stop pouring. Step away from the latte. Not really. Just pull your pitcher away from the liquid for a second.

Then, right behind the first white dot you just made, dive back into the liquid, creating another white dot. Stop again.

Create another white dot. And so forth. You could go on making little white dots but eventually the drink would overflow and spill everywhere, so finally, you'll make a heart out of your last white dot, and finish it off just like before — by raising your pitcher, and pulling through the middle of the design cutting the design in half, creating symmetrical leaves.

STEP 6

PRACTICE

Perhaps the most important step, just keep practicing. Pour lattes over and over. Pretty soon, the motions will become second nature and you’ll be pouring stunners almost every time. (Hey, we can’t be amazing every pour!)

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