What is Latte Art?

In the last few years, an artistic trend has become popular in coffee shops around the world, which has been expressed on coffee cups. Latte art is a concept that has gained momentum nowadays, although its origin is not as recent as you might think. Below, you will learn about the history and characteristics of this new way of presenting coffee through art.

History and concept of latte art

Latte art became very popular in the 1980s, but by that time, only professional baristas were able to develop this technique. With the invention of espresso machines, the possibilities to innovate in this art increased, especially by adding steamed milk to the espresso coffee.

This technique consists of developing patterns of any kind on the surface of the coffee by pouring the frothed white milk. The froth rises and turns the surface light brown, creating a contrast and a particular design. You could say that the coffee serves as a canvas on which you draw, with the milk acting as a brush and paint at the same time.

Latte art also presents a physical phenomenon, as the milk foam is generated when the milk is heated to 65 °C and comes into contact with the coffee cream, considered as an emulsion of its oil. As it has no defined stability, latte art is ephemeral and short-lived.

cappuccino with latte art

Nowadays, barites have more tools and tricks to generate the most bizarre and unique shapes in coffee cups. However, you don’t need to be a professional barista to execute this art, as you only need to study the basic requirements and practice a lot to improve over time.

The most common designs are hearts or flowers, but the barista’s creativity is the only obstacle to generating other more bizarre and unique designs. Constant practice makes the latte artist more aware of the temperature and the correct way to add the milk foam to the espresso.

Types of latte art

  • Free pour technique

It is the easiest technique to perform and, therefore, the most popular. It consists of pouring the steamed milk, at the required temperature, from the metal jug into the espresso cup. While pouring the milk, you must make sure that it goes to the bottom of the cup, and when only the foam is left, the drawing is executed with quick movements of the wrist to model it on the coffee foam.

This technique requires agility and a lot of patience, as only through practice can you achieve the desired results. The most common designs with free pouring are the heart and floral motifs such as the rosette.

  • Etching technique

This technique requires more concentration and increases the difficulty of latte art. Its execution is based on etching the design using some tools on the coffee foam. Stirrers or sticks are used to manually arrange the foam and syrups to complete the desired design.

Thanks to this technique, baristas and amateur coffee lovers can make 3D drawings such as portraits, animals and flowers.

Tips for a good design

Nowadays, there are different platforms to learn latte art from the beginning and progress with practice. If you are a beginner in the area, but you want to make an incursion into it, the best thing to do is to have the necessary tools so that through courses or tutorials, you can improve your skills in this art.

The cream is an important aspect of latte art, so that you can fill the stainless steel carafe with cold milk and a barista thermometer for best results. When the nozzle of the frother touches the milk, the steam is fully opened without moving the carafe, which should be in a vertical position until it reaches 60 or 70 ºC.

Finally, you will let the mixture oxygenate and decant the milk for 30 seconds to finally move it in circles and work the milk into the coffee. As for the coffee, it is recommended to use 7.5 grams of coffee with a very fine grind so that the hot water is pushed at a pressure between 8 and 9 bars.

As you can see, latte art is not a new technique but has evolved over the years. The technique you choose for your coffee depends on your skill, although you can improve it with constant practice. Also, having the right equipment makes it easier to prepare the design for your espresso.