Your Essential Guide to Making Latte Art

Once you’ve nailed the basics of making espresso, latte art might be your next destination.

Before we start, know that latte art takes a lot of time and practice, so don’t be too quick to give up if your initial attempts don’t go as planned. Even professional baristas don’t get it right the first time, so the key is to keep trying!

In this guide, we’ll give you tips on creating heart-shaped latte art. It’ll give you some ideas on essential techniques used by baristas to create the beautiful latte art that you see in cafes.

Why Master the Basic Heart Shape First?

3 cups of latte with art
Once you get the hang of making heart-shaped latte art, explore making more advanced rosettes, tulips and swans. Photo from Emma Smith.

In the world of latte art, the heart shape is the most basic example to learn because it only involves one drop and a pull through, as opposed to fancier designs that involve layers or ripples.

After you’ve mastered the heart shape, you can try the following shapes:

  • Rosetta (classic coffee shop fern; involving ripples)
  • Tulips (involving layers)
  • Swans (involving layers and ripples)

Get Your Milk Texture Right

frothing milk with a steam wand
Achieve fuss-free and no-fail milk froth every time with the Dedica Style’s adjustable cappuccino system. Photo from De’Longhi.

Steamed properly, the milk used in latte art should be smooth, glossy, shimmery and silky. There should be no bubbles left, no foam lumps, and overall the texture should be thicker than regular milk.

Ideally, you should froth your milk with a built-in steam wand. Our ultraslim Dedica Style pump espresso machine comes with an adjustable milk frother that can help you achieve the perfect steamed milk texture for latte art.

a milk frothing jug
A right-sized milk frothing jug makes a massive difference in helping you make latte art. Featuring the De’Longhi Stainless Steel Milk Frothing Jug 350ml. Photo from De’Longhi.

A good milk frothing jug is also an essential tool in making latte art. Milk frothing jugs are wide enough to allow your milk to move around in a whirlpool while being heated up and aerated by the steaming wand. Milk frothing jugs also come with spouts that help you better control your milk flow when creating latte art.

Step 1: Set a Good Base by Pouring in Some Milk First

Once you’ve brewed a shot (or two) of espresso, pour in a little bit of milk to set the base. Without this milk, the espresso is not viscous or thick enough to support your latte art.

To do this, tilt your cup so that the spout of your milk jug can go closer to the surface of your espresso. Aim to start pouring the milk in the centre of the liquid so that the milk disappears below the crema without rising on top and making the surface turn white, which will not give you enough colour contrast.

The height of your spout shouldn’t be too close or too far from the surface – aim to pour milk from a 2-4cm height.

Step 2: Position Your Milk Jug Spout Carefully

heart shaped latte art
Starting your pour towards the centre of your base will result in a smaller heart shape. Photo from Matt.

Now that your base is set, it’s time to plan your design and carefully position your milk jug spout.

For a full heart shape that fills up around 80% of your latte’s surface area, you want to start at the edge closest to the lip of the cup. If you start further into the cup (i.e. towards the centre), you will have less space to draw the heart shape.

With the cup still tilted, lower your spout to about 1cm away from the surface and begin pouring into one spot.

Step 3: As You Pour, Straighten Back Your Cup

pouring latte art
Maintaining a good angle of your cup is one of the foundations in making latte art. Photo from Brent Gorwin.

This step requires practice and coordination.

As you pour in the steamed milk to make your design, you need to gradually un-tilt your cup in a smooth motion so that its angle is parallel to the floor again. This helps speed up your pour rate, which is necessary as your espresso builds more viscosity from the milk.

Step 4: Pull Through Confidently To Finish Your Heart Shape

pouring latte art
You should see a dimple forming, signalling that it’s time to pull through the milk to finish the heart shape. Photo from Frank Leuderalbert.

As the blob of milk that you’ve poured grows bigger, it’ll come to a point where it will dimple in. This is your cue to finish off with a pull-through to create the pointed edge of a heart. To do this, keep in mind the following two-step motion.

  1. Raise your milk frothing jug higher while pouring into the same spot. The flow should turn toothpick-thin as you do this.
  2. Move your milk jug across your cup as though drawing a line in the centre of the heart shape. For beginners, you can draw until the edge of the cup. Once you get used to pulling through, you can vary the length of the tail on your latte art heart as you desire.

And voila! We hope you find the above tips helpful in creating your first latte art masterpiece. You can also watch our award-winning barista on how to create 3 different latte art designs with the Dedica Style.

Bonus Tip: How to Reduce Milk Wastage While Practising

Want to keep practising latte art but don’t want to waste milk and espresso?

Here’s a tip from the pros: After practising once, pour back the espresso and milk mixture into your milk frothing jug. Pour some liquid back out into your cup. Sprinkle cocoa powder for contrast, and practise your latte art again.

You can do this about five to six times before the milk texture becomes too unworkable.

Join Our Online Workshops for Coffee-Making Tips

Cut down your guesswork around latte art by learning from local baristas.

Join our De’Longhi Rewards programme today to get updates on our upcoming events and online workshops to learn coffee-making tips and tricks from our coffee experts and partner roasters.