There's nothing better than a good looking coffee to start your day. But there is a reason why the Mona Lisa wasn't made from milk and espresso. Latte art can be very hit and miss. From our many years in the Melbourne coffee scene, we're here to break down our top seven tips for better latte art...
Tip 1: Know Your Medium (Milk)
First, let's order the milks from easiest to learn to more difficult. Full cream milk is the easiest to start with because of its ability to froth well with higher lipid content, soy milk is also a good plant milk to try art with, followed by oat which is only slightly less forgiving as its lower in lipids and proteins.
Almond milk will certainly be more of a struggle for this reason too, which is why we see oat milk as a more popular milk in cafes. Whilst soy is an easier milk for art, it often curdles in espresso and has a distinct taste that some coffee fans do not like.
So if you're brand new to latte art, give full cream milk a try first if you serve that, or oat milk if you're looking for a plant based milk.
Tip 2: Heat Milk Carefully
When steaming the milk, we want to be holding the jug in two hands (one supporting the base of the jug) and keep the steam wand around 1cm below the surface of the milk. As this level rises with froth building, slowly bring up the wand to keep this 1cm distance throughout the frothing process.
You'll want to froth the milk until the jug becomes too hot to touch at the base of the jug, which is when it's time to pull the jug away from the wand and give the jug a big swirl to smoothen any large bubbles.
The milk should look silky here, if you're still seeing large bubbles, continue to swirl and give the base a big tap with the bench beneath to knock back any dry foam.
Tip 3: Get the Consistency Right
Starting with the right kind of froth is crucial to the final finish. Milk that is too frothy will just pile on top like ice cream, whereas milk that is not frothed enough will instantly dilute the espresso and fall flat.
We're looking for a froth consistency that looks like wet paint. See what we mean below:
This consistency is thicker than freshly poured milk but still behaves as a liquid and mixes well with the thickness of the espresso.
Tip 4: Set up Base Camp - The Crema
When you set up your espresso shot, you'll see the vibrant colours of the freshly brewed espresso pour into your espresso glass. You often see a paler top on the espresso towards the end of its pour, known as the crema. This can sometimes have a marbley finish - which we know LOOKS awesome- but we'll need to get rid of that!
Once brewed, pour your espresso into your serving cup and gently swirl to evenly distribute the crema. We're looking for a smooth evenly coloured crema to start as a nice consistent base to add milk to. Not only will this help your artwork flourish, it will also provide a more balanced flavour in the end. A win-win!
Tip 5: Froth. Swirl. Pour.
Your frothed milk should be poured as soon as it's looking ready. Letting the milk sit after it has been frothed will cause the milk to separate into two layers, froth and thin liquid - which will ultimately kill your latte art.
Tip 6: Speed Matters
When it comes to pouring, there are some big indicators of how your pouring speed is going...
1) If your milk comes crashing out and your cup is just looking white milk to the top, you likely poured too quick - your crema doesn't seem to have met your milk.
2) If your crema rises up to the top and you've lost your milk you've probably poured too slow.
Play around until you're able to see your white shapes of milk coming through at the end of your pour and you'll know you've hit the speed sweet spot.
Tip 7: Get S L O W at the end
It really sucks when you've tee'd everything up really nicely, only to rush the ending and spoil the art. When it comes to end of your pour, go nice and slow to finish off the shapes you're pouring. And we really mean s l o w.
Lifting up the jug a little higher to finish your masterpiece will allow a thinner trickle of milk to really add fine detail to your shape and define your art.
Why put all that work in only to go wrong here!
Bonus Tip: Have fun trying!
So that's it, our handpicked top tips for getting better latte art. Of course, it's not something you're likely to get right from the start so stock up on some milk and keep trying. We loved learning and we hope you do too!