Creating Latte Art at Kean’s

Claudia Cheffs | Staff Photographer

Shift supervisor Ian Powder from Kean Coffee in Tustin taught himself to create latte art. As it turns out, the secret to the art is not so hard after all.

Powder begins the latte process by grabbing a cup. The flavors or garnishes need to be added prior to getting hold of the milk or the espresso. After things like syrup were added, he pulled a shot of espresso and talked about how a shot needs to be done properly.
“One way to determine if a shot is pulled correctly is by the color,” Powder says.

What he means by this is that the color should be a rich crayon-brown, not too dark, but not too light either. Learning how to pull a shot correctly can take days to learn.Prior to pulling a shot, the barista also needs to steam milk. Doing these two tasks simultaneously can be overwhelming, so sometimes, while one barista is pulling a shot, another will start steaming milk for that same drink.

The milk is added after the shot is pulled. New employees have to keep in mind that there are different kinds of fluids and viscosities when it comes to making latte art. Some liquids can be very watery, while others can be almost as thick as a milkshake.Powder says that every person varies on how long it takes to learn all the different aspects of milk. “Some people get it the first time around, while other times, it takes months,” Powder says.

Claudia Cheffs | Staff Photographer

He then begins the process of creating latte art. As he pulls the espresso, he demonstrates how the milk is steamed. He pours cold whole milk, which is somewhat thick, into a pitcher. Using cold milk gives baristas a longer time to work with it.

Once the steaming is done, micro-foam, the tiny bubbles on the milk’s surface, forms. The milk appears to be somewhat frothy, which is essential to completing latte art. The espresso shot and the milk are very similar in that they are both viscous. They are different in that the espresso shot is dark brown, while the milk is white. He then pours the milk into the cup very delicately upward, dragging the remaining milk downward, which gives the latte a leaf-like design.

Once baristas have mastered the basic techniques of latte art, they are ready to make more beautiful art. There might be some minor things that experienced baristas can advise new baristas to do such as lifting the arm higher to get a certain design.

Powder describes milk as a very fluid substance in that “it does what it wants to do.”

Milk requires a lot of practice. People who are new to latte art might wonder why designs come out differently, even when they use the same techniques. Powder explains that this happens because anything can happen unexpectedly and because “milk is very dynamic.”
Powder also emphasizes how important it is for the work area to be clean. He does not start his work until the bar area is spick and span. Also, customers will sometimes order a latte without foam. Powder says that “no foam means no fun” for the baristas. The baristas at Kean Coffee in Tustin definitely have a passion for coffee and are very much excited to create beautiful artwork in order to put a smile on their customers’ faces.

People may think that to be a barista who creates latte art requires experience. People coming in with experience may have an advantage in that they know how to do many things, which means less training is needed.

However, it can be a bad thing as well, since people may come in with bad habits that are hard to break. People who don’t have as much experience may also have an advantage because they are not coming in with any bad habits, and can be taught how to do things correctly early on.