If you've been to a café, you may have had a latte with a heart on it - it's called latte art.
Latte art is quite common when you go to a café. As a customer, it makes you feel a little extra special when you get a cup with a cute design on top of the frothed milk. It also means that the barista has put a little extra time and love into not only serving a good coffee, but also one that is aesthetically pleasing. If you have an espresso machine at home, you might want to try it at home too. The tools that baristas use to make the more complicated designs are available for purchase so anyone can try making latte art at home.
A bit of history
Latte art has been developed in several different places at several different times. The prerequisite for latte art to be practised is that the frothed milk mixes with the cream in a controlled manner. Crema is the nougat-colored foam that becomes on the surface of a perfect espresso. Actually, it is an emulsion of the oil that the coffee bean secretes when it is ground and the brewed coffee. It looks like a very fine foam. Latte art was developed mostly in the 80s and 90s in Italy and the USA. In Italy, a man called Luigi Lupi made a name for himself for his tulips in coffee. He in turn corresponded with David Schomer who made latte art known in the US and spread the knowledge about it through his course "Caffe Latte Art". Schomer got his start in latte art when he was inspired by a picture he saw of a small café in Italy called Café Mateki. Latte art probably started in Italy and the classic patterns, such as the rose, the heart and the tulip, have their origins there.
Latte art started out as a rather innocent and playful thing but has actually become a competition that baristas around the world take very seriously.
There are two ways to create designs on the surface of your cappuccino or latte. One way involves pouring in the frothed milk. An experienced barista can pour in a controlled manner, pouring a little at a time in such a way that a pattern takes shape in the milk foam. If you want to be more advanced than that, there are tools you can use. The tools used are usually some kind of stick that you would otherwise use to stir the coffee. Recently, however, tools have been developed for latte art.
Nuova ricambi latte art tool
At Nuova ricambi you can buy different tools for latte art. They have been around since 1980 and have all sorts of coffee-oriented products. They have extra parts for various coffee machines and other accessories that you may need as a barista or as a private person. For example, they have a latte art pen that has two different ends that are suitable for different types of effects in the latte foam. There is a pointed end that you can use to eliminate any bubbles that are too big and in the way of the design. The other end is more like a small, tiny spoon that you can use to scoop out the foam or shape it in different ways. There are also sets of three tools in the same box. Then, in addition to the one we describe above, there is a tool with a slightly larger spoon at one end and the other end is more flat so that you can drag the foam around and shape the motif that way. Then there's a tool that looks just like something you might see at the dentist. It's very pointed ends, to be able to fine tune the details of your design.
Latte art in latte macchiato
Actually, the tools come in especially handy when you make latte art in your latte macchiato. In this case, you have poured in the milk first and thus use the espresso to create your latte art. The crema still settles on top and becomes what you create your motif in. Again, you can pour in a way that creates patterns and motifs but the tools you can use become slightly more important when making your latte art in a latte macchiato.
Latte art 101
The tools you can acquire to refine your Latte art are perhaps mostly for the professional or those who are really passionate about their coffee art. If you are a beginner and just want to try your hand a little, you will go a long way just by honing your pouring technique. A few things you need to think about before you start. First of all, you want a really good crema . It should be evenly nougat colored, or possibly a little darker or a little lighter. Since it is on the cream that you will make your motif, it needs to be even and nice, preferably evenly colored. What determines how the crema turns out are three things. First of all, it is determined by how fresh the coffee is. It should not be old but not too fresh either. It must have been between one and two weeks since the coffee was roasted. The second factor is when the coffee was ground. If you want fine crema, it's best to actually grind your own coffee. Freshly ground coffee gives the best crema and once you have ground the coffee, it immediately starts to get old. This is why ground coffee is vacuum packed when you buy it, to prevent it from aging and losing its flavor and aroma. The third thing that determines the quality of the crema is the pressure that your espresso machine puts on the coffee during the actual brewing of the espresso. Perfect pressure gives better crema. If all these criteria are met, you will get a perfect crema on which you will be able to make fine latte art.
To think about when you pour
When you pour the milk into your espresso to make a latte, latte macchiato or cappuccino, there are a few things to keep in mind to get a good shot. The first thing that comes to mind when holding is the milk that is primarily hot and not so frothy. You can pour it from a little higher up so that it makes its way through the crema and mixes with the coffee below without leaving any white traces on the surface. Then, when the froth is to be poured on, you can try pouring a dollop in the middle of the cup and then pausing. Then when you pour the next click, a brown stripe will form between the first and second click and it is this brown stripe that becomes the part of the design. The first click will expand more and more as you pour the following clicks and you are soon forming the classic motif - the rosette. The effect is a bit like ripples on water, but they don't disappear and they stop as soon as you stop pouring. The rosette is finished by pouring the last click straight over everything to form a line that draws in the circles you've made with the previous clicks, and at the "top" there's a little heart. The first person to make this design was Luigi Lupi, who we mentioned at the beginning of this article.
What drinks do you make Latte art in?
You can't make latte art in just any drink, it has to be an espresso-based drink of course, as the cream is an important prerequisite for the motif to take shape. In addition, it must be a drink that has skimmed milk in it. As you can see, the choice is limited and the drinks in which you can practice your latte art are therefore the classic latte, or cafe latte as it is called. Then, of course, you can also do latte art in a cappuccino, which has espresso and skimmed milk as its two ingredients. The last drink you can make latte art in is a latte macchiato. Here, however, it's a bit the other way round, as you pour the espresso into the skimmed milk instead of the other way round. If you make your latte art in a latte macchiato, you can make the surface speckled with the espresso, which is fitting since "macchiato" literally means "speckled". You can then use your tools to drag the crema around and create patterns in the milk foam. Latte art in latte macchiato becomes, in a way, its own type of latte art precisely because you pour in the espresso and milk in reverse order if you compare it to a regular latte.