Latte art is a showy part of the barista’s craft but, even more, it’s a reflection of quality. Latte art is a skill that displays exacting technique in preparing a latte or cappuccino.Latte art can’t be done without properly pulled espresso, with a substantial, sustainable crema. Latte art can’t be done with a casual regard to steaming milk. The latter is most visible to you as a consumer.
The technique at the steaming wand for a latte versus a cappuccino is different; the latte only being capped with micro-foamed milk while the micro-foam holds a thicker (roughly one-third) position in the cup for cappuccino. A cappuccino requires the barista to draw more air into the milk to create a larger volume of micro-foam. The remaining milk in either preparation is steamed hot.
Whether or not your cup is topped with latte art, the techniques to getting the correct proportion of steamed milk to micro-foam cap are similar. The result allows the milk to be poured through the espresso crema in one uninterrupted motion, the crema infusing the micro-foam as a result. Look for a smooth, shiny surface unbroken by large bubbles. Latte art is a nice touch that can’t be done unless the steaming/frothing is done correctly.
Two big no-nos to watch for:
- Don’t accept a drink poured from a large (bigger than a pint) pitcher that the barista supplements and reheats. It’s expedient but the result is scalded milk.
- Amateurs use a broad knife to block the foam from the pour and then scoop or ladle foam onto the top of the drink. The foam doesn’t get infused by the espresso crema