FOR coffee lovers, your regular fix is one of those things that you look forward to every morning, evening, or any other time of day. And with so many parameters affecting how much you get to enjoy your coffee, many people consider making a good shot of espresso an art in itself.

If you like your coffee with milk, you must have come across a different kind of art: latte art – the fascinating patterns made in the foam topping your espresso drink. Ever wondered how to make latte art in your own kitchen?

Regular milk on coffee won’t work!

Baristas claim that there are two key ingredients for making a great cup of latte: a fresh shot of espresso with an adequate amount of crema and properly textured steamed milk.

The reason why you can’t make latte by simply adding regular milk to coffee has to do with both science and physics.

Ever wondered how to make latte art? Easy step by step guide to start making your own latte art today! Share on X

To make the ‘microfoam’ that is poured into your cup, baristas usually add steam to milk and then rapidly heat it. This scientific process is called “denaturing” as it caused the physical properties of milk to be altered.

Milk is essentially composed of sugar, fat, and proteins. When it is steamed, the fat and the sugars in the milk break down into smaller, simpler sugars that make the milk sweeter.

Once your textured steamed milk is ready, the next step is pouring it into your cup of espresso, which involves some physics. The barista pours the steamed milk in such a way that the milk drains first and finishes with the foam in order to create the design.

. Other mistakes people make when making coffee art

Besides adding regular milk to regular coffee, there are a few other mistakes that beginners make when pouring latte art, like:

Pouring the milk too slowly: This causes the milk to separate in the pitcher, resulting in less-aerated milk pouring into the beverage and more-aerated milk remaining in the pitcher. This not only makes pouring latte art difficult, but also gives you an under-aerated beverage.

Lifting the pitcher away from the beverage surface when pouring: When you raise the pitcher away from the surface of the beverage, it causes the milk to dive into the crema rather than resting on top of the crema to form your art.

Keeping the spout of the pitcher too close to the beverage surface: This has the opposite effect, as the milk tends to skim the surface of the beverage, so it doesn’t create a pattern.

So, now that you know the key aspects of pouring to make good latte art (height, position, flow) you can try to pour your own cup.

How to make latte art

There are three basic phases of making latte art:

  • 1. Making the perfect foam
  • 2. Pulling your espresso
  • 3. Pouring the milk.

Phase 1. Making the perfect foam

Pour Cold Milk

First, you need to pour enough cold milk (at 1˚C or 34˚F) for one cup into your steam pitcher. Here are a few tips to do this:

Place the pitcher in your freezer or refrigerator for about 30 minutes before using. A cold pitcher will allow you more time to steam the milk, which will reduce the risk of scalding. This step will also make the cream stiffer and easier to handle.

Use a liquid thermometer to help you know when to remove the milk from the steamer to avoid scalding. You should try to heat the cream to just below boiling for a specific amount of time. Waiting too long will cause scalding.

Turn on the Steam

Second, put the steam wand at the bottom of the pitcher, turn on the steam, and raise the wand slowly until it is close to the tip of the milk. As the milk continues to rise, lower the pitcher so that the steam wand stays about 1 cm away from the tip of the milk. Don’t let the milk over stretch or form any big bubbles. This is important to create smooth, velvety milk rather than the foam that rests atop most espresso drinks.

Spin the Milk

Third, let the milk reach 37˚C or 100˚F and place the steam wand deep into the milk, preferably on the side of the pitcher, such that the pitcher can spin counterclockwise. Spin the milk lightly counter-clockwise while the steam wand remains near the bottom of the pitcher.

Turn on the Steam

Fourth, maintain the motion until the milk heats to between 65˚C and 68˚C (150˚F and 155˚F), and don’t let the foamed milk reach 71˚C (160˚F). Make sure to:

Watch the tendency of your steamer and adjust appropriately. Some steamers heat the milk so fast that you need to remove the milk from the steamer about 10˚F before it reaches the limit to keep it from scalding.

Aim for small, light bubbles referred to as microfoam, as opposed to big bubbles. The objective is to obtain light foam without compromising on the body.

Shut the Steam

Fifth, shut the steam and remove the thermometer and wand from the milk. Clean them with a wet cloth.

Swirl Swirl Swirl

At the end, give the milk a few seconds to settle so it can have a more velvety texture, and then swirl it vigorously. If you notice any bubbles, pound the pitcher on the counter multiple times before continuing to swirl for 20 – 30 seconds.

Phase 2. Pulling the Espresso

You should start running the shots as soon as you foam your milk. Each shot of espresso should contain between 7 and 8 grams of ground espresso.

Use 30 – 40 lbs of pressure to tamp down on the portafilter.

You can try pressing down on a bathroom scale to determine how much force you need to apply before going to the portafilter. However, for most adults, this is about as much force as you can manage when pressing down on one hand.

For extra freshness, consider using a burr grinder, as it lets you control how fine/coarse the espresso grinds become

Next, pull the espresso shots. The ideal shot should have a little cream in it, as well as the typical coffee flavor. Here are some tips:

The ideal shot is pulled within 21-24 seconds. The espresso tends to be sweeter when pulled close to 24 seconds.

The amount of strength exerted when tamping down on the espresso grounds directly affects the length of the extraction. Apply just enough force so the espresso extracts slowly and evenly. If you don’t use enough tamping pressure, the espresso will extract too fast.

After this, you can pour your espresso shots into a coffee mug or other container with a big mouth. Don’t let the shot sit for more than 10 seconds before adding milk.

Phase 3. Pouring the Milk and Espresso Art

As mentioned before, you need to be mindful of the height, position, and flow when pouring your steamed milk. Here are a few tips:

Pour Milk into EspressoStart the pour a little high until the cup is nearly half full, and then lower the pour so it’s close to the crema to make the foam appear.

Move from high to low and make sure to pour at a steady speed.

Hold the cup at an angle and pour steadily. Pouring too fast will break the crema apart while pouring too slow will cause the foam to be left behind.

When the cup is nearly half full, start pouring to the back of the cup, moving the pitcher from side to side using gentle wrist movement.

. To create leaf or rosetta pattern:

Pour the milk as you move the jug from side to side until the foam appears on the surface

Continue with this motion until a pattern appears

Latte Art Rosetta ShapeWhilst moving sideways, slowly begin to move the jug backwards as well

When you reach the end of the cup, move the jug in a quick straight line through the pattern.

Quick side to side movements will result in a rosetta with many leafs, while slow movements will create fewer, thick leaves.

. To create a heart pattern:

Pour the milk side to side in one area of the cup.

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Continue until you create a big circle of crema

Move the jug slightly forward and continue pouring on the big spot of foam until the cup is nearly full

Finish your heart by pouring in a quick straight line forward.

. To create a flower pattern:

Pour the milk about 2-3 cm away (1 inch) from the bottom

Latte Art Flower Shape

When the cup if half-way filled, shake the pitcher gently back and forth while slowly moving backward.

This will cause the flower design to move forward and fill the cup

The design comes out best when shaking your wrist back and forth rather than your hand

. Final note

You may also consider embellishing the design with powder, stencils, and milk foam, though many people prefer to leave their latte art in its natural form. You may try embellishing with chocolate to create an outline on the edges of your foam, or writing a word. To write a word, you simply dip a pointy object in the cream of your drink, and then add some stained cream to draw your design.

Now you know how to make coffee art. However, it will take time and practice to master pouring latte art.

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