Articles From Whole Latte Love

12 Steps to Latte Art

Posted: 12/20/11

Example of Latte ArtConsidered by coffee enthusiasts around the world as the crowning touch, latte art is steadily emerging as the ultimate ending to a perfectly prepared espresso drink. For many years, barista competitions were limited to simply skills and techniques, but as we learned from professional barista Chris Deferio, latte art tournaments like the Millrock Latte Art Competition are becoming extremely competitive.

“Millrock itself is getting to be more and more prestigious,” Deferio said regarding the well-known competition. “It’s gaining in notoriety and is becoming a norm in the lexicon of the coffee professional.”

Latte Art by Chris DeferioThe Millrock Latte Art tests the best baristas in the United States not only on the visual aspects of their drinks, but also on the taste and aroma. A café latte finished with a free pour, as it is called in the world of latte art, is visually stunning and captures something incredibly special, according to the publicists of the competition.

“Latte art is like the professional ethos of a barista,” Deferio said. “Like a handshake after the deal is made.” Deferio explained that latte art is really like a guarantee made by the barista that the drink is great – in every way.

Tools of the Trade

To start working on this finishing touch, you’ll need the following items:

Twelve Steps to Steaming and Pouring like a Professional Barista

  1. To achieve the velvety textured milk that David Schomer discusses in his instructional video Caffé Latte Art, start with fresh, cold milk. Experts suggest using whole milk or milk with a higher fat content to create a denser micro-foam. The combination of cold milk and a cold steaming pitcher enables you to heat the milk for a longer period of time – lengthening your opportunity to create the perfect steamed milk for beautiful latte art.
  2. Begin by pouring a bit less cold milk into the steaming pitcher than will fill your latte cup. Keep in mind that the finished product will increase in volume by 15 to 20%.
  3. Begin steaming the milk with the wand at the bottom of the pitcher.
  4. Once the milk has reached 100º F, begin to raise the wand toward the surface.
  5. Continue steaming, keeping the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk. Note: never break the surface once the initial steaming has begun.
  6. While steaming, angle your pitcher and position it to spin the milk clockwise. Continue steaming steadily until the milk reaches 150-160ºF.
  7. Turn off the steam wand, but do not remove it from the milk until the air has stopped flowing. This will prevent any unwanted large air bubbles from appearing.
  8. Hopefully you have created a dense micro-foam with no bubbles, but if they have formed, swirl the milk vigorously or knock the pitcher on the counter several times in an attempt to eliminate them.
  9. Now brew a fresh crema-topped shot of espresso directly into a pre-heated cup.
  10. Steadily, begin pouring the steamed milk into your espresso cup - maintain a consistent speed and remember to pour gently. This pouring technique is commonly referred to as a free pour.
  11. To create the famed Rosetta or fern-like pattern, angle the cup toward you while pouring the milk toward the bottom of the cup. Once the cup is 1/2 to 2/3 filled, begin swaying the pitcher back and forth using your wrist. A fern-like pattern of foam will appear on top of your crema.
  12. Once the milk nears the top of the cup, draw the milk straight back through the center of the fern pattern to create a stem.

Latte Art photos courtesy of tonx.

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn the techniques from a professional, it’s time to practice, practice, practice! Remember – Rome wasn’t built in a day. With a steady regimen of latte art practice, you’ll be pouring beautiful masterpieces into every latte you make in no time.