Most baristas I encounter want to run before they can walk when it comes to latte art. They think attempting to pour something pretty with poorly textured milk will do the job. But the reality is, your cappuccino must also taste phenomenal. Here is a step-by-step guide to ensuring your flat white or cappuccino not only looks exquisite, but satisfies the consumer’s palate.
When it comes to latte art, there are so many variables to consider. Credit: Wolfpack Coffee
Where to Begin
A good place to start is working on the things you can control:
– Always ensure you have clean and cold milk pitchers.
– Always use fresh cold milk (4-7°C), the colder the better but not frozen.
– Invest in a milk thermometer, it will help you with controlling the temperature. Milk should be stretched/aerated until approximately 35-40°C and steamed no more than 65-70°C. You will only need to use the thermometer until you are able to temperature control by touch.
– After you have used the jug to texture the milk ensure you wash, rinse out and chill it again.
– Ensure you purge the steam wand before use to prevent any water going into your milk.
– Ensure that the steam wand pressure is consistent and has very little moisture (too much water effects the quality of your textured milk).
Ensure you are working with a quality machine brand and that you are comfortable. Comfortable? This might sound strange but you need to find your own rhythm and style and just go with the flow. The key to great coffee is consistency, in everything that you do.
The Milk Texturing Technique
From the past seven years I have spent training baristas, I have managed to develop a technique that achieves the most effective and consistent results. As I have previously expressed, consistency is key, whether you’re an amateur, novice, latte artiste or a coffee pro. See the next few pictures which demonstrate the technique.
Industrial machine and home machine – jug holding techniques – be comfortable but remember, always focus on maximum ‘vortex’. Credit: Sean Robertson (home barista)
The Pouring Technique
Before you attempt your first latte art, perfect the texture of your milk. To ensure that you get smooth, silky textured foam, don’t rush the pour, give the milk the time it deserves and ensure the surface of the milk is beautifully polished. While pouring, focus on the tilt of your cup and your jug, ensure that both are straight and there is a steady stream of milk. The speed of your pour and the angle at which you hold your cup can determine a good or bad pour. Start at a height of about 5cm and end up right against or just above the cup. Begin your pour a little slower and then speed up and drop the jug about half way through the pour, depending on the pattern you are pouring.
When learning to pour, remember to try not to wiggle at all, simply focus on controlling the speed, angles and heights from which you pour.
Remember start off at a height of 5cm for the first section of your pour.
Drop down and increase speed – keep it simple and watch a shape form on the surface.
Credit: Shaun Aupiais
All baristas have the potential to create the most delicious tasting and creative latte art, but it requires a lot of energy and skill which come with time, patience and experience. Remember, when you’re starting out, that less is more and stick to the basics. As baristas, we have the opportunity to pour a little bit of our personality on the surface of every coffee we make. But remember, each person has a slightly different expectation of what makes a great coffee.
For me, taste is key but I do suppose beauty is in the eye and the taste of the beholder.
Edited by M. Whiting.
Feature Photo Credit: Wolfpack Coffee
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