#latteart, am I right? You could spend hours scrolling endlessly on social media, watching the best of the best pour rosettas, stacks of hearts, and even swans! Latte art is one of the coolest, craftiest parts of the specialty coffee experience — and did we mention, extremely Instagrammable?
Latte art is, of course, very aesthetically pleasing and adds to the sensory experience of coffee drinking, but also takes many hours of training and practice to perfect. Technique and coffee quality are both key components of a successful pour.
What are some of the key aspects of latte art?
A well-extracted espresso shot! Necessary for laying the base of the pour, steamed milk incorporated into the espresso shot creates a medium-brown backdrop necessary for gorgeous, defined latte art. Without proper espresso texture, steamed milk will not have a viable environment to form within.
Properly textured milk! The creation of microfoam — steamed milk that is dense, silky, and free from large bubbles or visible foam separation — allows for milk to be easily poured into latte designs. Properly steamed microfoam enhances the flavor and mouthfeel of a coffee drink. Factors such as milk type, temperature, steam wand positioning, and barista skill all play a role in creating the desired texture. Achieving "microfoam" usually only requires a few moments of aeration- where the steam wand is unsubmerged from the pitcher. At our cafe, we teach to use auditory feedback to know how the steaming is going. Properly steaming milk sounds a lot like paper tearing as opposed to silence or loud hot bubbles forming.
Pouring technique! Different pours are used to create different patterns in latte art. The most common designs include hearts, rosettas, tulips, and swans. Each design requires precise control of the milk pitcher and consistent pouring speed to manipulate the flow of milk and form the latte art. Regardless of the pattern you are pursuing, the 3 steps to your pour are as follows: a) lay your base-- pour high and away, approx 5 in from the cup, in circular motion until the cup is 3/4 full. b) with the pitcher tilted toward your hand with the pitcher, bring the nozzle of the pitcher close to the surface of the latte. slowly add circle-like white dots in the cup in a straight line. You should see clear separation between the white foam and brown base of the drink. c) Add these white patterns in sequence, lift the pitcher 3 in from the cup and pour slowly from close to far. When done correctly, the end design will create something like the picture above :)
Dedication to craft is a quality very apparent in the specialty coffee world, and latte art is often the final execution of a well-crafted coffee. Also, research shows that our visual perception impacts the way we experience food and drink, so you may even experience a tastier latte!