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What Is Latte Art? How It Works and How To Do It In 2022

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Art has a plethora of mediums, all worthy of notation.

When it comes to the world of coffee, lattes are always the most photogenic beverages you can purchase at a cafe.

As the need for coffee continues to rise, more people desire to become professional baristas.

Consequently, any good barista knows that latte art does not necessarily need to be perfect.

Earning the ability to successfully create presentable latte art that is both attractive and easy to produce is almost a must.

So let’s delve into what makes for good latte art and why it’s significant to learn.

What Is Latte Art?

Latte art is a relatively new concept in the coffee world.

In essence, this art form comes to life when making coffee with a milky or creamy microfoam.

The microfoam is fine and thick enough to create beautiful, white masterpieces against the brown coffee.

Latte art is not easy to complete successfully and usually involves specific mechanisms.

You can create numerous designs once you set aside enough time to practice, making your cup aesthetically pleasing in appearance and flavor.

History of Latte Art

Given that the art of making microfoam designs in a latte is a reasonably new activity, the history of latte art is pretty brief thus far.

Over the last few decades, latte art began to exist in many different forms worldwide.

Many note that the manifestation of this coffee-based artform came to fruition in Italy before reaching other regions of the globe.

In the United States, latte art was born in the 1980s and 1990s in Seattle.

The co-founder of the Seattle-based coffee shop Espresso Vivace, David Schomer, is often recognized as the man who brought latte art to America.

Schomer popularized specific techniques for producing the perfect texture for microfoam.

Fundamentals of Latte Art

Latte art is more than just a couple of white-colored shapes and designs drizzled over plain coffee.

It’s crucial to consider these details to make your latte art stand out.

Height

Once you finish creating your microfoam, you must pour the creamy liquid from a certain height to get the best results.

Raising your cup of microfoam around two to three inches directly above your espresso is ideal.

The height you pour your cream from is super valuable because it affects the shape of the liquid stream.

Position

After you establish an excellent height to pour your microfoam from, you want to aim directly for the center of the espresso cup.

If you concentrate on the center of the cup while you pour the milk foam, the cream has enough room to push itself to the outer edges of the mug.

If you start too close to the rim of the espresso cup, the milk will pool around the edges and ruin the crema-based design.

Flow

Controlling your milk flow when creating latte art is another crucial factor after you prepare your coffee.

You don’t want the milk to splatter everywhere as it enters the cup.

It would also ruin the crema if you allow it to dribble down rather than maintaining a smooth stream of velvet foam.

You ultimately need to make sure not to over or underfill your pitcher of milk foam.

If your pitcher doesn’t hold the perfect amount of crema, it will throw off your flow.  

Control

Technically, having a shaky hand when producing latte art isn’t a bad thing.

The act of wiggling the pitcher as the milk microfoam flows into the espresso cup allows you to create unique shapes in the coffee.

You can adjust the speed at which you wiggle the crema pitcher to illustrate wide and short foam waves.

A slower wiggle provides you with broadened foam waves, while a faster wiggle offers finer and tighter lines and waves in your espresso.

Other Important Tips When Doing Latte Art

Now that you have the four fundamentals for successful latte art creation, consider these supplementary tips as you commence your coffee craft:

  • Make sure to swirl or tap out your espresso to remove any air bubbles formed in the coffee. Those air bubbles often ruin the appearance of your latte art.
  • Coffee without caffeine is going to have a different appearance. Make sure you practice your coffee art using the type of coffee you prefer to drink.
  • Maintain a tight grip on your milk foam pitcher and your espresso cup while pouring.
  • Tilt your espresso cup and maintain a medium height (not too low or high) between the pitcher and the cup.
  • Your milk flow should closely resemble the shape of a standard pencil.
  • Use bowls rather than mugs. Mugs and cups with a cylinder shape tend to make even an expert’s latte art look a bit wonky.

What Kind of Milk Do You Use For Latte Art?

Steaming your milk is an absolute must for your latte art to have that crisp look.

There’s only one way to make steamed milk foam worthy of latte art.

Whole milk is the best type of milk to steam if you don’t plan on using half and half or creamer.

Skim milk and low-fat milk are also steamable, but the product habitually manifests way too thin for professional latte art.

You should also try whole milk that is pasteurized.

Pasteurized milk is raw, creating a much thicker steamed milk foam.

How To Do Latte Art – A Beginner’s Guide

So how can beginners take a successful first step in their coffee art journey?

You can be most successful in your latte art craft by categorizing each step into phases.

Phase 1: Making the Perfect Foam

Many novices struggle to make the perfect milk foam.

The texture of your foam should be neither too thin nor too thick.

Some experts describe the perfect consistency as “melted ice cream.”

Many baristas use espresso machines that possess a steam wand.

Place your pitcher of milk under the steam wand, frequently touching the bottom of the pitcher until it feels warm.

You can achieve this texture easiest with full cream or whole milk.

Phase 2: Pulling the Espresso

Pulling the espresso is a term to describe the simple act of pouring the espresso liquid into its cup.

You want to pull the espresso shot in about 30 seconds and proceed to swirl or tap your mug to release additional air bubbles on the surface.

Phase 3: Pouring the Milk and Espresso Art

When pouring the milk to create your espresso art, don’t hold your pitcher too high or low.

You also don’t want to be hesitant in your pouring technique because it leads to unnecessary shakiness.

Make sure the milk flow is constant and only stops when you tilt your pitcher back in the upright position.

Excessive droplets of crema can break your lovely design.

Common Latte Art Styles

Now let’s consider a couple of the most common latte art styles that make your craft easier to enhance.

Free Pouring

Free pour latte art is simply the act of pouring the steamed milk directly from its pitcher into the cup of espresso.

You only use the pitcher and the espresso cup to create your latte art.

Nowadays, people will use additional tools or utensils to manipulate further and sharpen their espresso art, but this does not qualify as free pour latte art.

Etching

Etched latte art typically involves more than just the milk foam pitcher and espresso cup.

When you etch something in your latte art, you often use the end of a spoon or another sharp utensil to sharpen the lines.

Many old-school professionals in the latte art world tend to turn their noses up to this technique.

However, the method receives notoriety and popularity as latte art becomes prominent.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now keep in mind these frequently asked questions while you perfect your latte craft.

Is Making Latte Art Hard?

Like any category of art, practice makes perfect.

The hardest part of creating latte art is making sure you perfect the texture of your microfoam.

It’s also a struggle to get your hands on all the right tools needed to begin your craft.

Does Cup Shape Matter For Latte Art?

Using a bowl-shaped cup over a cylindrical mug will be ideal.

The bowl shape allows your art to stretch without scrunching up and disfiguring too quickly.

How Do You Make Latte Art Milk?

Latte art consists of steamed milk and a cup of espresso.

To get started, you pour the milk with a smooth and constant flow into your cup of espresso, creating waves and lines that are both aesthetically pleasing to look at and delicious to consume.

How Do You Make Latte Art Without A Machine?

If you don’t have an espresso machine or steamer handy, all you need is a coffee pot to make your espresso, a whisk or handheld frother;to froth your hot milk, and something to heat that milk up.

What Kind of Milk Do You Use For Latte Art?

The best milk to use for latte art is whole milk.

You can also use half and half or full cream milk.

While many can make lattes using low-fat or skim milk (often referred to as a “skinny latte”), it’s much harder to create art-worthy foam with milk that’s missing some necessary fat.

In Conclusion

Wrapping things up, you now have all the necessary information to create your perfect latte art.

Whether you plan to become a professional barista or want a side hobby for your free time, try picking up latte art!  

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