Pouring steamed milk into espresso might sound as easy as falling off a log, but it is also the key to coffee art. Who hasn’t ordered a flat white only to find that the blue-eyed barista has made a heart or a tulip-shape in the foam? Next time this happens to you, have a think while you’re stumbling back to the office wondering how you’re going to reciprocate this naked act of love — you’ll have to break up with your girlfriend, of course, explain that this thing between you and the coffee girl is bigger than words, it doesn’t matter that you don’t know her name, or if she can even speak, nor does it matter that the coffee she serves is average at best, how can you go anywhere else now? It must be something about your new cologne, Dave was right, Aqua Velva works wonders. Maybe you’ll move in together? You can get an espresso machine…
Whoa, what happened? We blacked out for a second there. Anyway, where were we? Oh right, coffee art. That’s it. So the next time you put your face in your coffee only to discover that you’ve just destroyed a priceless piece of art, have a think about how it’s done.
There are two ways:
- Free pouring is exactly what it sounds like: the shape is made by the way the milk is poured and how the barista manipulates the cup.
- Etching is a secondary step where the back of a spoon (or something similar) is used to draw shapes in the crema. This usually allows for more complicated shapes.
Many big coffee chains have their own method: they use cocoa powder and shaped templates to allow for quick and uniform coffee ‘art.’ Here at Buongusto, we consider that cheating, and you should too.
More recently, you will have noticed some of the wackier designs that have bled their way onto the internet, including people making 3D shapes out of the foam in the coffee. There is even a world championship.
Unfortunately, most 3D designs won’t last for more than five minutes and even the simpler 2D shapes will be gone before your coffee is lukewarm. Without meaning to pour cold watery science on the burning passions of your appreciation for art, this is due to a simple chemical reaction. Milky foam is fat based, whereas crema is the result of oils from the coffee beans. Whether or not you have drawn a giraffe in your latte, the delightful topping to your hot, steamy beverage, will break down eventually, and you will be left only with a bitter taste in your mouth and sadness in your heart. If you ask us, this only makes the whole thing more beautiful.
Don’t have time for art? Just put a lid on it. Boom.
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