Latte art is not only a literal art form, but it is also a science. It takes a lot of practice to perfect the ability to make latte art, and requires you to fail—and fail again—before you finally get it down. Once you understand the basics, you’ll be able to get more creative with your coffee art drawing. You can go from pouring a simple heart, to mastering some of the most complex designs and images. Everyone starts out as a beginner (and trust us, every barista will fail at the first attempt), but the truth is that even the most experienced latte artists stumble over themselves sometimes. Offering latte art in your coffee shop not only adds a nice touch to your menu, but makes for free marketing (we all love a good latte Instagram shot, right?).
Images of coffee art require the same steps and considerations, whether you’ve been pouring lattes for three minutes, or three decades. So, whether you’re a beginner, an expert, or something in between the two, the same advice applies to everyone.
How to Make Latte Art, Depending on Your Skill Level
Beginners and experts alike need to focus on three different factors when pouring latte art. These three important factors are: the temperature, the texture of the milk, and your pouring speed.
The temperature of your milk is important, because it can really affect the quality of the milk when you are done steaming and pouring your art. Almond milk is a perfect example of milk that is altered by inappropriate temperatures. When steamed at too high of a temperature for too long of a time, almond milk starts tasting sour. If you’re opting for an almond milk, invest in a quality barista blend. It won’t be as easy to pour as regular milk, but it’ll be easier than your average store-bought almond milk. Plus, you might as well have it in your inventory, as a soon-to-be-expert latte artist.
When frothing and steaming milk, start out by using a thermometer to gauge the temperature of your milk. Once you start becoming well-acquainted with how the right temperature feels against your hands, you can get rid of the thermometer, and just follow your instinct.
The texture of your milk depends on how long the milk is aerated, and how the air hits the milk as it leaves the steaming wand. You want to create a spiral motion, but it can feel funny to angle your steaming wand at first.
Milk texture will make or break your latte art. When foaming milk for drawing latte art designs, you want to create microfoam, which means that the milk has incredibly small, almost undetectable bubbles. These bubbles result from properly steaming your milk.
Remember to keep the steam wand just beneath the surface of the milk, aerating the milk for roughly 20 seconds. Then, slowly drop the steam wand deeper into the frothing pitcher until it is resting just above the bottom of the pitcher.
The milk should be moving in a fast, circular motion. Avoid creating massive air bubbles in your milk by never letting the steam wand leave the milk during the steaming process.
Speed of Pour
Imagine you are sketching a design or image of your desired latte art on a piece of paper. When drawing, you go slow. You take your time. Your sketching pencil moves gracefully, as you bring your vision to life. Pouring latte art is similar; you want to be mindful with your pour.
The speed of your pour is very important in the quality of your end result. If you want something beautiful, take your time. It is art, after all. Start with a simple latte art heart, or research more complex coffee art images, and sketch your favorite, mindfully, on a piece of paper. With practice, you might be able to make one of these images in a latte!
Latte Art Advice for Beginners and Experts
Before you even begin to pour, it is essential that you get a straight milk jug. This is something that can be easily overlooked, but can make or break your latte art results. Barista Hustle has a great video that helps you understand how to find a jug that is both vertically and horizontally aligned.
A latte art heart is the best starting point for beginners. The latte art heart is not easy, but it is the simplest design to create. Other latte art designs, like rosettas and swans, require a higher skill set. But once you get the latte art heart down, you can venture off and try something more complicated!
When you first start pouring any kind of latte art, whether a heart or something more intricate, we recommend using regular, whole milk. Whole milk not only aerates very easily, but it is also the least complex milk to pour for latte art. If you would prefer to use an alternative, then oat milk is the second best type of milk for practicing latte art. It is thicker than other kinds of alternative milks, and can make for a strong base. Since oat milk imitates dairy milk in many ways, oat milk is the best alternative. Regardless of alternative milk you use, it is imperative you select the “barista edition” of it; barista blends have additional additives that thicken the beverage, making them ideal for the heat conditions used in latte making.
Understand that you will find it redundant to repeatedly pour latte heart after latte heart, but this is how the greats are made. Speaking of the greats, expert latte artists should review the most basic steps of pouring latte art from time to time, too.
After all, you once started from scratch. You learned about everything that makes the foundation for perfect latte art, so it always helps to remind yourself of what you learned in your early stages of latte art pouring.
Latte Art Fail: The Most Common Latte Art Mistakes
Moving Your Entire Arm Instead of Softly Flicking Your Wrist
When you first start out and begin practicing your latte art skills, it feels most natural to move your entire arm when pouring the milk into the espresso. What you eventually come to learn, with time and practice, is that the less movement you invoke, the more sophisticated and beautiful your latte art will be. Fast motions not only make for funny coffee art images, but you’ll also create a funny latte art fail without even trying.
Think about pouring milk as being a movement that only utilizes your fingers, your palm, and your wrist. You will feel the muscles in your forearm working as you pour the milk, but you don’t even actively use your forearm. Everything from the wrist down plays a key part in pouring latte art, and any other part of your arm that feels the burn is just a side effect.
You want your wrist movements to be as controlled as possible. It will feel funny at first, but feeling funny is just something that comes with the territory. Pouring latte art does not emulate anything else that you do on a daily basis, so the funny feeling is natural. Anything you are not used to doing will make you feel funny, but trust us when we say that you’ll adjust in no time.
Focus on staying calm and focused as your pour latte art. Your body will fall in line, and you’ll be amazed at the progress you’ll make when you go from using your entire arm to controlling the motions with your wrist alone.
Not Being Intentional When Practicing Latte Art
Paying attention to your thoughts as you pour latte art is part of learning to rely on your wrists and hands, but it also plays a key role in the outcome of your latte art. Once you reach expert level, you’ll be able to pour latte art like you’ve been doing it your whole life.
And to be fair, people who can mindlessly pour perfect latte art designs have literally been pouring lattes for their entire lives. Like learning to play the piano, figuring out how to pour latte art requires serious concentration, and if you aren’t in the moment, you are going to fall off track.
A lot of beginners overlook the importance of being intentional and precise when they first start out with latte art. It looks so effortless when skilled baristas pour beautiful designs in the espresso, so it can’t be that hard, right?
Well, not quite. Pouring latte art becomes second-nature over time, but in the beginning, it demands intention, and undivided attention. And, like we said, perfecting the practice requires you to fail. Fail first, be mindful about why you failed, and try again.
Taking images of your latte art can help you track your progress over time as well. Looking back at previous coffee art images is great for drawing conclusions about your process; learn from these images, and let them inform on how to better improve.
Aerating the Milk Improperly, and Damaging the Texture in the Process
One of the most important building blocks of latte art is the milk that you are using to pour the art in the first place. In order to pour latte art, you have to first understand how to steam milk perfectly every single time. If you are just starting out, know that it is totally expected that beginners will consistently prepare inconsistent milk.
It sounds like a tongue twister, but hear us out. Frothing milk to perfection every time is a talent that baristas only obtain after constantly steaming milk incorrectly. So, you have to froth milk the wrong way before you figure out how to do it the right way, not to mention how to do it the right way on a consistent daily basis. Always remember that microfoam is the goal.
When milk is aerated for too long, there are so many bubbles that the latte art is bound to come out very faded and blurry, if at all. On the other hand, not taking the time to aerate milk for a long enough period will leave you with milk that is far too thin to create latte art with. Figuring out how to aerate milk for latte art a learning process, but if you don’t master it before attempting latte art, you will end up pouring a funny latte art fail.
Where to Buy Products for Practicing Your Latte Art
They say that practice makes perfect, and this colloquial phrase still rings true in the context of latte art. But, the thing about practicing your latte art is that it often requires that you run through milk carton after milk carton. When working on your coffee art drawing skills, each practice run requires a shot or two of espresso, as well as roughly eight ounces of milk.
The more you practice, the more milk and espresso beans you will need. This can become very financially taxing if you aren’t getting the best deals on your espresso beans, dairy milk, and alternative milk. Thankfully, Barista Underground has an impressive inventory of all-things related to coffee supplies. For those of you who are practicing their latte art abilities, turn to Barista Underground today! You are sure to find everything you need for practicing latte art, all for an affordable and reasonable price point.
Perfecting your latte art skills can already be a stressful process, especially if it’s taking a longer time than you hoped (or expected!) it would take. Don’t let latte art be a financial stressor, too. Barista Underground has you covered.