Is there anything better on a chilly fall day than a delicious latte?
A delicious latte topped with beautiful foam art.
If you're playing hostess this season, a pretty foam heart on top of a good cup of coffee is an easy, extra-special way to impress your guests. To learn how to do it ourselves, we ventured out to our local Caffebene, where skilled barista George Kim brought us into his cozy, delicious-smelling workshop to teach us how to create the most beautiful cup of coffee ever.
The first required must-have? Patience. "Practice makes perfect!" says Kim, who has been whipping up foam art for nine years now and studied in Korea before perfecting his craft. "Don't get discouraged if you have trouble at first—it took me a long time to become skilled at latte art, and I am still improving my craft each and every day."
Another must-have? Whole milk. For velvety, beautiful foam, you need to indulge and skip the skim and soy milk. "Skim milk has no fat so you can't make foam with it," says Kim. "Sometimes customers try to order, 'Can I have skim milk and a lot of foam?'" Kim shakes his head. "Impossible!"
For beginners, Kim suggests starting with a heart.
1. Make your espresso and steam your milk. For the best presentation, Kim recommends using 3 ounces of whole milk per 1 ounce of espresso. Your milk should be steamed to 140 to 160 degrees.
2. Swirl the milk and pound the pitcher on the counter to get rid of any bubbles.
3. Fill your cup about 1 ounce of espresso.
4. Hold your cup in your hand and tip it toward you at about a 45-degree angle.
5. Start pouring your milk into the espresso toward the middle of the cup. Make sure you are holding the pitcher up high as you pour. This will allow the milk to sink to the bottom of the cup.
6. When your cup is about 80 percent full, move your pour closer to the cup (which will cause the foam to rise to the top as you pour faster) and start shaking your hand slightly to make ripples.
7. Lift the pour higher once again and drag it in a line down through the center of the heart to make the point at the bottom.
While Kim has the luxury of working with high-quality machinery, he recommended products that anyone can use at home. For rich, velvety foam, he loves the Nespresso Aeroccino ($99, williams-sonoma.com) and the Aerolatte Milk Frother ($18, amazon.com). "With the handheld one, you can judge the quality of the foam as you're making it which makes it easier to tell when it's ready," he told us.
Got a sweet tooth? Using a squeeze bottle ($3 for two, amazon.com), Kim drizzles chocolate syrup on top of poured foam and then draws lines across the latte. There are plenty of specially made latte art tools you could use, but he recommends a stainless steel thermometer in a pinch ($3, amazon.com).