Barista Tips for Mastering the Art of the Latte
- Tips and How To's
An expert barista can make crafting the perfect latte look like child's play, but anyone who's ever stepped behind an espresso machine can attest that making a good drink is no easy task. From burned milk to watery shots, the number of things that can go wrong getting coffee to meet cup is hard to overestimate. Fortunately, if there's anything the barista community loves more than drinking a good shot of espresso, it's spilling the beans on how to make one.
Like any coffee, a good espresso starts with good beans. Although there's no such thing as a true espresso roast - any coffee can be used to make espresso - the process usually favors darker roasts, which can be sold under a variety of names. According to Espresso Guy, it's best to look for beans labeled as espresso, Italian, full city or very dark roast.
With beans in hand, it's time to start brewing espresso, but not before grinding them. It may look like a trivial part of the process, but the few seconds that it takes to grind and tamp, or pack down, coffee grounds are some of the most crucial moments to making good espresso. There's no precise measurement of how beans should be ground for espresso, as it can vary based on the bean and personal preference, and even incidental factors such as the humidity that day. However, according to Fusion Coffee, when grounds will be in contact with water for a short amount of time, as they are when making espresso, they should be finer.
The tamp is another surprisingly important influence. Baristas should aim to apply about 30 pounds of pressure when tamping, according to Cafe Society. Some tampers will give way when that pressure is reached, which can be a good way for beginners to get a feel for the right tamp. A dose of coffee is ready for the espresso maker, like the Mr. Coffee® Café Espresso steam espresso/cappuccino maker, when it's packed smooth with no visible cracks or mounds.
Finish With a Flourish
Milk plays just as much of a role in a good latte as espresso. Although it might feel good to make an extra hot drink on a cold day, there's a limit to how much milk can be heated before it's no longer suitable for lattes. Above 165 degrees Fahrenheit, milk will lose its sweetness and may even begin to burn. That's where the latte art commonly seen in good coffeehouses serves its purpose. Milk is the right heat and texture for a latte when the foam is smooth enough to turn the cup into a canvas.