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Barista Technique:
Pouring Latte Art

If you followed the instruction on the previous page, the milk will initially be very liquid and will hardly mark the surface of the espresso. After about 10 to 20 seconds, it will thicken to the right point for well defined latte art. After about 20 to 25 seconds, you can pour something with blurry shapes, a middle thing between a cappuccino and latte art. After that, a simple round cappuccino foam cap will form. Swirl the mug a few times and rap it gently against the counter just after frothing and just before pouring.

On a single boiler home machine, some people prefer to froth first and then make the espresso. In this case the milk will stand about one minute. In order to keep the foam capable of latte art, reduce the initial stretch to about 33% and frequently swirl the pitcher while you wait.

Steps to pouring latte art

The prevailing usage calls a drink of any size with latte art patterns a latte. If a drink of any size with a shallow cap of soft foam on top is called a cappuccino. A drink with a hard foam cap is called ruined. The exception is the macchiatto, which is a ristretto espresso with about one ounce of milk either in cappuccino or latte art form, depending on your wish, and the barista's whim or skill. Good cafés will not serve anything in larger than a twelve ounce cup. I and most purists frown on any milk drink larger than six ounces.

If you are pouring a cappuccino, let the frothed milk rest for 30 seconds prior to pouring. A cap of soft foam will form automatically. The softness of the foam cap is a check on how well you've microfrothed. Do not attempt latte art until you get the soft foam cappuccinos, since this confirms that you are frothing correctly.

Below are the steps to pouring latte art:

  • Turn the handle of the cup to the left and turn the saucer away from you if it has lettering. The setup should be facing the person being served.
  • Let the frothed milk sit 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Tilt the cup towards yourself until it is close to spilling. The more the tilt, the more quickly the milk will mark the surface (rather than sinking out of sight).
  • Slowly start pouring the milk at the lower end (closer to you) until you see a cloud of white billowing up.
  • For a heart, move the pour towards the center, and oscillate it side to side.
  • For a rosette, move the pour to the far end and zig zag it towards your end.
  • End the pour with a very light stroke away from you to the far end of the cup.
  • As you pour the milk, level (untilt) the cup smoothly so nothing spills.

The rosetta in a cappuccino (left) and macchiatto (right)

All this sounds easy, but requires constant practice. If you are a natural, it will take a few weeks, otherwise a few months. Larger drinks are easier to pour than smaller ones. My conservative advice is to pour only drinks you consume or serve, and let your expertise grow gradually. If you are in a hurry, buy a few gallons of milk, a lot of coffee, and just churn out lattes till you have it down pat. Getting a coach who knows how to do this, or watching some of the videos, will help a lot.

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