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Lauren Small, manager of Bury St Edmunds café Guats Up!, explains the factors behind perfect latte art

Ask any passionate barista and I guarantee each one will have a different technique when it comes to perfectly texturing milk. It’s a love/hate relationship for many.

Latte art is the first thing you see when you receive a cup of coffee, it creates the initial impression of your drink, and it is an exceptional way of demonstrating your skill as a barista. However, it’s not all about appearance.

Perfectly textured milk not only creates the ideal medium for latte art, but it provides an instrumental ingredient in the taste of milky coffees. The balance between foam and temperature all play a huge role in the distinct features of each individual drink. For example, a cappuccino always has more foam than a latte; a slightly wetter drink.

Coffee art (29599104)
Coffee art (29599104)

The process of steaming milk consists of three basic steps, which each barista then adapts and evolves to fit themselves individually.

The first and extremely crucial step is called “stretching”. This is where you place the steam wand just under the top of the milk, and begin introducing air. If you were steaming for a cappuccino, you would inject more air than you would a flat white. After stretching, you then “spin” the milk. This is achieved through slightly rising or tilting the milk jug to achieve a vortex within the milk. This blends the newly-created micro foam with the milk underneath creating the ideal texture for pouring. If you oversteam it and it gets too hot, it will split and create an extremely frothy jug of milk, and it will also affect the taste of the coffee.

You want to stamp the jug on a surface to get rid of any extra air bubbles. That, with a combination of circling the milk in the jug will create the emulsion paint-like texture you need. (Thick and glossy!)

It’s up to you to pour a beautiful design, and once you have ideal milk, the latte art follows.

Many new baristas put too much pressure on themselves when it comes to milk and pouring the ideal design, but the key is to adapt your style, practise and perfect.

Allow yourself to discover what works best for you, and the swans will eventually follow.

Butterworth & Son coffee roasters and tea smiths, based on Moreton Hall, and Guat’s Up! café in Guildhall Street



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