How to Make Latte Art At Home
Sep 09, 2022
Tap into your inner barista, channel in that espresso bean knowledge, steady your hand, and let’s make some expert latte art right from the comfort of your own home. Now, please note that this is not something you will magically master overnight or even in a few weeks (unless you are practicing multiple times a day). This is a process that takes most café baristas weeks and months to master and there are competitions for latte art within the barista community. So, take your time and understand that there is a learning curve and process with anything, and latte art is definitely one of those things.
Latte art is indeed an art form. It is the art of pouring your milk into the espresso to form a vivid picture with the milk and espresso together. While professional baristas make extremely intricate and detailed latte art — we are going to take things a little slower. Let’s touch on some of the basics of latte art and how to make a simple heart.
The key to detailed latte art is all in the foam! Steaming your milk with a milk wand to create a microfoam is the largest detail in being successful with your art. While those standalone milk frothers are wonderful for day-to-day use, you will be needing an espresso machine with a steaming wand to successfully create the microfoam. Steam wands create a smooth surface that is similar to wet paint and allows the person pouring the milk a little more control while they pour.
So what is microfoam you ask? It is a velvety, smooth, and shiny milk that has little to no bubbles on the top layer of the milk. If it has larger bubbles, tap your milk pitcher on the counter some to see if the bubbles fall in with the rest of the milk (if not, you may need to start over with your milk steaming.) It may seem really easy to make microfoam but don’t be fooled — it can take some people months to correctly steam milk. So don’t give up, it is well worth it in the end.
What You Need
You really only need three pieces of equipment for successfully making latte art:
- An espresso machine with a steam wand (the higher the quality of the machine the better coffee you will get.)
- A metal milk pitcher with a temperature stick to make sure you don’t burn your milk.
- A 6-8oz mug for optimal latte art. The size of the cup matters. If you have poured correctly, you should run out of milk at the very last pour into your cup.
Other than those three things, the rest is all skills to acquire and perfect.
Tips and Tricks
- Use whole milk for latte art! While alternative milk is great, they don’t froth the correct way that is needed to make latte art. If you decide to use alternative milk —master whole milk first.
- Make sure the milk is cold and fresh. The warmer the milk the less time you have to aerate your milk for it to heat up.
- When in doubt, tap before you pour. Sometimes those air bubbles just need a little adjustment rather than steaming a whole new pitcher of milk.
Frothing The Milk
Start by pouring about 6-8oz of whole milk into a metal milk pitcher. Place the steam wand just below the surface of the milk and bring the wand to the side of the pitcher until it is about ½ an inch from the side. Tilt your pitcher slightly so at least one of the aeration holes emerges from out of the milk and allow it to stay there for 5-8 seconds. This is the aerating process that creates your microfoam. If you can tilt your pitcher in the correct direction and allow the air to hit the milk correctly then the milk will begin to expand as it begins to foam.
After 5-8 seconds, submerge the wand back into the milk and allow the milk to heat up to the desired temperature (170ºF is the perfect temperature for a latte). While the milk is heating up, tilt your pitcher to a 45º angle and allow the milk to have a spinning vortex to it to gradually help the microfoam stay silky.
After the temperature is 170ºF, remove the milk from the wand, give the milk a stir in the pitcher, and tap on the counter a couple of times to remove the bubbles or air pockets. You want it to be nice and even all across the surface. Now — it’s time to pour.
Pouring Your Milk
Once you have your microfoam steamed, swirl the milk around a couple of times and tap on the counter to even out all of the bubbles. Begin to high pour in the middle of the mug until the milk has reached about ¾ of the way full. After the mug has filled, begin to lower your pitcher and get closer to the mug. Pull up the pitcher and sway back and forth (this is optional if you want even more detail to your heart). Stop pouring your milk and then quickly cut through the middle of the beginning of the oval by bringing it all the way to the bottom of the mug. This will create an elongated line through the middle that will make your heart and....viola! You just made a heart latte art.
If you didn’t get it on the first try — it’s ok! Practice makes perfect and no one gets this one on the first try. There is a process and learning curve that, slowly and efficiently, will make your milk pouring precise and exquisite! There is a reason there are latte competitions because this is no easy feat as it is most certainly an art. So, if at first you don’t succeed then try, try again. Good luck future latte artists!