What Is Latte Art?

Latte art is the Barista skill consisting of pouring steamed milk into freshly brewed espresso shots to create aesthetically pleasing patterns and designs on the surface of continental coffee drinks.

Baristas use expert frothing techniques when frothing milk for espresso. The introduction of air into the milk when steaming creates smooth, sweet milk that perfectly compliments espresso; this milk is referred to as microfoam.

Microfoamed milk is textured with the consistency of liquid foam and can be poured into various patterns through what is referred to as free pouring. It can be difficult to achieve a high level of consistency in latte art due demanding criteria of the shot and milk, both of which need to be high quality to produce great latte art. Crema is extremely important when free pouring latte art; the espresso shot requires a good layer of crema for designs to emerge to their full potential. The contrast of the white milk foam with the reddish brown tint of the espresso results in visually impressive aesthetically pleasing latte art providing a great coffee experience to customers. Typical designs using free pouring include hearts and rosettas, more complex and comprehensive designs can be created by using multiple pours and allow Baristas to show their flair, creativity and passion for coffee.

Designs also be achieved with the use etching. With this method, a latte art pen is used to literally draw on the surface of the drink. Small portions of foam can be added to the top of the cup and manipulated into shapes using the pen. Latte pens are often dipped into the crema of the espresso to create contrasting details in the white milk foam. Some Baristas even opt to use syrups or sauces to produce a clearly defined pattern. Etching designs range from geometric shapes to more complicated drawings of animals and such like. Etched art typically doesn’t last as long as free poured art as the foam generally dissolves at a faster rate.

Although latte art does not represent quality in itself, it is indicative of the knowledge, experience and passion of the Barista. Presentation is everything, sight is the first sense we use when being served a coffee, if it looks amazing, we’re almost positive it will taste the same. With so much coffee shop competition currently on the market, unique latte art may set you apart from the rest. The ability to pour or etch patterns into drinks will let your customers know that you are serious about espresso.

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