Latte art for latte art's sake: how to create café quality coffee at home

No longer the sole province of career baristas, latte art has become the last frontier of coffee customisation both at home and in Australia's busiest cafés



In an era where our coffee orders have been fine tuned to the point where their status as a coffee is no longer simply a given but a metaphysical predicament, the last frontier of coffee customisation is surely what rests on the surface.

But as anyone who has experimented with applying heat to milk at home knows, the liquid is a fickle mistress that requires about as much care as some of the more protracted coffee orders do. However, contrary to popular opinion, things don't have to be so difficult when it comes to the business of coffee.

"What makes a great coffee is three things, really," says Marcus Gorge, the Sydney-based entrepreneur behind Ultimo favourite The Local Mbassy, the 1920s boiler room inflected café where Gorge's Red Velvet lattes square off against his brother Tamer's (ex-Aria and Quay) decadent Red Velvet pancakes and waffles. According to the moustachioed barista, the holy trinity of coffee-making boils down to "its region, where it's grown, the way the coffee's roasted; the extraction of the coffee; and if you like white coffee, the way you froth the milk." 

The latter is perhaps one of coffee making's most divisive touch points. It's for that reason that latte art, those mesmeric patterns formed by rhythmically pouring perfect steamed milk into an espresso with ample crema, is described as exactly that - an art form. Only when milk has been steamed to the right temperature will it hold the form and texture required to perfect fantastic feats of foam. An entry-level heart shape for those finding their way might soon give way to an ornate rosetta, a swan or even a three dimensional Hello Kitty with enough practice, etching and food dye. Anything is possible once you're given the tools with which to achieve greatness. 

pour latte art group at end
Credit: E Michael Wolf

"A good coffee depends on the machine, the temperature of the actual machine and the way it froths the milk," continues Gorge, whose technicolour lattes - red velvet, green matcha and purple taro - are Instagram worthy feats in and of themselves. "The best way to froth milk is getting air into the milk and slowly extracting the air out to smoothen the milk to become velvety."

Perhaps the finest tool with which to master the milky arts at-home is also one of the newest, the Nespresso Creatistia. The shared fruits of a collaboration with Nespresso and Breville, the machine harnesses the former's effortless espresso and the latter's automated steam wand technology to produce café quality results without the pressure of public performance. To boot, programmed presets eliminate the guesswork out of each coffee's milk - foam ratio, as well as the time required to heat the milk to 11 optimum temperature settings - two more pressure points that Gorge says are crucial to perfecting at-home lattes worthy of serving in his café, or any other. 

"The best way to do [extract air from the milk] is to swivel the milk in the jar, to mix the milk and the foam together to create the perfect velvety texture," Gorge told GRAZIA. However, as with most fine arts, he adds that "The best way to make latte art is watching other people doing it and giving it a go."

Watch above for your crucial first lesson in the art of the latte, after which point the remaining 10,000 hours until mastery are all on you. 


To perfect your at-home latte art, shop Nespresso Creatista Plus here


VIDEO PRODUCTION:
Motion: E Michael Wolf
Talent: Marcus Gorge
Location: Local MBassy