In today's world, everybody is a coffee snob. More than 83 percent of the nation drinks coffee. And a high percentage people have brought the coffee bar home with them.
And, why not? It's not like it costs a fortune to buy an espresso machine anymore. Buying a machine that extracts good espresso and allows you to steam milk will set you back no more than $100.
You don't have to hook it up to your plumbing and it's ready to go in minutes.
So, now that you're set on putting down a chunk of change on your future career as a barista, you're missing something.
You're enough of a coffee snob that a latte without art is no latte at all. (Or, you just want to impress your friends and you have no idea how.)
Well, you're in for a treat. We know exactly how to make latte art and we're steaming hot and ready to teach you.
How to Make Latte Art: It's All About That Milk
You're not going to be able to make a proper latte without a steam wand attached to your espresso machine. There are some espresso machines that just brew your espresso. We're not in for that today.
Make sure you have a machine that has a quality espresso wand attached. Preferably the whole wand will be metal. With a plastic wand tip, you are more likely to see it warp and gum up with milk.
Keeping your wand and tip clean is essential to steaming milk correctly. And steaming the milk correctly will make or break your attempt at latte art.
Clean Your Wand and Tip
Clean your wand and tip before and after steaming your milk. We recommend you keep a cloth ever present near your espresso machine. If it's nearby, you'll be less likely to get lazy.
Pulse it. Run steam through it quickly a few times to get the crud out of the system. Oh, and a word of caution: steam is really hot. Have you ever seen The Bone Collector? Yeah, we don't want you to end up like that guy. Angle it away before pumping the steam.
Steam it Riiight
Make sure you have a milk frothing pitcher before you begin. If you try to froth in anything else, you won't get it right. You need metal. Metal allows the temperature to seep through. You will become a natural at knowing the right temperature by the feel.
In something ceramic, this isn't possible. Plus, if you bang ceramic on the counter, it's liable to break. Metal is hard to break.
(Unless you're The Hulk. Don't be The Hulk. This is espresso, not The Avengers.)
Fill your pitcher to just below the spout with milk. The more fat the milk has, the easier this will be. Don't try to use any milk except mammal milk for your first latte art. Some alternative milks do work, but they're harder to froth.
Put the surface of the milk near the wand tip and turn on the steam. Lift the pitcher until the wand submerges and you hear very little hissing. Remember when your mom told you not to blow bubbles in your milk? That's right. Stop it! You've gone too far if you're getting bubbles.
Look into the pitcher. Is it swirling? It shouldn't be too turbulent in there. Just a nice smooth whirlpool.
As the temperature rises, slowly bring the pitcher up. Keep that smooth whirlpool going and back out a little if you hear the milk chug-a-lugging.
As we pointed out earlier, the fact you are using a metal pitcher allows you to feel the temperature rising. We recommend you start out with a clip-on thermometer at first. You will eventually learn how to tell the temperature by feel.
Between 140 F And 180 F is The Ideal Temperature to Make Latte Art.
Any higher and you'll scald the milk. Any lower and you won't have the right separation.
Now, once you have the right temperature, turn off the steam. Take the pitcher off the wand. Tap the pitcher firmly and flatly on the counter. You are dispersing any incidental bubbles you made.
If you did the frothing correctly, you should have thick foam integrated with the milk. If you didn't do it correctly, you will have a completely separated layer of foam. No worries. Just swirl the milk in the pitcher. You will do better next time.
It won't be impossible to use "improperly steamed" milk. Your late art will just be a bit harder.
How to Make Latte Art: The Pour
Here is where the art comes in. Frothing the milk is craft. It's all about getting it right. Making cool latte art is really an art form.
But basic latte art is not that hard to make.
You will have the easiest time making latte art with a round bottom cup.
Once you become a pro at the steaming, you will learn to multitask like a true barista. But for now, your milk can sit for a second without separating too much.
Pull the espresso into your round bottom cup.
Now, there is a technique to pouring steamed milk. But first, you need to add a little bit of the milk to the espresso and swirl it.
After swirling, start pouring very slowly. Raise the pitcher up as you do so. You want to be a good distance away from the cup.
The gravity of the pour at a decent height will incorporate the milk into the espresso. Your espresso should look creamy brown.
Pour in a circular motion to ensure a perfect mixture.
Now it's time to learn how to make latte art. Your pour should be reaching the second half of the cup. You will notice the milk stopped mixing.
You're at the foam. Start on the side farthest away and pour while drawing the pitcher inward.
Do this slowly. Once you reach your side of the cup, keep pouring and race the pour across to the other side.
This is how to make a heart shape.
Now, if you want a leaf, simply shake the pour as you draw the pitcher inward. Then make the stem with your cutting motion.
Conclusion: Practice, Practice, Practice
With a little bit of perseverance, you will make perfect leaves and hearts on your lattes.
Don't hesitate to experiment. And if you have any great tips on how to make latte art, share them in the comments below.
And, as always, keep brewing!