Latte Art and Milk Emulsion

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How to Choose the Best Milk for Your Bar
7 September 2021
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Latte Art and Milk Emulsion

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“Look at the pretty picture on the cappuccino!”. In reality, what may seem to be a simple “drawing” is an art that is the result of technique, attempts and perseverance: it is called “Latte Art”.

Birth of Latte Art

The (documented) birth of Latte Art can be traced back to 1988 when a barista in Seattle, for the first time, ‘drew‘ a heart by pouring milk while making a cappuccino.

Since that day, the technique has evolved slowly. Over time, more and more complex shapes have been added, such as the “rosetta“, the “tulip“, the “swan“, until it arrived in Italy by master Luigi Lupi.

In recent years, perfecting this art has reached very high levels. Bartenders from all over the world have challenged each other to design very complex elements, often creating true works of art in the cup with the sole and skillful use of the milk jug.

When drawing using just the milk jug, the technique is called “free pour“, while when adding elements such as nibs and/or colours the technique is called “etching“.

In 2008, when I started using this technique, it was very rare to find a bar that served decorated cappuccinos without the use of cocoa or topping, so it was quite easy to stand out.

Nowadays, Latte Art is very popular, but still a distinctive sign to get customers talking about the bar.

I also find Latte Art very useful in encouraging the barista to be trained in the milk emulsion giving that a good “cream” of milk is a prerequisite for drawing on a cappuccino!

>> Vegetable Milk or Vegetable Drink? Let’s clarify <<

Milk Emulsion: some practical advice

Milk’s emulsion can be divided into 2 basic steps:

  • First stage
    The “tip”, called the nozzle of the steam lance, is held just below the surface of the milk, positioned 1-2cm to the right or left of the centre.

This way, when the steam is opened, the milk will start to swirl and, in the meantime, the foam will develop in the form of air bubbles.

  • Second stage
    After a few seconds, enough time to create the desired volume of foam, the milk jug is raised by 1-2cm, just enough to cover the holes in the nozzle and the vortex continues to be used to micronize the large bubbles created in the first phase until the desired temperature is reached. Once the foam is created, often called “cream” for the effect of its density, you have to swirl it inside the milk jug until you get a shiny effect, at this point comes into play a part of the technique that allows you to form the contrast between the brown foam of the coffee and the white foam of the milk. You have to keep the cup tilted in order to create a discrete thickness of coffee inside it and pour a little bit of milk from a height of about 10cm from the liquid into the centre of the coffee.

Now stop pouring, bring the milk jug closer to the cup and keep it tilted, if possible touching it with the milk jug, pour the milk into the centre of the coffee, gradually increasing the pouring and gradually repositioning the cup upwards. This will produce what is known as a classic cappuccino, a white ball with a distinct brown ring around it.

I’m in the mood for a nice creamy cappuccino, how about you?

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