Milk Texturing and Pouring

This technique is performed to create a smooth and sweet milk that can be poured into heart and flower patterns.  Although the ability to pour a pattern into a cappuccino does not indicate quality in itself, it is indicative of the passion of the barista.  The ability to pour patterns into drinks will let your customers and friends know that you are serious about espresso.

Materials: Whole milk, straight walled steam pitcher, an espresso machine with a powerful steam wand, thermometer, and a 14 oz latte cup.  Prepare the milk first, then the espresso.

1) Begin with very cold milk.  It is important to keep the milk temperature right above freezing.  Keep the steam pitchers in the refrigerator also.  This will allow you to steam for a longer period of time to achieve the smooth and velvety texture that is required to make latte art.

2) Fill the milk pitcher with the right amount of milk for one cup.  You will probably have some milk left over after steaming.  Start with fresh milk for every cup.  

3) Place the steam wand at the bottom of the pitcher.  Turn the steam on, and slowly raise the wand so that it is near the top of the milk.  As the milk rises, lower the pitcher so that the steam wand remains approximately 1 cm from the top of the milk.  Stretching should be minimal, no big bubbles should be formed.  The key is to get smooth velvety milk, not to get thick foam that floats above the espresso.  When poured, the milk should flow into and mix with the espresso.

4) Around 80 F, push the steam wand deep into the milk on the side of the pitcher, and position the pitcher to spin the milk counterclockwise.  Continue the spinning motion until 150-160 F.  Steaming over this temperature limits the sweetness of the milk.  After stopping the steam carefully remove from milk and clean with wet cloth.  Remove thermometer from milk.

5) Swirl milk vigorously.  If any bubbles are visible pound the pitcher on the counter several times.  Swirl after pounding.  I recommend swirling for 20-30 seconds.  This can be done effectively while the espresso is pouring.

6) Begin pouring milk into the espresso.  For a flower pattern, pour into the bottom portion of the cup, approximately an inch from the bottom of the cup.  Pour gently into one spot and do not shake the pitcher.  As the cup is about half filled, begin to shake the pitcher back and forth while slowly moving backward.  The flower pattern will move forward and fill the cup.  I have found that a shaking motion via movement of the wrist is better than physically moving the hand back and forth.

7) When the milk reaches the top of the cup,  sweep through the pattern you created by quickly pouring the milk up the center of the pattern.  Pouring less milk here is better because it will not sink the flower pattern.

Photograph by Bill Biduz Davidson College

Latte Art Instructional Video

Note: To pour a heart pattern, shake as you were doing above, but do not move backwards as much.  Concentrate on forming a ringed circle and then slowly sweep through to form a multi-layered heart.

Articles from Latte Art Expert David Schomer:

Latte Art 101

Milk Texturing Basics

Milk Texturing and Presentation