Latte Art Becoming a Real Barista Latte Art Becoming a Real Barista

With a stop by your local coffee shop you suddenly find yourself in awe. All that you ordered was a latte, but what stands before you is a true work of art. It appears that the barista painted a fern on top of your cup. You’d like to drink it, but it seems such a shame to destroy such a beautiful picture. What you’ve just encountered is called latte art, and it is the mark of a true barista. You’ll be pleased to know that with a little practice (and the right tools) you can become a real barista too. In this article I will teach you how to make latte art that will stun and amaze your guests.

The Latte Artists Tools

Before we get started with teaching let’s talk about what you’ll need. You are going to need an espresso maker (obviously). Choosing the best espresso machine is actually quite important. Most commonly a semi-automatic espresso machine or an automatic with a powerful steam wand will be chosen. The fully automated espresso machines won't work in this case since they froth the milk and incorporate it into the drink themselves. You will also need:

  • Freshly Ground Espresso Coffee – Freshness is very important to get that full bodied espresso with nice crema.
  • A Steam Pitcher – Required for holding the milk while steaming, and allowing you to pour it just right.
  • Fresh Milk (4%) – Low-fat milk produces harder bubbles. Use fresh whole-fat milk for the best results. Keep the milk quite cold before using it.
  • Wide Mouth Cup – As you gain experience, cup selection likely won’t matter. To start though, a 6 or 12oz wide mouth cup will be your best choice.

Latte Art

With the tools and ingredients in place now it’s time for a little magic. Perfecting the skill of latte art will come with practice (likely lots of it), but the basic steps are as follows:

  • Take enough milk for one latte and stretch it from cold (warm it quickly so that it increases in volume) with the steam wand. Keep the steam 1cm above the surface of the milk until it reaches body temperature (about 80°F or 27°C).
  • Insert the steam wand deep into the milk, and swirl the steam pitcher counterclockwise. Continue this until the milk reaches about 155°F, and then turn off the steam.
  • Get your espresso pouring
  • As your brew is filling into your cup, swirl the milk vigorously in the steam picture. If you see any bubbles, tap the pitcher on the counter a few times. Swirl the milk for about 25 seconds.
  • Pour the milk directly into the center of your espresso. As the foam begins to rise back to the surface, begin to pour more slowly. When the cup is half full, start shaking the pouring milk back and forth while moving the picture towards yourself. This will create that signature flower/fern pattern that is quite common.
  • You can vary your pattern by changing the way you move the steam pitcher as your pour. Want a heart? Shake it back and forth, as before, but don’t move the picture towards yourself.
  • Enjoy your beautiful creation.

The key to making great latte art is practice. You may want to use water instead of milk for your first few attempts. After you do put in a little practice you’ll likely find that latte art really does bring out your inner barista!

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