This week, Metronome Coffee located in Tacoma, WA let us invade their space for a course on latte art. We learned the ins and outs of perfectly steamed milk (if the espresso machine is screaming, you're doing it wrong) to the art of pouring the milk at just the right height and flow rate so that the art casts out on the top with a glossy finish. With a little patience, persistence, passion for coffee, and this guide you'll be creating latte art in no time at all.
Feel the Rhythm
Kendon Shaw, Online Sales & Marketing for Victrola Coffee (the coffee roaster for Metronome Coffee) sat down with us to teach us about steaming milk and milk pouring.
As a coffee novice, my own experience with steaming milk was limited (thanks to a few failed attempts and burns using my espresso machine at home), so Kendon was kind of enough to start with the basics. It's important to hone this skill first so that your art will turn out.
- If you know how to steam milk already, skip the next section and scroll down to Milk Pouring!
Always start with a cold pitcher and cold milk.
There are two main steps to steaming milk. Here are some tips to get you started:
- The trick to this step is to add little air in little time.
- If you add too much air too quickly, the proteins in the milk will harden and form large bubbles, making it difficult to create the art.
- Aim for milk that looks glossy, not matte. It will pour more smoothly into the espresso shot.
- Stop aeration after 100 degrees.
- In this step, your goal is to keep the milk swirling in the pitcher until it reaches 140 -150 degrees. Keep the whirlpool going and then stop.
- Never re-steam.
- You may use a thermometer but Kendon likes to teach his baristas to feel the temperature by keeping their hand on the pitcher as it's more intuitive during the steaming process.
Steaming the Milk
1.Pour milk to 1/4" below the bottom of the spout as you look in the pitcher (this allows you to eyeball it when you're working quickly) to allow room for the milk to expand.
2. Submerge just the tip of the steam wand, then position the steam wand dead center in the pitcher (Figure A) and submerge just the tip. Tilt the pitcher slightly and begin steaming (Figure B).
3. At this point, you should hear a quiet "kissing" noise, as Kendon describes it. A strong gushing sounds means its aerating too quickly. Screaming means there is not enough air.
4. The milk should be expanding and rising at this point. Keep your hand on the outside of the pitcher. At about body temperature, stop adding air and continue the whirlpool. (Figure C).
5. To know when to quit steaming, Kendon says you need to find your rhythm. As soon as it's too hot to touch for more than a second count to two or three, whatever your rhythm is. This helps you repeat it time after time. Temp your milk with a thermometer and make adjustments to your rhythm.
Don't worry if this takes some time to perfect! It will vary from person to person but is the most intuitive and efficient way to tell when the milk has reached the perfect temperature.
To create perfect latte art, Kendon says that it's all about the height and flow rate of the pour. Once your milk is steamed you will need to work quickly to prevent bubbles from forming in the milk.
- First you will want to prepare your espresso shot. Then, follow the steps below.
1. Start high and slow: Start by polishing the steamed milk (much like what you would do when swirling wine in a wine glass on the table). The milk should be glossy and smooth in appearance and the consistency of wet paint (Figure D). Start your pour in the deepest part of the cup, and begin pouring into the espresso shot with the pitcher raised high (Figure E), about 1-2" from the cup. Pour slowly.
2. Dive below: The stream should be thin. Let the milk dive below and under the surface.
3. Drop it down low: When the cup is about 3/5 full, drop the pitcher down low (Figure F).
4. Let it flow: Let the milk flow and begin casting your art on top of the surface (Figure G).
Start with a heart, then get creative. Try your hand at rosettas, tulips, etc. and at the very end, carefully slow down the pour, raise up 1-2" and pull straight through the design. Again, this skill takes practice so be gentle on yourself, keep practicing, and have fun!
Thank you, Kendon Shaw and Jasmine Watkins, Manager and Barista at Metronome Coffee located on 3518 6th Ave, 101, Tacoma, WA 98406.