Ever wondered how your barista does stunning latte art? Today, we're going to be starting our journey together to learn and build the knowledge and skills around being able to pour latte art. Today, we're not going to be taking anything for granted. We're going to go way back way. Way, way back to the basics before we can even get to that fun stuff of the fundamentals and the techniques.
So, in this video, we're going to be discussing the 2 ingredients needed for latte art, as obvious as they are. Let's just define the variations of latte art and we're going to take a look at the equipment you could be using at home to create it. Then, check out some quick tips on how best to practice without wasting a ton of milk or coffee.
If you're here to learn how to pour a fancy pattern, then stay tuned as this series rolls on. Check out our video on How To Pour Latte Art:
Let's jump in straight now to beginner’s latte art for the home brewery stuff. Milk and coffee are the essential ingredients for preparing and pouring latte art. No surprises there, but we know there are many types of milk out there and coffee preparations vary wildly. If you need some background on the basics, check out our post on how to make great coffee at home. The good news is latte art is not restricted to owning an espresso machine nor having to use full cream milk, which is still the ideal scenario for good results, but there are many more options available to us every day.
Focusing on the milk component right now, using milk like oat, almond, or macadamia milk, some of these you could even be making yourselves are in a way very similar to using full cream milk and have that capacity to foam up when they get aerated. I would even recommend these kinds of milk over skim, half, and light milk for that reason.
When it comes time to practice, none of these you really want to be just pouring down the drain. A neat trick I learned back in barista school was to fill your milk jug with water. Then, add a tiny drop of dishwashing detergent into the water prior to steaming or aerating it. It is going to behave in a very similar fashion as if it were milk.
From here, you're going to be able to pour this into your coffee straight away and make latte art and you're not too concerned about pouring it down the drain either without too much of an expense other than a really clean jug and steam wand. Now, I have also discovered, you can dilute your milk with water up to 50%. This works quite well, but the obvious taste of that final product will be quite weak. It's also something of a wasteful exercise.
When it comes time to actually aerating your milk, the best option is going to be using an espresso machine as it is something that will also heat your milk up at the same time as quickly aerating your milk. There is also the Bellman Stovetop Espresso and Steamer. These have very similar functions for a fraction of the price and work excellently on the stove.
For even more budget-friendly and space-saving options, I guess we could look at a French Press. This also doubles as your coffee maker. Or the ever-popular Bialetti Tuttocrema or similar. These are designed to heat the milk up in them as well on the stove. Then, you pump this handle to add froth into the milk that way. Or my personal favorite, which is the Subminimal Nano Foamer and the Flow Tip Milk Jug used in combination. You heat your milk up in the jug on the stove, and then you aerate it using this stick milk frother.
Out of all of these above-mentioned products, it would be the Bellman 50SS, the Nano Foamer, and then any of these pump stove foamers in order from best to not so good on how easy they'll create milk that is similar to using an espresso machine. Of course, the pump stove products will do it, but it will take a little bit more work to get great results.
Next up, the coffee. An espresso coffee, in particular, is that ideal candidate for those deliciously looking lattes. Again, we don't want to be limited to having to buy thousands of dollars worth of an espresso machine in order to just brew a coffee. Essentially, why espresso is such a good candidate for latte art, is that it creates contrast against the milk. On the one hand, we've got that really white creamy-colored milk being contrasted against a rich dark-brown espresso.
For the most part, any concentrated brewed coffee is going to work to create a similar contrast in the cup. I guess then we could go ahead and consider coffee brewers like the stovetop, Bialetti Moka pot for example, or manual espresso makers like the Flair, the Rok, the Nanopresso, the Robot, the Leverpresso. Even just a really strong cup of coffee from your Aeropress is going to do the same trick.
The things to avoid are having coffee too diluted in color and also having too much of it in the cup, to begin with. It needs to only be a little bit that can make a lot of contrast, to work properly. If you consider that, there are loads of other products out there that could replace espresso or coffee, for that matter, for the same effect. Take soy sauce for example. If you don't particularly want to waste your favorite coffee beans on practicing latte art, then using something like soy sauce. Won't taste very nice, but it won't exactly break the bank either. We don't need to even be imagining it. Soy sauce and detergent now being the core of our latte art practice? It's kind of crazy.
There are 2 more things we need to cover though before we can talk about steaming and pouring. These are the milk jugs that we use and the cups that we pour into. Whilst we have spoken about the potential and expansion of our resources through milk and coffee, our milk jugs and our cups are going to be a little bit more limited.
It's about now, I'm going to say that amazing latte art that we see from baristas and cafes everywhere is not just a chance event of good skill and practice, but there are tools like the right jug and cups that we use that are as equally important to the final product as the quality of the milk and the coffee that you produce.
First is taking a look at what milk jug or pitcher we should be using. Choosing the right milk jug is not so much about the design or the shape of the handle nor the spout. It's about the capacity or the volume that the milk jug can hold. For beginners who are still learning to steam and pour latte up, you want a milk jug that mirrors the volume of the cup that you're using.
For a small cup, we're going to be using a small jug and for a big cup, we're going to be using a slightly bigger jug. Standard milk jugs come in a 350 mL and a 600 mL range. These are great affordable options to use with larger and smaller cups. You can get your hands on a 450 or 500 mL jug. This sits in between and will comfortably pour for both sizes. Where we tend to fail is if we're using too big a jug for our cup, we end up creating too much froth in our milk.
As we're steaming the milk, it has more space to expand in a bigger jug. If we're not fully on top of the steaming and controlling this amount of froth, then we will most likely end up with a very thick, not very smooth milk. This won't glide over the top of our creating coffee latte art, but rather flop out into lumps and float on top.
Now onto the cups. Well, it's not everyone's preference to own cafe-style ceramic mugs at home, especially when you have your nearest and dearest favorite coffee mug that you use each and every day. Anything with really high sides and a steep curve from the bottom are really difficult cups to pour into. By all means, you can do it and if you are, that's great.
The shallow curves of the Acme cups, for example, with that wide open surface to the top, allow you to get really close to the surface of the coffee, so you can begin to add your latte art on top, whereas, with these taller cups, they'll make you wait till you're almost to the top before you can start adding your pattern. Now, Acme cups and others like them come in a variety of sizes, so there's no need to miss out on a big cup of coffee, but the shape of the cup will make a significant difference to the overall size and the symmetry of the shape of the latte art that you can create.
That just about wraps it up for this episode of beginner’s latte art for the home barista. I trust you found some useful knowledge that can help you on your way to discovering your hidden ability to be pouring great latte art. Just remember, practice makes perfect, and with patience comes ability and consistency. Us folks at Alternative Brewing wish you the best of luck on your journey to barista-level latte artwork!