Pouring latte art: need formal, detailed instructions

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by kuoyen »


Thanks for the review (*). I have been practicing latte art from the first day I got my machine in the beginning of Dec 2008. I pour averagely 2-3 cups every day. I made some occasionally, but overall the results are just bad. I have read almost every articles from HB and CG, and watched most clips from YouTube. I still have hard time to get things right and clear. For example, I steam and forth my milk, and it does look like white paint with sheen. I try to pour it into my espresso with good amount of crema with different angle/speed, but just could not make it... I also read two books talking about latte art, but they are not quite helpful. The books talk about how to pour different pattern, and very little about the basics such as what is the proper thickness of milk/amount of microfoam, how to tell/judge what is right/wrong, or how to make the "white" appear. (they do teach how to steam milk which I can easily find from website) These books just simply say start to shake the pitch when the "white" appears... it's useless to me if I don't even know how to make the "white" appear which seems to be the KEY part of the entire process!!

Anyway, I am looking for a more formal and detailed instructions to learn from. Below are two materials I am considering:
1. David Schomers Latte Art DVD
2. Latte Art Love, Fundamentals of Milk Steaming and Latte Art DVD by Seattle Barista Academy

Have you seen any of them before? They are quite expensive to me. I would like to know if the content is helpful before the investment. I would also appreciate any other learning methods you could recommend. Thanks!


(*) Split from Review of Advanced Barista Training - Extreme Pours by moderator.

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#2: Post by cannonfodder »

The easiest way is to befriend a local Barista and talk them into giving you a one on one lesson or take a barista class. If you have already watched all the videos and read many online 'how to's' for latte art, there is little another book or video will show you. At the same time, you hardly have any experience doing it, about a month by the date you listed. Many folks work at it for a year or more before it clicks and becomes second nature. Most of those baristas you see in the videos do it for a living and pour more drinks in a day than you will in a year, or more. Based on that alone, give it about two years of practice. Some people do pick it up rather quickly; many of us struggle with it for a long time. It took me 3 years of casual practice to pour decent rosettes, and it is still hit and miss.

Quite often, the biggest problem lies in milk consistency. That is very hard to learn without some tactile experience. Being able to see, listen, touch properly frothed milk is very helpful, than practice, practice, practice.
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#3: Post by Marshall »

I only started frothing milk on a semi-regular basis (2 or 3 times a week) a couple of months ago. So, I am hoping more practice is the key, 'cause my efforts suck big time as art (although the milk is quite sweet and tasty).

I should add that I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a two-time U.S. Barista Champion on several occasions, watching her pour and listening carefully to her advice. I even judged a latte art competition that involved another U.S. Barista Champion (and several finalists). I still suck. So, I'm hoping time is on my side. :D
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#4: Post by ChadTheNomad »

I agree with what Dave said. More videos aren't likely to help at this point. If you can't get personal instruction, just give it more practice. It doesn't happen overnight.

For me, it just sort of happened one day and I don't really know why. My first effort looked more like a pine tree, but it had a shape.

It helps if pictures are included as well, because you can usually tell what's wrong. It could be the milk (most likely), your pouring technique or even the cup shape (some are indeed easier to pour). I doubt it's anything to do with the coffee as I've poured art on espressos that had almost no crema.

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#5: Post by Randy G. »

I have gotten to the point that I can pour latte art with a wide-spoutted pitcher (cheap steaming pitcher) using soymilk. As another reply stated, the very best thing to do is find someone or a cafe that pours latte art and watch. I learned a lot that way. What I can do is offer a few subtlties that I have picked up, learning mostly from my mistakes...

- I steam to a much lower temperature than is generally recommended. I hold one hand against the pitcher, away from the side where the steam is pointing (I have a two-hole tip). I find that I get best results if the pitcher just gets warm to the touch. If it gets so hot that it becomes uncomfortable to hold, or you feel like taking your hand off, then the art is not quite as good.

- When the art begins to come in the cup as I pour, I move the pitcher closer to the surface and slow the pour down.

- The side to side movement as the pour progresses is (or at least is for me) more subtle that I originally thought.

As it just so happens, this morning I got one that was not too ugly, so I whupped out the camera and captured an image. So I share this:
I realize that this isn't going into a museum any time soon, but to repeat, this was with soymilk and a pitcher which I would not recommend to anyone who was working at latte art.

If it helps, it tasted better than it looked! :lol:
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#6: Post by RE*AC*TOR »

Yen-Chen, some tips if I may.
I find it is easier in the beginning to work with milk that is slightly more stretched than you might normally want. It is less dense and "floats" on the surface more readily.

To make "white" appear on the surface... lets go back to the start... at the beginning, you merely want to raise the crema (which is your canvas), making as little as impression as possible. To achieve this you pour a steady stream from a high position.

Then when you have raised the crema, maybe half way or more (depending on the design, shape of cup, etc), lower the tip of the pitcher till it is almost touching the crema, so there is no great height for the milk to fall under the crema - keep the stream steady - do not stall, slow down or stop, increase the flow rate, by tipping the pitcher forward a little. Don't try to do any art, just watch. What you should see is a billowing of white, and hopefully the milk will make an impression on the surface.

Hope this is of some help.

This video illustrates it well enough I think...

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#7: Post by thaxton »

the point is that every machine frothes is a gently different manner. Sometimes it's better to place the wand in the middle of the pitcher, sometimes provoking a whirl works better.
What really matters is how much foam you produce from a certain amount of milk. The more milk the thicker the foam, so if you want to pour latteart, it must be really liquid.
Stretch the milk by placing the wand tip just before the surface, then 'polish' it by placing it deeper to get rid of big bubbles. If the foam is not liquid and shiny, don't pour it to avoid wasting espresso.

kuoyen (original poster)
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#8: Post by kuoyen (original poster) »

THANKS to everyone's feedback. I really appreciate all your suggestions. I live in Boston area and will go to try few coffee houses people recommend in the weekend. Hopefully I will be able to find someone showing me the proper frothed milk as well as pouring.

I cannot agree more on the comment about the milk consistency. I also believe it's the most important part, and this is the most mysterious part to me. I am able to find the right position for my steam wand to stretch and create sheeny milk with microfoam. However, I just cannot figure out what the proper thickness/density of micro-foam milk should be. This is the hardest part to identify from all the videos. Same thing, I have hard time to understand how liquid the milk should be. Can anyone possibly use words to describe it? (sorry...I know it's hard, but I am not sure if I will be lucky enough to find someone to show me in person)

Thanks to Randy and David for the tips. I will try them tonight, and maybe post few pictures of the results as Chad suggested.

FYI - From all articles and videos that I read/watched, I decomposed the process as follows and also included different ways people used to implement each element. (the process I described below stops right after starting to shake the pitcher)

Creating micro-foam milk - Michael is right. It slightly varies by different machines. Again, it's hard to tell how thick/dense the frothed milk should be from the videos... :cry:

A. Height to start pouring
1. spout right on the cup (pitcher almost touches the cup rim)
2. 3" - 5" high from the surface of espresso
3. Higher than 5" from the surface of espresso

B. Stream (flow) of milk to infuse into the cup at the beginning (rough measured by eyeball)
1. Thin ~1/8" wide
2. Moderate ~1/4" wide
3. Large ~1/2" wide

C. After starting to pour, movement before starting to shake pitcher / the "white" appears
1. Keep steady without moving until the "white" appears
2. Circle the milk stream around the center of the cup
3. Keep moving the pitcher up and down

D. Timing to start shaking the pitcher
1. When the cup is 1/2 - 2/3 full (but no "white" appears on the surface)
2. When the "white" appears on the surface

E. Timing for the milk (white) appears on the surface
1. After starting to shake the pitcher
2. It just appears automatically (just pouring without shaking the pitcher)

F. Height of pitcher (spout) when creating the art (rough measured by eyeball)
1. About 1" high from the surface of coffee
2. About 2" - 3" high from the surface of coffee

Anyway, this is what I observed. Any comment? Obviously I have not found the right combination yet. If I miss anything, please let me know.

Can any one please explain the rationale of the latte art? The only explanation I found so far is this: http://www.xpressivo.com/theespressogui ... te_art.asp Is it the same as everyone thinks/knows? I believe understanding the logic behind the scene would also helps.

Thanks again, everyone.


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#9: Post by malachi »

The rationale is:

1 - aesthetic
2 - demonstrates skill and commitment
3 - cannot be done with poorly executed milk
What's in the cup is what matters.

kuoyen (original poster)
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#10: Post by kuoyen (original poster) »

There are two cups I made tonight. I followed the instructions provided David (Chris training clip) to make both of them. I still did not see the "white" appear on the surface while pouring. Any suggestions/comments to help me fix the problems would be highly appreciated. Thanks!

This one is a 11-3/4oz cup. It's my first time to pour in this size of cup which seems easier than the small cups.

This is a 7-1/4oz cup which I normally use. I normally use 6.5oz, 7-1/4oz, and 10oz cups.