Are you like me and cannot wrap your head around why so many people can make perfect latte art? Check out our guide on getting started with latte art and getting your milk to the consistency it needs to be successful.
Typically, milk for a latte should be steamed to around 160-170°F (71-77°C). The milk should also be frothed until it is smooth and velvety, with a thick foam on top. The process of steaming milk usually takes around 2-3 minutes. It’s important to note that the time it takes to steam milk can vary depending on the temperature of the milk, the type of milk being used, and the equipment being used to steam it. Not everyone has a thermometer, and I think it is too much work to include a thermometer in this process. Practice and feel are needed to become an expert at steaming milk. I recommend feeling the pitcher constantly; eventually, you will know when you are in the desired zone. After this guide and a bit more practice, you will have better luck making latte art.
Steam Wand Depth
Most espresso machines have a steam wand for steaming and frothing your milk. Many people need to learn the right and wrong ways of using them! Getting your milk the correct consistency is one of the first and most essential steps to swirling up some beautiful latte art.
When it comes to steam wand depth in the milk pitcher, you want to be in the sweet spot. Avoid having the tip too close to the top of the milk to get to the sweet spot. Also, go only so deep that it is close to the bottom of the milk pitcher.
The depth is critical to silky milk because when the wand is at the top, it incorporates a lot of air into the milk. So much air that the milk will not retain it and shrink down quickly.
Too deep into the pitcher and the wand does not incorporate any air into the milk.
Steam Wand Angle
Once you are in the steam wand sweat spot, you should turn on the wand while it is in your pitcher.
Angling the steam wand at about a 45-degree angle allows the milk to swirl in the pitcher while the air gets slowly incorporated. This whole process should take about 30 seconds.
Once the milk becomes warm or about body temperature, it is time to turn off the wand and remove it.
If done right, your milk should be silky. The benefit of being “silky” is that the milk will retain all the air incorporated from the steam wand instead of deflating or not having enough air. This part takes a lot of practice and feel to get right. It takes a lot of trial and error.
Now that we got our silky milky, we must adjust the angle of your coffee cup or mug. This is another step toward success and is necessary for latte art.
We allow the espresso to pool up more in the mug/cup by adjusting the angle, making a bed for the milk to be poured in. Avoid pouring on the edges and pour the milk directly into the center of the bed of espresso. If you did not get the desired result, you must keep practicing and changing how you prepare your milk. It is likely you need to adjust the air-to-milk ratio. The foam should be dense and creamy, not too light and airy. Make sure you are not over-aerating the milk by steaming it for too long.
The kind of milk pitcher you have can also impact your milk pour. Different-sized pitchers have different tips, and some of these tips can be too wide and make getting the pour right more difficult.
With these tips and practice, you should be pouring latte art in no time!