5 Tips for Making Great Lattes
Latte: a drink consisting of espresso and steamed milk. For something that only has two ingredients you might wonder why some places make them wonderfully, while some places make them subpar. Tucked in Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighborhood, Coffeebar definitely falls under the former category; I had the chance to ask their barista William for some tips on how to make a great latte.
Tip 1: Know the optimal parameters for your espresso bean:
In general, espresso beans are ground very fine and should have an extraction time in the mid-20 seconds range. To get the most flavor out of your espresso shots though, you should ask your bean supplier about the optimal parameters for their espresso bean. They should be able to tell you a more precise combination of espresso ground fineness, dose, water temperature, and extraction time that produce the best shots for the specific bean. Adjust your grinder and espresso machine to reflect your supplier’s prescribed parameters for great tasting espresso shots every time.
Tip 2: Prepare your equipment before pulling the espresso shot:
Coffeebar's Kees van der Westen espresso machine with
its unique lever mechanism making a shot of espresso.
Time is of the essence when making a latte. You need to make sure that all the equipment and utensils you will be using to prepare and serve the drink are ready before you grind the espresso bean. Once the grinder is turned on, it starts a chain of events that don’t really allow the barista to pause and walk away from their station to find equipment and utensils elsewhere. In order to make sure you produce a flavorful latte, you should be able to grind, tamp, and extract espresso, and then steam and pour milk with not much time in between each step.
Tip 3: Don’t let the espresso sit for a long time:
Once the espresso has finished extracting from the espresso machine, the steamed milk should soon be ready to be poured on top of it to finish the latte. The longer you leave the espresso sitting by itself before adding the milk, the more flavor it loses. You can prevent this from happening by steaming the milk immediately after you have started the espresso extraction, not when the espresso extraction has just finished.
Tip 4: Incorporate air gently when steaming the milk:
When steaming milk for lattes, incorporate air gently into the milk, and try not to move your hands and the frothing pitcher too much in order to produce microfoam. You don’t want to end up with bubbly milk that has too much foam. The end result should be milk that is shiny and has had its sweetness brought out by the steaming.
Tip 5: Pour milk from a high distance away from the cup:
Symmetry, color contrast and creativity are some of the factors used to judge latte art in contests. Symmetry and creativity take practice and time to develop; you need to actually pour lattes in order to improve. One tip to create good color contrast with latte art is to begin by pouring steamed milk from a high distance away from the cup containing the espresso. This allows gravity to pull the milk to the bottom of the drink, to avoid making the top part of the drink cloudy. Once you are ready to make the actual design, move the frothing pitcher closer towards the cup. Moving the frothing pitcher closer to the cup towards the end of the pour allows the white color of the milk to pop out from the darker color of the espresso.
Following William’s tips should help you prepare a great latte like this one:
Thanks to William and Coffeebar on Water St. for the helpful tips!
Where are some of your favorite places to get amazing lattes? Let us know where these amazing coffee shops are!
Meet Our Guest Blogger - Gerald Cruz
Gerald is a former barista and a full time coffee enthusiast with a background in marketing and events. When not visiting the wonderful selection of coffee shops in the beautiful city of Vancouver, he constantly upgrades his knowledge about coffee: be it about beans, preparation, cool coffee equipment, and latte art designs. Besides a love for coffee, he also has a fervent appreciation for fashion, and is a firm believer that the two go hand in hand.
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