How to do latte art (beginner’s guide)

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Are you someone who appreciates that delightful artwork on the top of a perfectly made coffee?

Also known as latte art, this trend is only growing in popularity as specialty coffee takes over the world.

Below, we’ve put together a basic guide to help you get started on your latte art journey.

In no time, you’ll be creating your own beautiful milky designs at home.

What you need:

To get started, you’ll need a few basic tools. This includes:

  • Milk jug or pitcher
  • Latte glass or ceramic mug
  • Espresso machine with a steam wand
  • Coffee beans and coffee grinder (or pre-ground coffee)
  • Full fat milk

Step 1: Steam your milk

The first step is to create your textured milk. Properly steamed milk is the foundation of beautiful latte art.

If you don’t have this you can’t do anything else. You should use milk that’s 3.25% fat or higher to create a creamy texture.

First, pour cold milk into your pitcher, making sure it reaches the bottom of the spout’s indent.

Next, you want to purge the steam wand and then place it just below the surface of the milk, at an angle.

Turn on the steam dial and wait till you hear a “hissing” sound. This is air being pushed into the milk, creating foam.

Continue to hold the tip of the wand just below the surface. The milk should be whirlpooling around the pitcher.

Continue doing this till you see a layer of microfoam start forming on top, then submerge the tip of the wand deeper into the milk. Keep it tilted so the milk continues rotating in the milk jug.

Waiting too long before doing this step will create too much foam which makes it harder to pour into a design (because too much air has been introduced).

For the velvety milk required for a flat white or latte, baristas only want to add 0.5-1cm of volume to the top of the milk by introducing tiny bubbles of air.

When the milk reaches 55-65°C (use a milk thermometer), turn off the steam and remove the steam wand.

Step 2: Pull your espresso shot

It should take 25-30 seconds to pull a single shot, with approximately 30ml of espresso.

There are many factors that contribute to a perfect espresso shot including grind size, temperature, time, brew ratio, and more.

To get their espresso just right, baristas tweak all of these factors in a process called dialling in.

Pull a single or double shot of espresso into your cup and set it aside.

Step 3: Pour the milk.

Next, give the milk jug a couple of taps on the bench (to remove any larger bubbles) and give it a swirl to incorporate.

You’re now ready to pour the milk over the espresso.

Here are the basic steps:

  • Hold the milk just about 8cm above your glass or mug (containing your espresso). The purpose of this is so the milk plunges below the surface of the espresso.
  • When your cup is about 2/3 full bring your milk jug down so it is almost touching the glass. This is the level from where you will create your design.

Here’s a slow-motion video showing the process of the final steps in creating latte art.

Remember, latte art is a skill developed over time and with plenty of practice.

Don’t get discouraged if you’re not able to do it right away—even the most successful baristas will tell you that they had to spend many hours in front of the espresso machine before they perfected their technique.

So keep working on it! You’ll be making beautiful masterpieces in no time at all.

Common latte art patterns

  • Heart: The heart is the most common latte art pattern. It’s probably one of the first patterns you’ll learn how to do. If you’re just starting out and need some inspiration, watching videos of baristas making hearts is a great place to start.
  • Rosetta: The rosetta is a more advanced pattern, but it’s still quite common and easy enough for even beginners to pull off with practice. Some people actually find that it’s easier to make than the heart.
  • Tulip: Many people find that the tulip is one of the hardest patterns because it has lots of little details and variations in shape and size. Learning how to make a good tulip can take lots of practice!

What kind of milk should you use for latte art?

When it comes to milk, full fat is best. It has the most protein content and produces the creamiest foam.

Semi-skimmed milk will work but not as well.

Soy, oat and almond milk are difficult to use for latte art because of their lower protein content.

Common latte art mistakes

  • You’re pouring too fast (or too slow).
  • There’s not enough air in the foam.
  • There’s too much air in the foam.

Can you do latte art with a milk frother?

While you can use a milk frother to create frothed milk, it is impossible to make any decent form of latte art with it.

This is because the steam wand on an espresso machine creates pressurised steam, which aerates the milk. This creates the microfoam you need for latte art.

How long does it take to get good at latte art?

Like most things in life, the more time and effort you put into it, the quicker you’ll see results.

You may not be a barista after a week of practice. You may not even be a Latte Art Ninja after 6 months of practice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what you do while on your coffee-art journey.

Have fun with whatever stage of latte art training you are at! Take pictures, post them on social media to share with your friends, and learn from your mistakes until you are happy with the results!