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Espresso Yourself

If you like your coffee with milk, you must have come across the fascinating patterns made in the foam topping your espresso drink. Ever wondered how to make latte art in your own kitchen?

Article
Lindsay Morris
Photos
Chelsi Fisher
Posted
January 29, 2018

If you’re a latte drinker, you’ve probably been wowed when the barista whips up a cup that has a lovely leaf or swirl design. But how do they do it? How can you do it at home? And what are the tricks to getting really creative?

Tyler Duncan, wholesale trainer and instructor at Topeca Instruments Division, knows what it takes to create amazing latte art. He’s trained more than a few Topeca baristas and even started the Green Country Throwdown Series — a popular ongoing series of latte art competitions.

“Espresso is a very viscous liquid, so when you pour the steam or froth into it, it creates a velvety textured beverage,” Duncan says. “The crema that’s on top of the espresso is the canvas for creating latte art.”

So how does one go about painting on the canvas of a latte? Here is a step-by-step guide. To make a coffee drink with steamed milk, you’ll need an espresso machine with a commercial grade milk steaming wand, a milk frothing pitcher, the milk of your choice, espresso, and a rounded cup.

If you’re interested in creating your own latte art at home, a Brevel espresso machine or another machine that has 9-10 bars of pressure is needed. (Photo: Chelsi Fisher)
‍If you’re interested in creating your own latte art at home, a Brevel espresso machine or another machine that has 9-10 bars of pressure is needed. (Photo: Chelsi Fisher)

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Step 1
Start with the right kind of milk. You need to use a milk with a high-fat content in order to create the right texture for the art. Duncan recommends using whole milk. Topeca uses Lomah Dairy milk made in Wyandotte, Okla. If you need to use a milk alternative, he recommends Pacific Barista Milk.

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Step 2
Pull espresso shots and fill the steaming pitcher with cold milk to the bottom of the pour spout dent. Duncan says if you’re interested in having an at-home espresso bar, you should choose a pitcher that is about the size of the drinks you’ll be creating.

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Step 3
Aerate the milk for about three seconds by moving your wand to the surface of the milk. “Put it just through the surface of the milk about an inch or so, then turn the sucker on,” Duncan says. “Bring the steam wand to the surface of the milk, and it will sound like papers ripping.” Ah, yes, that old familiar sound when you’re in a coffee shop.

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Step 4
Submerge the wand toward the bottom of pitcher to get milk to spin in a whirlpool motion. “The key is to create a whirlpool so that you’re integrating the bubbles with the milk, breaking it down into microfoam,” Duncan says. Sounds like a science, doesn’t it? “As soon as you’ve injected one to two seconds of milk, reinsert the steam wand and mix it until pitcher becomes just too hot to hold,” Duncan says.

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Step 5
Create your art. This is where it gets tricky. Duncan says it’s wise to have someone with latte art experience guide you. “We go through latte art at Topeca’s barista fundamentals class.” Duncan’s main advice is to seek contrast. “I see a lot of people doing it incorrectly. They end up with something, but it doesn’t have what baristas are looking for, which is contrast — dark crema contrasted against white microfoam. You want good symmetry.”

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Step 6
Have fun experimenting with different designs. There are three main designs when it comes to latte art — the heart, rosetta and tulip (stacked dots of microfoam). “There are variations. Some people can invert another design on top of a design and can do swans or wreaths,” Duncan says.

If you’re interested in creating your own latte art at home, Duncan says a Brevel espresso machine or another machine that has 9-10 bars of pressure is needed. “An espresso machine is only as good as how much pressure the espresso will be forced through at.”

And it wouldn’t hurt to make friends with a barista.