Everybody enjoys a cup of coffee. On any given day, nothing soothes our senses better than a well-brewed coffee cup. It gets more interesting when you have artistic shapes forming at the top of your cup. That is Latte Art, a coffee making sub-skill which is fast gaining interest and traction not only among coffee lovers but also for coffee shop owners who noted how their coffee bars grew in fame thanks in part to it.

The Art in Latte

Close up of Hand Holding Cappuccino Making Latte ArtThere are a lot of people who think making latte art is such a complex skill, requiring detailed instruction plus the necessary investment in coffee makers and other hardware. Even suggested is that learn how to make latte art in Coffee Barista workshops. This is actually not a bad idea, as every person’s learning curve is different. Some people learn faster through step-by-step instruction, which you can definitely get by enrolling in a Barista workshop.

The problem though with barista workshops is these are quite expensive and time-consuming. There are culinary schools which already consider latte art as an individual subject, so you can understand why a significant fee is charged for learning the skill. Good investment if your purpose is to work at an espresso bar and eventually opening your own. But if you are only learning latte art just for fun, this route may not be the most ideal one for you.

Another suggestion most people think about latte art is it requires expensive hardware like a fancy espresso machine. There is some truth to it in that it makes things simpler, from heating milk and creating froth, to the point where you put the finishing espresso touch. However, if your ultimate goal is just latte art on your favourite coffee cup, do you really need a thousand dollar contraption for that?

Learning how to make latte art from the comforts of your home need not be expensive nor demand lots of your time. Learning how to make latte art will do require you to have a few kitchen equipment, like a microwave oven for instance and also maybe a stainless steel pitcher. You may also need a milk frother.

Latte Art’s Medium – Microfoam Milk

MatchaDNA Automatic Milk Frother, Heater and Cappuccino Making Carafe by Phillipe Taglioni - cappuccinoAny form of art has its medium or building block. In the case of Latte Art, the primary medium is microfoam milk. Creating microfoam milk is the key to creating Latte art shapes for without this, you will most likely not be able to form any shape at all, not even a simple ellipse! Learning how to make microfoam milk is the first step towards creating homemade Latte Art.

Here are a couple of guidelines in creating your first batch of microfoam milk:

  1. As anybody would probably guess, you need to heat the milk. Now this is not your usual way of heating , simply to pasteurize and made safe for consumption. Microfoam milk must be heated under controlled temperatures. Too high and the milk will not even foam. Too low and the milk will foam too much. It should be just at the right heat level.
  2. Experienced Latte Art makers recommend heating the milk at temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees Celsius. Some will go as far as recommending that you use a thermometer, preferably an analogue one, in monitoring the heat. With patience and careful monitoring, you can actually tell when it is already at the right temperature by the form of the bubbles and the behaviour of the milk.
  3. One of the best ways of heating milk at the right level is to use a microwave (hence the recommendation we made earlier). Put the milk into the microwave, set it at the desired temperature and then heat it for just a little less than a minute. Let it stay for about 3 minutes and then heat it again, this time for just a little less than 30 seconds. The repeated reheating is to ensure the milk is at the right temperature by the time you decide to pour the espresso.

Milk Pitcher, X-Chef Stainless Steel Milk Cup Milk Frothing Pitcher 600ml 20fl ozPutting Froth into Microfoam

Now that you have microfoam milk, it is time to use the frother. Put the milk into the stainless steel pitcher then tilt it slightly sideways. Now put in the frother, one hand holding the pitcher and the other holding the frother. Turn on the frother and watch as a mini whirlpool is created, as air starts entering your batch of microfoam milk. You will observe that bubbles will slowly form and then burst. Do not stop the frother until all the bubbles created are gone. This should ensure sufficient frothing for your first Latte Artwork.

Not that you have your medium for your Latte Art, it is time to move towards making your first artwork. We will go with one of the most basic yet quite infamous among Latte Art, the heart.

Your First Latte Art, The Heart

Latte Art with Heart DesignOne of the simplest to make yet also never fails to tickle anyone in the coffee shop, the Heart is a nice starting point for your first Latte Art. Take your stainless steel pitcher that now contains your nicely-made batch of frothed microfoam milk. With the other hand, hold your signature mug that already contains coffee, probably about a fifth of it. Make sure the pitcher is held at a height such that when you pour the milk, it immediately hits the bottom of the cup.

As you pour the milk, look closely at the level by which the cup is filled. When it is about three quarters full, begin shaking the pitcher. Afterwards, stop shaking and bring the pitcher closer to the cup as you pour. White circles should begin to form soon with this. As the cup gets filled up, pour milk in the direction of one side to another and through the center. You should be able to form a heart at the end of it.

Once you get the hang of making shapes with microfoam milk, creating other Latte Art shapes should be possible. You can also try experimenting with other ingredients like chocolate syrup then shaping more complex art using a toothpick.