Basic steps in perfecting latte art

The cafe scene in Singapore is all about that instalife. You are never at that cafe until you post the photo of your #foodporn. In Singapore, the cafe trend is simply, all about looks; mainly latte art. Well, so for all our barista readers, how do we perfect latte art. At Nineteen95, We are not latte art champions nor are we experts. However, we are baristas who can pour decent latte art and we learnt from scratch. No training, just trial and error. Well they say practice makes perfect right? We have spent countless hours pouring latte art, working on the techniques. Without training, we would have a better sense of what you home baristas will face when perfecting latte art.

There are 5 major factors to take note in order to perfect latte art.

  • Machine
    This is probably the biggest factor. The machine will affect the quality of your art as it dictates your espresso and the quality of your steamed milk which also happens to be other factors in perfecting latte art.
    Based on my home setup (Delonghi EC155 Vs Rocket Cellini), the quality of espresso and milk is at different levels. The espresso can yield much more crema and the steam wand of the Cellini is much more powerful and can easily bring out that “wet paint” consistency for my microfoam.
  • Cleanliness
    This would refer to cleanliness of your tools such as your grouphead of the machine, steam wand and milk jug. Simply put, we do not want any of the above mentioned items to be dirty. We would like to work with a clean surface to ensure less variables for that perfect latte art.
  • Espresso
    Latte art is a combination of both espresso and quality steamed foam. Both materials (espresso & milk) has to be at tip top condition, there are of the utmost importance. However, in the world of latte art, when it comes to espresso, its all about the quality of crema.
    Crema is that layer of brownish foam that forms on the top of freshly made espresso coffee. Weak or little amounts of crema will cause the base of latte art to be out of shape. Quality crema will give your latte art the perfect base, in short, crema = base or your canvas in latte art.
  • Steaming
    This is where most people fail. Steaming milk is something that is extremely difficult to teach & master. It takes hours of practice to find what he/she is comfortable with in order to produce the microfoam.
    Personally, how I steam my milk is as shown,

    As shown, the milk wand will be in the center of the milk jug. What we aim to do here is to spin the milk much like a whirlpool.
    Once we have the whirlpool established, we need to incorporate air to create foam. To incorporate air, we must lower the jug and the tip of the milk wand has to be at the near the top of the surface of the milk. Expect to hear a “hissing” sound, that is when you will know that your technique is correct. If you hear the sound of bubbles being created, that means your milk wand is on or above the surface of the milk, this will create the opposite of what we want, which are the giant bubbles.We recommend practicing with soap and water as having soap will have promote the creation of foam. *Just remember to flush your milk wand before your next usage. There may be excess soap that is stuck in the milk wand. Always flush before using*
    For a more comprehensive guide, do check out our other post:
  • Pouring
    All latte art is built using to styles. Mainly the “Heart/Tulip” which is more of the push style, or the “Rosetta” which is more of the free hand or “wiggling” style. For me, I am more comfortable with the “Heart/Tulip” style while Uzen is more into the “Rosetta” Style.
    The technique is fairly simple and can be picked up from YouTube videos. Just keep in mind when to keep the spout of your milk jug near the surface of your coffee to create the white foam and when to keep the spout higher and farther away from the surface when there is no need for any foam.
    At this point, baristas in training can practice their technique using water and an empty cup. They say “Practice makes perfect”, so happy pouring!


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