No, perfect latte art doesn't make coffee taste any better.
But when everyone else seems to be pouring beautifully symmetrical hearts, tulips, rosettas & double headed dragons – it’s easy to feel like you’re not up to scratch as a barista.
So, let’s fix that right now.
In our training sessions, we see baristas making the same latte art mistakes day in, day out. I find once they remove these barriers, then the presentation of their coffee gets a whole lot better.
Mistake #1: The wrong texture
If the texture of your steamed milk is bubbly, or it’s too thin or too thick, you never going to pour great latte art. It really is fundamental, if the texture is wrong, you’re just not going to get tight, well-defined patterns.
My basic tip is that the finished milk texture should look like melted ice cream. It’s going to take practice, adding a little more or less air in during steaming, but after a while you’ll start to hear & feel when the texture is just right.
Also, full cream (whole) milk is the best place to start. It holds together longer before separating, and resists foaming too much unlike skim or light milk.
Mistake #2: Not setting up the crema
I teach baristas to start by swirling the crema in the cup. Mixing the crema together provides a smooth, even surface which allows the pattern to flow evenly & symmetrically onto the surface.
Evening out the crema also maintains a balanced flavour at the end when you're serving it to the customer.
Mistake #3: waiting too long to start pouring
Coffee can smell your fear…so, start pouring straight away.
The longer you wait, the more your silky steamed milk will start separating into layers, which increases the chance that you’ll end up with blobs of foam coming out of the jug rather than smooth, creamy milk.
Also, when you are pouring don’t wait until you’re at the very top of the cup before you bring the jug down to the surface of the cup. I usually teach students that the halfway point is best to start letting the pattern flow out into the cup.
C'mon, it's not going to pour itself
Mistake #4: pouring too fast or too slow.
If you pour too fast, the crema will disappear, and you'll end up with is a lot of white in the cup.
Pour too slow and the crema will rise all the way to the top and you're going to have no patterns at all.
Learning the right speed takes time and practice, so the more you vary your speed as you're pouring, the more you'll learn the ideal speed.
Mistake #5: Not holding the jug straight
So often I see baristas holding the jug at a wacky angle because they’re trying too hard to get a fancy pattern.
If you keep the jug vertical, line your cup up nice and straight with your jug, you'll get good symmetrical latte art.
It also helps to adjust the angle of your arms so that you can draw a straight line from your elbow through the jug to the bottom of the cup.
Mistake #6: Pull through too fast.
You've done all of this hard work, drawn a great symmetrical pattern and you're in a hurry to finish it off.
Stop right there, slow it right down at the very end.
Lift your jug up a little bit higher, have it toothpick thin so that when you drag it through it draws a nice even line down the middle and doesn’t squish the pattern into a strange shape.
Bonus Latte Art Practice TipHere's my bonus tip if you want to practice latte art but minimise milk waste, you can use this trick:
- After you finish pouring your first cup, pour the finished cup of coffee back into your jug.
- Swirl it together to recombine it
- Pour a small amount into the cup and cover it with chocolate.
- Now go ahead and practice your latte art again
- Pour that cup back into the jug and repeat
You can do this up to five or six times without it affecting the milk texture too much.
Give it a try and you'll find that your milk wastage will be much less, and you'll be able to pour killer latte art a whole lot quicker.
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