As you know I am passionate about coffee and I would love to learn how to make the perfect cup, whether it’s espresso or filter. I have attended a basic barista course in the past where I have learnt about roasting, grinding and using the espresso machine, but one thing I still didn’t know much about was latte art.
So last month my husband and I attended a Latte Art class at the Artisan Coffee School in Ealing. It was a bit of a trek to get there from south London, but worth it as we learnt so much during the one day class!
We arrived at the Artisan flagship shop in Ealing at 9am and walked into the back room which was turned into a training room a few months ago. We were there with just another student and our teacher, Tullio.
The course started with an introduction to espresso and espresso-based drinks (the differences between them). We then focused on milk, its components (water, fat, proteins and lactose) and how these influence the texturing process. The most important thing is to learn about milk temperature control, because you cannot achieve the perfect latte art unless you have warmed up the milk correctly.
Perfectly steamed milk is made by “introducing steam gradually into milk until the natural fats within it expand to create ‘micro-foam’, a layer of very small milk bubbles. The end result is a smooth, silkily beverage perfect for espresso based drinks”. [Latte Art Guide]
The perfect temperature for steaming milk is 62 degrees, as hotter than that would remove any sweetness from the milk.
We learnt the differences between “free” and “split” pouring, as well as how different types of jugs can influence your pouring.The rest of the day was spent doing a LOT of practice and trying to learn how to make the perfect milk pattern. We started by learning how to pull a shot on the espresso machine.
I got off with a good start and achieved making a little heart in my first practice, while my husband Sandy was failing at making any kind of recognisable shape. During the course of the day the roles reversed so, as Sandy’s latte art progressively improved, mine regressed to a blob of white foam on top of the coffee.
Let me know just tell you that IT IS HARD! It looks easy when you see a barista pouring milk in a mug, but there are actually so many little actions to remember and it only works with good “hand memory” as both hands have to work in sync.
Hold the jug with one hand (closer to the mug first for pouring, then further away to make the design), while tilting the mug with the other hand.
You need to pour fast and from a distance initially so that the milk can go underneath the coffee and create the foundation of your drink. Then you need to pour slowly and very close to the mug to draw on the coffee surface.
The secret – like anything else – is practice. We spent around 4-5 hours practising latte art, making at least fifty drinks each (or more)! The great thing about the class is that we were only three students (the other one was a barista from a local coffee shop) so we could practice a lot under Tullio’s control.
In the end I didn’t do too bad and I managed to create a few decent hearts in my latte art.
I left the class eager to practice more though, so I can’t wait to get my hands on another espresso machine soon and improve my latte art skills!
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the class at Artisan Coffee School. All opinions are my own.