The Craft of Coffee Art

The Tig Archives July 02, 2014

A tall latte laced with a beautiful swan, the foam of your macchiato swirled into a lovely rose, or snowman, or smiling face given the artistic prowess of your respective barista. While I’m not a coffeehouse gal, I relish the ritual of a cup of coffee – and when it’s decorated with a whimsical nod to the day by way of the art in the crema, I become a coffeehouse convert. It’s the little things that get me. I popped over to my favorite spot, Little Collins, in midtown Manhattan to have owner and barista extraordinaire, Leon, show me the ropes. An Aussie, and former corporate attorney, who longed for the coffee shops of down under where a latte and proper meal were accessible in the same larder, he set up shop to create said balance at 55th and Lex. My friend and nutritionist, Shira Lenchewski, joined me to learn this delicate craft of coffee art. Let me say this – it’s not easy. But it’s worth it. The challenge was to create a simple heart. And while my best outcome was an amalgamation that resembled a broken heart (or PacMan depending on your perspective), I was thrilled. Yes, this was the one and only time in my life that I celebrated a broken heart, but given my efforts it was well worth the revelry. Here are the steps to make your morning coffee a little more entertaining.


Prepare your shot of espresso.


While the espresso is pouring, take a stainless steel pitcher with milk filled halfway. Purge the steam wand by running some steam through it and then place the tip of the wand beneath the surface of the milk. Once the steam wand is engaged, listen and watch for light aeration in the milk, then lower the wand into the milk and tilt the pitcher slightly causing a ‘whirlpool effect’. Once the milk hits approximately 130 degrees fahrenheit (just too hot to touch the pitcher), the milk is ready.


Hold the milk pitcher with your dominant hand and place the cup with the espresso in the other. From a picher’s length away from the cup, gently pour the milk into the middle of the espresso shot. Once the cup is 2/3 full, lower the pitcher and increase the flow of milk that you’re pouring into the center. You should start to see a white circle appearing in your latte now.


When the cup is almost full, level the cup and drag the milk though the foam circle that has appeared to create the heart.