You've seen it a hundred times at your local roaster or coffee shop from that hipster barista. You order a cappuccino and get a piece of art. A flower, heart or something even crazier on top of your drink waiting for you at the bar.
You think its so cool you go out and buy a nice espresso machine and coffee grinder and try to replicate. Then reality sets in. It's not as easy as they make it look. In fact, it's incredibly difficult and takes a ton of practice.
Creating latte art can be very frustrating but the main problem I see is the milk most noobs produce. The milk has to be steamed perfectly to create art. Steaming milk, just like creating art, is a skill that takes practice. Here are our tips to get you started:
I know what you're thinking. We're just trying to sell you a machine. And while yes, we do hope you'll invest in an espresso machine I can also promise you the cheaper machines have cheaper steam wands. Producing perfect milk with these machines is tough for even the most experienced baristas. Machines like the Rocket Cellini V3 are equipped with commercial steam wands and are twice as powerful making steaming much easier.
Latte milk is much more silkier and should look like shiny paint if prepared properly. To do this, you'll need to allow less air into the milk. Cappuccino milk should have a decent amount of froth, or foam, to it (as cappuccinos are topped with foam). Getting foam requires air. So unlike latte milk, you'll want to make sure more air gets into this milk. The deeper the steam wand is submerged in the milk, the less air. So to get more air, remove the wand a bit until you get the desired amount of foam.
Here it is. The hard part.
To start, fill your milk pitcher with your desired choice of milk. About 1/3 or 1/4 full. Remember the milk will expand as you steam so never fill the pitcher or you'll be cleaning up a hot mess. I like to freeze my pitchers. Don't ask why, lulz. I don't know why I started that. Maybe I read somewhere that it helps? I don't know.
Anyway, place the steam wands barely below the surface of the milk to start. Turn on the steam wand and allow some air into the milk for a couple seconds.
Then, place the steam wand in deeper. If you're getting a loud, annoying hissing sound, the wand is too close to the bottom of the pitcher! Move it up.
Ideally, you want your milk to be swirling like a whirlpool. This will take some practice and steaming with the pitcher at an angle will help.