How to create unique designs in latte art by combining different elements

Apr 2, 2021 | Coffee Professionals

InicioCoffee ProfessionalsHow to create unique designs in latte art by combining different elements

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To most, latte artistry is a beautiful mystery that isn’t expected but always appreciated; to those select few who have dedicated their lives to the craft: it is silence and focus for the overactive mind.

Pouring latte art is a lot like mastering a musical instrument or video game: it takes a lot of practice, patience, and repetition.

Whenever I am considering a new design I make sure to structure my practice so as to not get ahead of myself. It might be tempting to rush right into pulling a shot of espresso and steaming milk but in reality there are many steps one should take before even touching an espresso machine.

Serving cappuccino with latte art

Serving cappuccino with latte art | Credits: Brett Newsted.

Practice to master the new design in latte art

I always talk to my students about the concept of “getting the design into your body”, in other words, pouring latte art happens very quickly (usually in under 30 seconds) so thinking about the design is your worst enemy. Those moments of even slight hesitation can mean the difference between a beautiful swan head, or a blob of milk; Intention is key.

When beginning a new design, I always use water. Yes, pour the design, using ONLY water, from your pitcher into your chosen mug AT LEAST 50 times… you read that correctly; 50 times. After about the twentieth pour, you will become more nonchalant, almost bored with the design, and that is when the design movement has officially become part of your muscle memory.

Once you have accomplished this, it is time to pour using steamed milk. Choosing the proper milk is probably the most important part of any latte art design. Different latte artists like using different types of milk, but the most commonly used milk in any/all latte art is whole milk.

Whole milk has a fat content perfect for aerating (attaching airtime fat molecules to create the micro foam) needed in all latte art pours. Steaming your milk needs to be precise.

Swan design in latte art

Swan design in latte art | Credits: Brett Newsted.

There are many instruments used to create micro foam but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that the milk looks like glossy paint when swirled. Not too much tension and not too thin: you should almost be able to see a light reflection in its texture.

Once this is accomplished, the second part of training can begin. Whatever cup you are pouring into, add a bit of cinnamon or finely ground coffee. This will create almost an espresso type look to the contents of the cup when steamed milk is added.

Repeat the first step with the same steamed milk, adding more cinnamon/espresso to the mug every time you begin again. This will help you waste less milk and help you better understand the difference between the milk consistency and the water used at the beginning.

Having mastered the same design with steamed milk, you are ready to put it all together and pour the desired design using espresso and steamed milk. All of this happens with the birth of every new design added to your portfolio.

How to create unique designs in latte art by combining different elements

With all that said, how about we get to actual crux of the article: using different latte elements and combining them to create something new. More specifically we will be talking about the design elements that go into pouring a Swan!

The swan is a unique design because it utilizes a number of different techniques to create a completely new picture. So what are these techniques?

First, there is the Rosetta. You have probably seen these a million times as, next to the heart, they are probably the most common pour you will see coming out of a coffee shop.

Rosetta in latte art

Rosetta | Credits: Brett Newsted.

heart

Heart | Credits: Brett Newsted.

The Rosetta is the perfect design step to create the body and wing of a swan. The wide base that curls at the bottom gives the impression of a swans body resting in the water.

As you slowly rock your pitcher from side to side while simultaneously pulling the design back, you get these beautiful feathers appearing on either side of the design. While beginning with a classic pull back on the design works for a swan, a slight tilt to the side will help even more convey the impression of a wing.

Every Rosetta ends with a pull-through the center of the design, here is where the swan is different! Instead of pulling-through the center, pull-through the edge of the Rosetta. This doesn’t split the wing down the center but rather gives the impression of the smooth top part of the wing.

The second part is simple, it is what I call “the drag”. This is simultaneously the easiest yet most missed part of pouring a swan. After you cut through to the bottom of the wing you are going to begin the neck and drag the pitcher back across the pull-through you just made.

By dragging along that crease, you create this 3D effect of the head and neck being closer than the wing. If you find yourself creating a “U” shape instead, yes it will look a bit like a swan, but the neck will take up a lot of space in the cup and won’t give you a lot of room for the final piece.

The final piece being the heart, or head, of the swan. As you drag the neck up, you will slowly pull the pitcher up from the surface of the design (about 4cm). To create the head you will dot the pitcher down right on top of the neck you just created and lifted away from. Be patient. Let the head expand slowly.

Cutting through the heart too early will decrease the size of the head making it almost nonexistent. Letting the head grow slightly will give you more space to pull-through and more of an angle in which to create a bill for said swan.

And that is it! While it seems like a lot of steps: Rosetta, pull-though on the side of the Rosetta, the drag back along the cut, and ending with a heart.

Swan on latte art

Swan on latte art | Credits: Brett Newsted.

Swan created from a rosetta and a heart

Swan created from a rosetta and a heart | Credits: Brett Newsted.

These four simple steps will help you begin to create more complex designs throughout your latte art career, and give you a base for understanding other more complex designs.

I am aware that the angle of the cup and speed at which you tilt the cup is not discussed in this article but most of that can only be learned through the practice without espresso I mentioned in the second and third paragraphs. I just wanted to highlight the concepts of how to prepare for pouring a swan specifically.

Latte art is a mysterious art that is constantly changing and evolving but then again, so should the way you pour. If you are new to latte art, don’t be discouraged.

It is an art that takes time and a lot of practice. Practicing and finding your own style of pouring is just part of being a latte artist; hopefully this helps you find yours.

About the Author

Brett Newsted USA

Free Pour Latte Artist / Barista.

I began my coffee journey eight years ago working for a Vietnamese Café in Chicago. Over the years I moved many different states absorbing many different coffee cultures and discovering my love for latte artistry. While I dabble in my facets of the coffee industry (i.e. roasting, running a shop, education) it has always been behind an espresso machine that I have always felt most comfortable. Having been an artist my whole life, it has been so empowering to find a job where I can produce art and have a stable paycheck so I never have to worry for the safety of my two dogs. Latte art has, and always will, be my most passionate venture; I love it just as much now as I did eight years ago.

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