Latte art: a momentary, delicious technique
Some baristas have become true artists, making sure the coffee they serve is not only delicious but also looks impressive. Latte art has become a widespread technique that provides momentary designs using milk foam. Eden explores what is latte art and all the secrets to this technique.
What is latte art
Latte art is the technique through which baristas are able to create original designs on a cup of coffee’s surface. In order to do this, the barista works over an espresso using milk to generate a beautiful latte, although it can also be done in a cup of macchiato, mocha or cappuccino. This might be a barista’s most visible work and has become a powerful trend in coffee houses around the world.
Barista is an Italian term to name a specialist in making espressos and cappuccinos. Besides, a barista will ideally be able to determine coffee’s characteristics, including flavour, sourness, consistency and scent.
Latte art started being popular during the 1980s, when only the most reputed artists could work stylistic miracles using milk foam. Nowadays, this is a widespread technique - and anyone who’s practised enough can end up making decent designs. However, this not only depends on aesthetics, as there are still some secrets kept around this technique.
The 3 secrets to practice latte art
In order to excel in latte art, every barista should be an expert in managing the following three elements. Thus, creativity and a special artistic sensibility are not the only necessary ingredients, and those interested in learning this technique should focus on:
One of the secrets of latte art consists of transforming milk into an emulsion or foam. Achieving a microfoam texture is essential in order to then shape it into different designs, where espresso is the canvas and foam is the brush and the paint. In order to accomplish the best foam, milk temperature must be controlled - ideally using a thermometer - and the stainless steel jug and coffee machine must be ready.
Once milk foam is ready, it’s time to get coffee ready: the perfect emulsion will result from choosing a great variety of coffee, a fine grind, natural roast and high quality water - ideally spring water.
There are two ways in which designs can be made using foam. The most popular is latte art, or free pour, in which milk is poured on to espresso in order to create the design. There are 4 basic elements in order to do this correctly:
- Position: it’s important to pour milk starting from the center of the cup, as doing it from the sides might make foam lose its structure and consistency.
- Height: the milk flow must sustain a particular width (not wider than shoelaces) and height (around 2 inches over the coffee).
- Flow: milk must be poured slowly and smoothly, so that the foam layer is not broken.
- Control: mastering the three previous elements means having control over milk. Then, constant practice will do the rest.
Pouring milk while taking these elements into account, the barista can define patterns by moving his wrist. Some of the most common designs include a rosetta drawing or a heart.
Etching is yet another technique for latte art. It’s considered to be one of the easiest, as it’s not necessary to master the pouring in order to perform it. In this case, cocoa or cinnamon are poured on the foam, using a template. This also includes chocolate and it’s common that designs are finished using a small stick.
How to get started in the latte art world
As described above, baristas use complex techniques to create latte art. However, it’s possible to start by using templates for cappuccino, which are available on many online shops or create your own using cardboard or poster board. It’s a great idea to personalise these designs, using a logo, a name…
Both in a professional environment - for instance, in companies where coffee breaks are frequent - and personal spaces, creating a delicious cup of coffee decorated using latte art can be useful and surprising.