Latte art is a magical creation that turns hot drinks into something truly special. Learning how to make latte art is easy once you build a strong foundation.
Not unlike working with wet paint, you'll have an easier time creating latte art once you truly understand the ingredients you're working with. Your first step is to get a few basic tools: an espresso maker, a milk frothing pitcher with a tapered spout, and some milk. We'll also touch on useful tools such as spoons and latte art pens as we go along.
Ready to turn your blank canvas into a beautiful illustration? Let's take a look at the foundation of latte art and how you can start improving your craft.
Make sure you watch the videos we've embedded into this article for further explanation regarding each step.
Who Introduced Coffee Art?
Like most iconic details of mainstream coffee culture, you can trace coffee art back to Seattle. Coffee art is thought to have been made popular by David Schomer from Espresso Vivace.
This isn't to say he was the only person getting playful with coffee designs! Latte art was starting to take off as early as the 1950's and 1960's. American coffee culture has emerged in different waves, with today's most recent wave revolving around sustainability, artistry, and accessibility.
Learning how to make latte designs is easier than ever with the advent of the Internet.
How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Latte Art?
All art forms come with their unique hurdles. Latte art is no different. How long it will take you to get good at latte art depends on how much you practice and what resources you use to learn.
Cafe workers are able to nail latte art in just a few weeks due to working with coffee on a regular basis. A homebrewer who only makes coffee two or three times a week might take a little longer as a result. While speeding up your improvement is tempting -- especially with so many lovely illustrations decorating Instagram -- it shouldn't be your focus.
What's important is how much you enjoy your latte art journey and what you get out of it emotionally and creatively.
Is Latte Art a Skill?
Absolutely. Latte art is essentially brewing, illustration, and design all in one tasty package.
Latte art is such an in-demand skill for restaurants and coffee shops it has entire fields of study dedicated to it. The Italian Barista Association regularly trains employees in making latte art suitable for a wide clientele. Just learning to pour latte art properly can take hours of training.
Is Steamed Milk Like Wet Paint?
If you have a background in traditional painting, you'll already have a head start in latte art. Microfoam is much like wet paint with its creamy and slippery texture.
We talk about the difference between microfoam and any other kind of foam here:
Whole milk is one of the best types of milk to use due to its high fat content, though you can achieve similar results with oat milk or soy milk. Almond milk and rice milk are on the thin side, but can still be turned into quality espresso art with practice. All of our tips can be applied to any milk type.
Does Cappuccino Have Art?
Lattes get all the attention in this space. What about cappuccinos? As it stands, cappuccinos have their own variations that are bound to turn heads.
Wet cappuccinos use creamier microfoam and can create elaborate works of art just like any other drink. On the other hand, dry cappuccinos are trickier due to using froth. Cafe workers tend to instead sculpt the froth like clay, creating cute creatures or nature scenery.
What are the Four Steps for Preparing a Latte Art?
It's time to get into the basics of pouring latte art! Once you get the hang of steamed milk and your pouring technique, all of these steps will become second nature.
We'll link our videos for easy reference so you're not lost. Without further ado:
Step One: Practice Your Different Foam Types
Your first step is to practice steaming with your favorite type of milk. Give yourself some wiggle room with practice drinks so you can feel first-hand how the milk fluffs up.
Microfoam is the term for milk that's been filled with air: this process is known as aeration and is similar to how ice cream achieves its fluffy texture. As a result, you don't want to fill your mug all the way to the top. Leave a few inches of space for your milk to rise.
Once you turn on your machine, make sure to submerge your steam wand in the milk fully. If it's sticking out, you'll spray yourself with hot milk. Hold the pitcher by the handle so you don't burn yourself. Keep your pitcher low so you can watch the white foam build and keep the liquid from overflowing.
When you steam milk, you'll notice the liquid will start rapidly spinning like a whirlpool. This is a sign you're on the right track! A common beginner misconception is that you can't steam cold milk. You absolutely can: while the texture won't quite be the same, you'll still notice a very creamy difference.
Step Two: Choose Your Espresso
Espresso is the building block of most cafe drinks. While using an espresso machine is the most common choice, you can also do Moka pot espresso for your latte.
We've created lists in the past for quality espresso beans, so check it out if you need some purchasing ideas. For now, stick to using just eighteen grams for a double shot of espresso. The fresher your beans, the more luscious and flavorful your crema will be. Try to get your bag roasted, opened, and used within a seven to fourteen day span.
You know you have quality espresso when the crema's color is a rich gold or copper. If the espresso doesn't fill to the top, you may need to adjust your bean quantity.
Step Three: Learn How to Start Pouring Latte Art
Now for the tricky part! This aspect will be fine-tuned with every new cup you make, so don't be intimidated.
Steamed milk is a complex creation of dry foam and creamier microfoam. You want to keep your excess bubbles at a minimum so you can achieve a texture more suited to latte art. Once you're done aerating your milk, give your milk jug a few taps on the counter to break up the bubbles.
You should do the same thing for your espresso shot: just be gentle.
Provided you've measured out your milk properly, pouring will be a simple affair. Be sure to gently swirl your pitcher in a circle as you pour so you have an even layer of all ingredients. As you bring your pitcher closer to the top, use slow movements to create a simple heart pattern.
Watch the spout and make sure it doesn't dip into the drink. You don't want to interrupt the surface and ruin your drawing.
Step Four: Try Out Your Coffee Accessories
You've done it! You've created good latte art that's guaranteed to put a smile on anyone's face. Now it's time to start experimenting with accessories that will expand your craft.
Coffee accessories you should try are the latte pen, the shaker, and the latte spoon. The latte art pen is useful for adding a finer level of detail to your art, such as branching out petals or etching in a face. The shaker is used to add a soft dusting of cinnamon or sugar. Last but not least, use the latte spoon to scoop out the thicker foam.
Learning how to make latte designs also means working smarter, not harder. Think about ways to shorten your timeframe so you can enjoy your mug sooner.
Additional Latte Art Questions
Come one, come all! Whether you're practicing home baristas or casual brewers, keep reading to learn more about your new skill.
What Powder is Used for Coffee Art?
Coffee is ripe with potential. Cafe workers today use shakers to add a dusting of various ingredients to add another delicious layer to each drink. Common powders and ingredients you can use include:
- Powdered sugar
- Powdered chocolate
- Colored sugar
Coffee lovers will love the additional detail that comes with a shaker. You can use cinnamon powder to create landscapes around your tulip or sprinkles to add a colorful border. The only limit is your imagination.
Does Cappuccino Have Art?
As we touched on above, cappuccinos have their own variation of coffee art that's worth exploring. Wet cappuccinos are easier due to their higher concentration of microfoam.
If you're a fan of dry cappuccinos, consider practicing your foam sculpting skills.
What is the Most Delicious Espresso?
While any coffee can be made into espresso with an espresso grind, try darker roasts. These options provide rich, tart, and bitter flavors that balance nicely with the mild nuttiness of milk.
Does Moka Pot Espresso Have Crema?
Your Moka pot isn't able to make crema like a classic espresso machine, but it will still be finely concentrated and well-suited to cafe drinks.
Does Pour Speed Matter?
Sometimes you'll see a brewer pour very quickly, while others will pour slowly. Depending on the design you're going for and your skill level, your pour speed will vary.
Ideally, you want faster pour speed so you can keep your milk smooth.
Should I Use Sharp or Round Spout for Latte?
While both sharp and round spouts are competent, the sharp spout will give you extra fine control.
Extra Latte Art Tips
Need a few more tips before you go? Try these techniques on for size while you're steaming milk or pouring in a flower.
Start Off With Basic Designs
You're probably tempted to dive straight into classical paintings with your next art venture. Remember that even professional baristas need a little extra practice!
It's best to start off with basic designs so you can get a handle on how the milk behaves with the coffee. Charming designs that only take a little effort to make include a:
- Simple flower design (such as a daisy or a tulip)
- Happy face
- Single letter
Start off your artistic journey by learning how to create a simple heart with our video below:
We talk about how to create a fancy little tulip design:
Give yourself several practice sessions to turn your new skill into muscle memory. Just like taking a figure drawing course, these basic skills provide the sturdy building blocks that more complex pieces are made on.
Watch our video on how to free pour latte art and do fun designs in a swift amount of time:
If you're aiming to become a professional barista, trust that your job will give you more than enough time to practice pouring foam.
Practice Once or Twice a Week
These tips are among the easiest on the list. Coffee lovers will have a great time practicing throughout the week.
The more often you use your steam wand, the more familiar your new skill will become.
Tap Your Milk Pitcher on the Counter
No, this habit is not just for show! When baristas tap the milk pitcher on the counter, they're breaking up the large bubbles forming from the aeration process.
Bubbles make it difficult for the milk to blend in with the espresso, interrupting your ability to craft a smooth and appealing design. Two or three taps is more than enough to even out your milk and start pouring.
We talk about the benefits of tapping your milk pitcher in our video below:
Just be careful not to slam your pitcher down. You don't want to break the surface and make a mess.
Practice Unfolding Your Milk
Learning how to make latte art is both a lesson in artistry and science. Have you ever seen a barista pour their steamed milk into another pitcher? This practice is sometimes dubbed 'folding and unfolding' the milk.
The second you're done steaming your milk, the liquid will start to separate and settle. This is due to the heat starting to dissipate from the surface, resulting in fat thickening and drying. To maintain that creamy texture, workers will begin pouring their milk into another pitcher to keep the milk from settling too soon.
Once you improve your speed, you'll be able to work fast enough you won't have to pour your milk into another pitcher.
Check Out Latte Art Designs for Inspiration
The best way to make latte art is to be inspired. There are a plethora of fantastic social media accounts, websites, and organizations dedicated to coffee art.
Visit @bestoflatte art over on Instagram to watch videos of skilled workers and homebrewers. They'll show you the art of the slow pour, sculpt milk foam, and give you plenty of artistic ideas.
Give Yourself a Time Limit
Want perfect latte art that's tasty, beautiful, and easy to make? Give yourself a time limit. Every spare second you use up while steaming milk makes it harder for you to make a good design.
You should start steaming your milk as your espresso shots are pulling. By the time your shots are done, you'll be ready to pour them into your cup and start creating your art. Letting your shots sit for too long will dry up the crema and whittle down the flavor. Similarly, you want to take advantage of your smooth milk texture as quickly as possible!
For the latte, cortado, and macchiato, you can make a cup of espresso art in just twenty to thirty seconds.
Maintain Your Espresso Machine Properly
Don't just shut off your espresso machine and walk away. If you want to extend the longevity of your purchase, it's important you maintain it properly.
That doesn't mean you need to disassemble it or anything. Just give your steam wand a few extra puffs to clear out excess milk and avoid clogging. Follow your manufacturer's instructions and clear out your group head after each use. Not only will this reduce clogs, it'll help your drink taste better by rinsing out stale bits.
This process will only take a minute or two after you finish your cup. Your future espresso drink will thank you!
Make Sure You Have the Right Pitcher
No one pitcher is best for everyone. Take some time choosing a pitcher design that suits your needs: take into account size, material, and grip.
The average milk pitcher uses stainless steel, which is dishwasher safe and rust resistant. They often have a tapered spout to encourage fine control when carving in a design. You can also use a pitcher with a silicone grip if you need extra control over your pour.
The most common pitcher cup size is 12oz, though you can find ones as small as 3oz and as large as 20oz.
Feeling a little more bold with your latte art? While this art form is complex at first glance, it's quite easy to achieve once you understand the science behind your tools.
The basics you'll need to create latte art is a milk frothing pitcher, some milk, and an espresso machine or Moka pot. Give yourself a time limit and steam milk while your shots are pulling. Not only will this help your milk texture stay in-tact, your drink will taste much better.
Need help choosing an espresso machine or accessories? Reach out to our live chat or send us a message. We're happy to help you create the ultimate office, home, or cafe set-up.