Coffee art is a method of preparing coffee whereby you pour microfoam into a shot of espresso, resulting in a pattern or design on the surface of the coffee. It can even be created or embellished by “drawing” in the top layer of foam. Coffee art is made particularly difficult due to the demanding conditions required of the espresso shot, the milk, the experience of the barista and the quality of the espresso machine. The pour itself, then, becomes the last challenge for the coffee artist.
Before the milk is added, the espresso shot must have a creamy brown surface, an emulsion known as crema. As the milk is poured, the foam separates from the liquid and rises to the top. If the milk and espresso shot are just right, and the pitcher is moved during the pour, the foam will rise to create a pattern on the surface. The most common patterns are the heart, the rosette, the fern and the tulip.
Alternatively, a pattern may be etched with a stick after the milk has been poured, rather than during the pour. Etched latte art typically has a shorter lifespan than free poured latte art because the foam dissolves into the latte more quickly.
A third method is to pour chocolate powder through a metal cutout in which an image, typically a flower, has been incised.
Of course the quality and taste of your coffee is of utmost importance, but the beautiful designs certainly do add to the whole experience!