The mark of any good barista means having the ability to deliver the perfect latte art. Whether it’s for the customer or your enjoyment, latte art is the hallmark of a barista dedicated to their craft and serves as a visual cue that one has reached a certain level of expertise.
With so many factors going into a good cup, where can you start? Besides frequent practice, the best thing you can do for your latte art skills is to start with the right equipment. Here are some things you can do at home to get started.
Start with the best coffee machine for your home
You might have seen videos floating around social media with home baristas getting decent results with just a whisk and some very ambitious stirring. The viral Dalgona coffee for example comes to mind.
But when it comes to extracting quality espresso, you can’t beat a specialised electrical home appliance that knows coffee best. The secret is coffee extraction works best under pressure, and De’Longhi Dedica Style Manual Espresso Machine delivers a 15-bar professional pump. Putting grounded beans through that much pressure is key to extracting coffee without all the unwanted bitter notes.
Alternatively, lift your latte art to a whole other level with our La Specialista Prestigio, which is equipped with the MyLatte Art steam wand that will bring out the best of your artistic abilities. Find out more about De’Longhi La Specialista espresso machines.
Learn to extract the best espresso
You might not know it at first, but coffee is full of oily goodness. That’s what makes up the top layer of every espresso shot. We call that the crema. Having enough crema determines whether your latte art will keep its shape. You’re not going to get far making latte art out of an Americano for example. That is because the crema has been diluted by large amounts of water.
Crema is formed during espresso extraction when pressure is applied, and consists of microbubbles attached to the natural oil and fats of your coffee beans. For the perfect latte art, you have to make sure that your espresso shot has a nice layer of crema, which can take years of practice to achieve through perfect tamping technique and getting grinds of the correct proportions.
Of course, that’s not so much of a problem when using high-quality whole coffee beans. De’Longhi offers a selection of gourmet coffee beans to take the guesswork out of flavour profiles and crema quality, giving you a more consistent extraction that allows for consistently better latte art.
Master the art of milk frothing
The final tool in your toolbox is a good steam wand, like the one attached to a De’Longhi Dedica. Having a properly angled steam wand ensures your milk is heated and aerated evenly throughout. It’s fairly easy to tell if your milk jug is angled properly because you’ll hear a satisfying ‘squelching’ sound.
The best part of the De’Longhi Dedica is that the steam wand is adjustable, allowing you to manoeuvre awkward angles with relative ease – a must-have if you need a home coffee machine that works for small spaces.
Start with easier shapes
It is tempting to start with more exciting shapes like swans and rosettas. But to get there, you have to master the basics. Most latte art pouring happens in the wrists, so it’s important to develop muscle memory for it. The rule of thumb is the more delicate your movements, the finer your art will be.
The shape every beginner barista starts with is the heart. As with most shapes, you want to start by filling up half the cup with milk, taking care not to break the crema’s surface. Next, form a circle in the middle of the cup until your cup is full. Finally, cut through by drawing across the ball. Once you’ve mastered these basic movements, you can apply the same principles to more challenging shapes.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Of course, to make huge strides in your latte art skills, you need to practise consistently with the right coffee machine accessories. And it’s likely during your practice sessions, you are going to be wasting a lot of milk. Once the milk has been frothed, it’s near impossible to get it to its original state because of the heat applied to it.
To perfect your latte art skills, you can substitute milk till you get a hang of it. You can save a few dollars by using water with a literal drop of dish soap. The foam in the soap should be enough to form a texture similar to milk. With your soap-based froth, you are free to practise wrist movements without having to dump milk down the sink. Don’t forget to purge your steam wand everytime you’re done steaming as you won’t want any dish soap left in your next brew!
Understand the perfect cup comes from many different perfect steps
While the best coffee machine at home may get you far, there’s still a lot we have not talked about that goes into the perfect shot of coffee – everything from bean selection to grind size. We call it the Perfetto Moment – where functional mastery harmoniously meets emotional gratification.
Ready to take your latte art skills up a notch? De’Longhi partners with local coffee vendors and roasters from time to time to run latte art classes and more to help you perfect the art of coffee preparation. Sign up for one today!