Video Overview | How to Pour Latte Art

Video Overview | How to Pour Latte Art

Jul 2nd 2020 Written by meredithlangley

Have you ever wondered how the barista gets those lovely delicate layers of designs to show up on top of your favorite drink? The secret is all in the milk! In this video guide, we will cover step by step how to pour latte art, starting with steaming technique and basic building block, moving up to more complicated pours. With time and practice, you'll be well on your way to becoming a latte art master!


Hey, folks, this is Mike Greene with Prima Coffee and today we're talking about how to pour latte art. Latte art is one of the most recognizable hallmarks of specialty coffee and it's something that you probably see at every cafe that you visit. So long as you have a way to make espresso and a way to make microfoamed milk, it's something that you can do yourself as well, so today, we're going to talk about what you need and what you need to know to be able to be successful. So, let's start with what you need. First, you're going to need a way to make espresso and steamed milk. I'm using this E61 espresso machine, it's going to be plenty sufficient for me to do what I need. So long as you can make espresso and make steamed milk at home, you should be totally fine. If you don't have a way to make steamed milk at home, they do offer other sorts of microfoamers out there that you might be able to utilize but today we're going to focus specifically on steaming. You'll also need a steaming pitcher with a nice pouring spout. The spout should be able to get you nice and close to the level of liquid in your cup and that's going to allow for you to make nice bright designs. And lastly, you'll need a cup, preferably with a nice rounded bottom to it. That rounded bottom is going to help your milk flow the way that it wants to and that's going to make your even and symmetrical designs much easier to execute. You can absolutely pour into more square-shaped vessels but this will be the easiest one I think to be able to control.

So now that you know what you need, we can talk a little bit about what you need to do and the first thing you can focus on is what you're doing with your body. So, we can start with holding the pitcher. When you're holding your pitcher, you want it to be a nice comfortable grasp and not something that's too death grippy. So, it should have a little bit of motion to it, it should dangle just a little bit. For me, mostly it dangles on this one finger right up in the crook of the handle there. The rest of my fingers, they are really just there to support and stabilize. Aside from that, when I'm pouring, I want to make sure that I've got my body nice and square. I'm going to use my shoulders as a square to try to keep all of my angles nice and even to pour symmetrical designs. You also want to keep your arms down at your sides, hands in front of you so that you can see easily what's going on. This is going to make troubleshooting a lot easier and it's going to make it a lot simpler for you to be able to pour nice, consistent symmetrical images on top of your cups. The next variables for you to think about before we start pouring are going to be your pour speed and your proximity to the cup with your pouring pitcher.

These are going to be important because they're going to help define whether or not we're simply mixing these two liquids together or actually using them to create forms. As you pour from any sort of height above your cup, a couple of inches even, we're going to simply be mixing these two liquids together, which is how we're going to start. But the velocity that gravity provides as you're pouring will pull your milk straight through and it will mix with your liquid espresso and get you up to the level that you need to be to make your form. Once you get down nearer with your proximity, that's going to allow for you to finally start drawing white lines on top of your brown coffee crema. You want to be, I would say, within a quarter of an inch, maybe half a centimeter to really be successful in making nice, clean looking, bright designs. Once you're down here, your pour speed will also affect the way that you're drawing on top, there, so a slower flow rate is going to give you more dramatic and bold strokes with your milk, whereas a faster flow rate is going to give you more delicate designs, it'll give you the ability to be able to sink parts of your design if you'd like to. So, you can play around quite a bit with pouring at a fast flow rate or a slower flow rate to try to accomplish what you're looking for.

So, the last mechanic that we can talk about is going to be your spout placement in relation to your cup. The tip of your spout is always going to define the top of your shape. So, if you expect that you would like to put a heart in the center of this cup, you'll need the tip of your spout to actually be above the center of the cup as you're pouring nearer to the lip that you are pouring from. If you were to pour dead in the center with that, you're going to pour a shape that only fills up the bottom half of the cup, so always keep that in mind when you're figuring out where you're going to be placing your shapes. A center design should have a spout tip placement that relates to it, whereas if you want to pour deeper in, you can go deeper in if you need to. Now that we've talked about all of the motions you need to know to execute really beautiful latte art, we can talk about how you would practice it at home. I like to use just water in my pitcher and my cup to make sure that all of my motions and mechanics are still feeling really, really great. So, I want to start by making sure that my posture is good, that I have nice square shoulders, my elbows are tucked in. And then, we're going to just go through trying to get nice, even steady flow rates, so pouring up high and slowly is going to be an important one to learn, coming down and pouring near to the level of liquid and quickly is going to be important as well.

And you can also use this as a way to practice what the actual flow of pouring latte art feels like and that looks like starting with your groomed milk, tilting your cup here to make a nice deep pool of espresso, pouring into the deepest part of the liquid that you can high and slow, coming down as your liquid gets to the lip and speeding up, level out your cup and finish your design. Go ahead and take some time, practice that as often as you need to. If you're feeling as though you're maybe falling out of the habit or falling out of practice, this is always the best and cheapest way for you to re-familiarize yourself with the way that you need to be pouring. Now we can talk a little bit about how to steam milk for latte art because we're going to be looking for a pretty specific texture. So, the first thing that we're going to need is milk in our steaming pitcher. I'm steaming whole dairy milk today because that is what's typically used in many cafes and it's often going to be the easiest to produce this texture with. If you're using an alternative milk or plant-based milk at home, you can still absolutely accomplish what we are working on today but we do recommend that you look out for a barista series style of whatever milk you love because those are typically formulated to steam and foam most similarly to whole dairy milk.

So, with my milk, I want to make sure that I'm using the right size pitcher and the right volume of milk so that I'm not wasting unnecessarily. The right volume of milk is typically going to be between the bottom of your spout line here and about halfway between there and the bottom of the pitcher. Being in this range is going to make sure that you have plenty of space to be able to stretch and expand your milk and give it a really solid vortex motion without spilling all over the place. And if you have too little milk in here, you're not going to be able to control it with your steam wand or stretch it appropriately the way that you mean to. So, we're going to make sure that we have all of that ready to go. Once we get started, I'm going to go ahead and purge my steam wand, here, and then make sure that I nest it at a pretty good angle into my steaming pitcher. One of the things that we're looking for is a really strong vortex motion really early on, so in order to accomplish that, I'm going to tuck the steam tip sort of back into one of the corners a little bit and be off center from the center of the pitcher. This is going to make it easy for us to get that vortex motion right away and I'm going to make sure that the steam tip is just below the level of liquid so that we're introducing our air really early on, giving us plenty of time to get it fully incorporated before our milk is too hot. So, why don't we go ahead and look at what all of that looks like.

First, I'm going to purge out the steam wand there. I want to make sure there's no water that's collected in the steam tip that would get in the way or make us have a sluggish start to the beginning of our steaming. And then I'm going to make sure that I've got that good angle, I've got the steam tip just below the level of liquid and I'm off center so that we create that vortex right away. Then, I'm going to go ahead and turn the stream wand on all the way and begin introducing small sip of air really early on and you can hear those. And I'm looking for the milk to grow in volume by about 20% or so. Depending on the sort of drink that you're making, 20% to 30% is really the range that you typically want to be in. You're looking for a final temperature right around 140 degrees. I'm going to wipe my wand down and give it a good purge there at the end just to make sure that no milk solids build up on the outside or inside of that wand. Finally, we want to make sure that we're going to groom our milk which taps out any little bubbles that might be left there and we're going to give it a good swirl, which is going to incorporate all of the microfoam back into the liquid and give us a nice homogeneous milk to be pouring with and it's also going to create a really beautiful shine on top that just makes everything look the way that you're going for. And as I swirl this around, it should be just about the consistency of wet paint, so it should have some thickness to it but still be plenty fluid, something that you can control and manage to execute some of those more complicated designs.

So, now that we have some milk, let's talk about what you do with it. So, for these examples, I'm going to show you with water what the mechanics look like and then I'll actually demonstrate with milk and coffee so that you can see how it all comes together. The first thing that we're going to learn how to pour is going to be a basic dot right in the center of our cup. This will be the basis for a lot of the latte art designs that you see on a regular basis and it's going to be the simplest way for you to be able to practice at home and make sure that you're getting your symmetry and your contrast and your placement all where you want for it to be. So, the way that we're going to execute this is going to be, just like every other time, starting with a tilted cup, starting with a high and slow pour rate just like that in the deepest part of our liquid. Then we're going to come down and speed up while we level out our cup and we're going to make sure that our spout is placed in such a way that the dot ends up in the center. So, let's see what that looks like when we're actually live working with coffee and milk. And I'm going to do my very best to make sure that my espresso and milk are both done at just about the same time. This is going to make latte art the easiest it can be for us because both steamed milk and espresso start to break down pretty quickly after you're done producing them.

So, keeping them both as fresh as can be is going to tend to give us the best result. And every time, I'm going to make sure that I'm wiping off this steam wand and purging it. Give that a swirl to make the color homogeneous. I'm going to give this a good swirl to make sure that my microfoam and my liquid milk are all together and then we're going to pour this dot. High and slow into the deepest part of the espresso, I'm going to come down and speed up and let that dot bloom on its own. The next mechanic we're going to cover is going to be how to cut through your designs, which is going to be the way that you finish a lot of designs that you make. This one is deceptively difficult only because you need to make sure that you're getting a nice clean cut and you're not dragging a big thick line through anything when you don't mean to be. So, the way that we're going to accomplish that is going to be by making whatever shape that we're making, so I'm going to mock pouring a dot here and as I get close to finishing, I'm going to raise up and cut straight through. It's that small lift up that's going to give you a clean finish to your design as opposed to giving you something that looks a little less intentional. So, now we can see what the cup looks like with espresso and milk and we're going to go ahead and start by pouring just the basic dot, a high and slow pour, coming down and speed up, make your dot there, lift and cut through, and we've made a heart.

The next mechanic we'll need to cover is the wiggle and the wiggle is going to be a process of learning how to make really small motions here in your hand and not making any big dramatic motions with your arm, wrist, or elbow and those small motions are going to help you create more consistent wave patterns. So, what we're really looking for is... and I'm going to get rid of this water actually, a nice motion just a little bit like this. And what that should ultimately look like when I put the water back in here is that we're going to get a nice smooth pendulum motion with our liquid. So, having too aggressive or too much motion as we are pouring would make it real sloppy, make it real erratic, and make it something that we are not ultimately looking for, whereas if you get a nice flow going on, you can trust that it's going to end up looking nice and flowy in the cup. So, putting the wiggle into practice, we can add a little texture and flair to the heart that we just poured. So, we'll start again by pouring that dot, a high and slow pour here, come down and speed up and I'm going to wiggle to get that pendulum motion, lift up, and cut straight through. Now we've got a nice textured heart.

The last technique that we're going to need to cover is going to be how to stack shapes or push them into one another. This is really the process of deciding where your placement is going to be and, in some instances, how your design is going to end up looking. So, in order to stack designs together, you will start with this high and slow flow rate and you will make your first design and place it wherever you mean to place it, then you'll stop your flow entirely and start again, placing your next design where you mean to place it. If you want to push designs into one another, this is a great way to get big, expansive wraparound shapes or just to reconstruct sort of the way that you've already designed things, you can do a similar motion starting with one dot and then using the flow of milk and motion in your pitcher, you can then push a dot into another dot. And you can do this repeatedly until you run out of space in the cup, but it's a fun way to add all kinds of texture to your designs that you wouldn't have otherwise. So, we can push and stack to make designs like tulips. So, I'm going to pour one dot as my base, push another dot inside of it for a wraparound effect, and then place a heart right on top where I cut through to make my three-tier tulip. Again, high and slow, come down and pour my first one right there, I'm going to push one in for a wraparound and place a heart right on top.

So, we've covered all of the fundamentals that you'll need to know and some of the basic designs that you can make using those fundamentals. Now, we'll talk about some more advanced designs that we can get into using the same skills, starting with a heart in a heart. For this one, I'm going to put my first dot right in the center of the cup here and then I'm going to push a second dot inside of it, getting the first to wrap all the way around, eventually using the cut to drag both of them into that classic heart shape. For another fun heart pour, and one that's going to be a little less symmetrical than our others, we can pour a wave heart. For this one, we're going to use the wiggle to paint a wave around the outside edge of the cup using asymmetrical spout placement and then at the top, we're going to draw a big dot and cut through to make our wave... to make our heart. So, I'm wiggle, wiggle, wiggle all the way around to the top here and draw through to make my heart. We can use the wiggle motion and a moving pitcher to make a classic rosetta design as well. To do this, we'll start with our spout tip just exactly halfway through our coffee with a nice wiggle and high flow rate to make a blooming base. Then, we'll slow down the flow rate a little bit and move our pitcher back, continuing to wiggle to draw our leaves and leave them in place as we move back toward the top of the cup. Once we get to the top of the cup, we can leave a big dot right on top and cut all the way through for a classic rosetta. For another look at a rosetta style pour, we can use a much slower flow rate and a much wider pendulum motion to paint a slosetta.

So, for this one, we'll start with the center of the cup, pitcher tip placement to start making our base and then draw back and out wide to draw the leaves, circle around and through to make our slosetta. Putting all of our fundamental techniques together can produce some really fun, more advanced, pours. For this one, I'll pour a ripple base tulip, stack some tiers into it and on top of it, and finish it all off with a double heart. So, I'll start with a really aggressive tilt in my cup and center placement for my first tier, push to wrap around, and then push my second heart in to that first one on top. For another fun asymmetrical design, you could take a crack at a swan. This one is going to start just like a rosetta does with a pretty fast flow rate and a wiggle base right in the center, that will bloom out to become the swan's body and we'll draw back just like the rosetta to make the feathers for the wing of the swan. Then, we're going to cut through on the inside of those feathers, plant a dot at that base so that we can draw up and away to make the neck and then a heart for the head. All right, folks, that's it for latte art. Hopefully now you've got a little understanding of the fundamentals, the mechanics that you need, and some methods that you can use to be able to practice on your own. The truth of the matter is latte art is really difficult and it takes lots of practice even for professionals. So, don't be discouraged, be sure to take your time, breathe deeply, and think through what you're going to pour before you pour it. That's it for me here, I'll see you all next time. Thanks for watching.

Jul 2nd 2020 meredithlangley

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