Latte Art Mistakes: The 6 reasons why your latte art fails

In this video, Paul shares the mistakes beginner baristas make trying to pour latte art, and how to fix them. Stick around to the end, he also shows a clever trick to practice latte art without wasting so much milk.

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.

Training baristas at the Coffee Science & Education Centre, I 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. Here are some specific tips on getting a nice, silky milk texture.

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.

wrong texture latte art

 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.

waiting too long to pour latte art
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.

pull through speed latte

Bonus Latte Art Practice Tip

Here’s my bonus tip if you want to practice latte art but minimise milk waste, you can use this trick:

  1. After you finish pouring your first cup, pour the finished cup of coffee back into your jug.
  2. Swirl it together to recombine it
  3. Pour a small amount into the cup and cover it with chocolate.
  4. Now go ahead and practice your latte art again
  5. 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.

For more coffee skills, equipment reviews & coffee science, head over to our YouTube channel.

For in person training, take a look at our barista training courses in Sydney & Brisbane


Paul Asquith
With 15 years already spent committed to coffee, Paul's passion is for digesting the endless possibilities and knowledge surrounding coffee flavour development. After winning the Australasian Grand Barista Championship in 2012, Paul knows just how good coffee can be and the important role everyone plays, from grower to Barista, in developing and nurturing flavour. Captivated by coffee’s agronomy, Paul is excited to be part of a generation passionate about improving practices on farms and seeing growers produce outstanding coffee. Paul holds a pivotal role within our team. Working side by side with our cupping panel, roasters and trainers, Paul’s focus is on refining our coffee program to ensure it honours the remarkable flavour diversity coffee has to offer and supports best practice at each and every stage.