February 22, 2011

Learn how to do latte art!

Cross another item from my 31 comes before 32 list!

#28. Learn how to do latte art!

We’ve had our espresso machine since August, my birthday month. It came while I was away at IFBC, so Casey had a whole weekend to tinker with it and practice while I was away. He is now the main drink maker in our house simply because he excels at it. He makes me cappuccinos while I work on breakfast for us; we’re a good team!  I’m still working on perfecting my espresso shots & latte art, but I’ve learned how to do it! Some days I make myself a fancy cappuccino with my breakfast and other days I opt for a strong Americano because I have no time to deal with it. I’m lucky to get coffee in me with my work schedule. There are some mornings where I feel like I need coffee to MAKE coffee, but in all honesty I don’t miss our french press that much.

Did you know that latte art is HARD? You need to pull a really good shot of espresso and your milk foam is CRUCIAL. Apparently it’s easier to achieve all of this on a big honking machine you see at a coffee shop. Not an easy feat for a home machine. I wish I had known that sooner.

You need “micro foam” in order to make pretty rosettas and swirls. It’s not super duper frothy; it looks like wet paint with teeny tiny bubbles. It’s super creamy and it makes your cappuccino EXTRA decadent. It really makes a difference, trust me.

the beverage section of my kitchen

The marriage of a good shot & good foam can be temperamental. Sometimes I pull a great shot and then the milk is bad…and then I get swoon-worthy milk with a terrible shot. It’s definitely a hard balance because there are many factors to consider- temperature, beans, tamping down hard enough, getting the wand in at the right angle for the milk steaming…and the most important part- THE GRIND of  your beans.  It also took us awhile to find the perfect espresso bean that produced the taste we were looking for. We use a lot of Barefoot Coffee Roaster’s beans (a local company) but my friend Christine got us HOOKED on Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Espresso. We get it shipped to our directly to our house!

I like using these cute cups at Crate & Barrel for our cappuccinos. 8oz. is a perfect size.

I adore them. Aren’t they precious?

i love these cups

The blue ones were my grandmother’s.  In addition to the almost daily wine glass cleanup, we have little coffee cups. I don’t mind at all.

cappuccino cups

So this was the beginning. It took me a few weeks to start getting good micro foam.

Frustrating….but I kept on trying.

And then there was some hope….

And then I got better…but my end swoop was too thick.

This one was wild… in a Dr. Seuss kinda way. My banana says hello!

(you can see that I have some bigger bubbles still in my foam-not perfect!)

This one was a bit tighter. Kind of reminds me of a comb.

And then this one had me swooning….It tasted soo good too! Too many bubbles though…

Sometimes I take pictures on my phone & send them to Casey while he’s on his way to work.

I also post them on twitter when I feel like sharing. I’m a nerd.

And here’s a pretty good one I made…with my Vegan Thumbprint cookies. Tasty breakfast!

So yeah…I’ve been working on the latte art.  My craft isn’t perfect by any means…but I’m getting better!  My love for cappuccinos has grown so much that I spend a few hours at night before bed eagerly anticipating my coffee in the morning. I wish I could spend hours practicing, but that would be kind of wasteful and would make for an insanely caffeinated Tracy. I can’t handle more than 2 a day. Been there, done that. It’s not pretty.

Here’s our Gear:

Espresso Machine: Rancillio Sylvia V3

Grinder: Rancillio Doserless Grinder (the grinder is the most critical tool for good espresso!)

Favorite Espresso Bean: Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Espresso.


  • Ashley

    You need to teach me. I’ve been perfectly impressed with my little latte foam hearts but now I see I have some work to do. Very nice. Don’t you just love the Silvia. I dream of upgrading someday but she’s been in the family for three years now and never lets me down in the morning when I need her most.

  • jessica

    love Intelligentsia!!!!!

  • erinlucy

    you are doing so great considering you’re using a home machine! i worked in a coffee shop for a while and got pretty good at my latte art but haven’t had much luck trying it out at home so far. you’ve inspired me to practise more!

  • Whitney

    I’m lucky to live in Chicago and get Intelligentsia whenever I want! picked up a pound today for my french press 🙂

  • Joy

    Who needs Star—- when I could just go to your place? [After a plane ride…but still.] You really are something. GREAT JOB on the latte art! I wanted (still do!) to work at a coffee shop just so I can learn all these neat tricks for my coffee, but there is hope in learning at home, thanks to you. I better get one of those machines first.

  • heather

    Someday I will own a full-fledged espresso machine, instead of only the Turkish espresso maker. I love it, but there’s no frothing to be had — the reason I love lattes! You’ve come a long way in the swirls and swoops and swishes. Must be a real treat to practice. I’d post the photos, too!



  • Susanne

    Can I move in?! I love Intelligentsia too!

  • Julie

    I have a Silvia too and while I’m not very good at latte art, I will say that a tap of the pitcher on the counter after frothing will pop almost all of the larger bubbles, leaving your microfoam more perfect.

  • danielle

    your latte art looks really good!! i’ve been a barista for 8 years and i would let you pour me a cap any day. you can try practicing steaming water to get it to “swirl” around the wand, that helps with the micro foam/texture.

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    Can I just tell you how totally impressed I am right now. You’ve got some crazy latte art making skills! And now I know what microfoam is 🙂

  • Melinda

    Your art looks fantastic! And thank you for reminding me I never use my espresso machine – I think I’m going to need to take up latte art now to get more use out of it!

  • Lauren

    Check out Temple Coffee in Sacramento 🙂 They offer monthly classes on all things coffee and often offer a latte art class.

  • Jessica

    Ooo, fancy! I am very impressed!

  • Liza

    Yum, yum!

    Pitty I am both terrible at baking and pouring a good coffee lol. I’m actually considering on doing one of those barista courses like at http://www.chtmelbourne.com.au/ to improve my art. Should be lots of fun and yum, yum, yum! 🙂


  • miss james

    pretty pretty pretty! i wanna sip.

  • Hydee

    Totally off topic question. What brand is your electric tea kettle? Thanks.

    • Tracy

      It’s a Russell Hobbs. It works well, but it doesn’t close properly. I have to do a little trickery to get it to close & open.

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