Make a Cup of Latte Art at Home to Go with Your Homemade Baked Goods
Millions of coffee drinkers worldwide enjoy a cup (or 2 or 3) everyday – sometimes with a morning muffin or after dessert, other times as a treat unto itself. We recently chatted with George Kim, the Coffee Quality Manager of the international chain, Caffebene – he trains the baristas at every location. He also takes part in barista competitions and participated in “America’s Best Espresso” competition in Seattle’s Coffee Festival as the sensory judge. Through an interpreter we sat down and had a chat about how to choose coffee to go with our baked goods and how to start making latte art at home.
Dédé Wilson: George, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. I thought we could first talk about coffee in general and then get to the latte art that you are known for. Many people like coffee along with their breakfast pastries and also sometimes after dessert at dinnertime. Do you have recommendations for choosing coffee for each instance?
George Kim: In the morning to accompanying breakfast I suggest something lighter like a pour-over or drip process. During lunch, something smaller like an espresso. Late in the evening I suggest decaffeinated coffee.
Have their been any advances for producing decaf in last few years?
I do recommend water process decaf but also recommend adding flavored syrups, like hazelnut or vanilla, so the coffee is more interesting.
George, you are known for our latte art. What coffee and what dairy do you like to work with when making your artful cups of coffee?
I like an espresso blend and for dairy it is easier and better to use whole milk. Milk with more fat creates a foam that is dense, which is what I want. If you use skim or lower fat milk it is harder create a good latte art.
What are the best temperatures for coffee and for milk when creating latte art?
200°F for coffee and the best temperature for milk – for best taste experience – is between 142°F and 160°F. The closer it is to 140°F the milk is sweeter and better; higher temperatures and the milk tastes off. 170°F to 180°F is too hot to drink and also alters the taste…
So your answer focused on the taste of the milk. How about the best temperature for creating the art? Is it the same range?
Yes, 142°F and 160°F also applies to latte art…over 160°F and the foam gets fluffy and dissipates…and any good barista who knows what they are doing keeps the pitchers in the refrigerator.
So you start with cold milk? Does it make a difference?
Yes, both the milk and the pitcher in which you foam the milk should be very cold. The colder the better.
How about non-dairy milks? Can you use them to make latte art?
You can’t create or draw latte art with detail when using non-dairy milk. Because it is not possible to create foam out of non-dairy; only thing you can do is a simple “heart” shaped latte art. But nowadays, there exists a soy-milk made for latte art. If you use this specific non-dairy milk for latte art, you can create milk foam that is close to the quality of whole milk foam. (Ed Note: at Bakepedia we have had good luck with Pacific Barista Series Original Soy Beverage).
Do you have a favorite mug/cup to use for latte art?
It is harder if the cup is deep and small. My choice is a cup with a rounder bottom and not too deep.
Because it gives more surface area?
All the better to see your pretty designs! If our community members want to try their hand at latte art at home, what tools do you recommend for home use?
There are two different gadgets that I recommend. One is a hand held milk-frother and the other is a professional model; there are pros and cons to both. It is actually best to use the hand held because it is easier and the foam doesn’t get to thick…of course you also need an espresso machine and there are many ways to make espresso at home.
How does one get started making those pretty patterns?
Best to practice at home. Steam and then froth the milk then fill cups with 80% milk…and it is very important to keep times between each step very short.
So you have only 20% volume of espresso in the cup first?
Yes, the espresso first then the milk will be 80% of the total.
Here are George’s instructions for making a simple heart shape – a good one to start with:
1. Tilt the cup toward you as you pour about 80% of the steamed milk into the cup.
2. Bring the pitcher to the cup’s edge that’s nearest you and shake it quickly from left to right (as you are pouring the milk into the cup) to make a round shape of milk and foam.
3. After you create a round shape, move the pitcher in a straight line across the cup, away from you, to form a heart.
4. Serve to your special someone.
Once you get some practice under your belt, try your hand at a snowman!
1. When 40% of the milk is added to the cup, pour the steamed milk right into the middle of the coffee.
2. Once a circle is formed, create another circle on top of the first circle. (slightly shake the pitcher left to right to make better circle)
3. Once you have the shape of the snowman, use the pin to draw the face and snow flakes around the snowman.
George, thank you for your time and expertise! We are ready to give this a go at home.