Ok, well i’m not sure if this is going to go anywhere or not, but I’m toying with the idea of doing some video blogging… Just short clips of various/random kitchen/food/me getting drunk and falling over comically type things. I’m aiming for somewhere in between Jamie Oliver’s trip to Italy, and the Funniest home video where the guy gets hit in the nuts with a stick.
So as a first effort, here is perhaps one of my crappiest ever efforts at pouring latte art. Not helped by the fact that I had to hold my phone with one hand, and normally use it to tilt the cup towards me a little… But no excuses…
So there you go… Video blogging… Feel free to let me know if this is in any way amusing/interesting/helpful/cathartic, and I may or may not continue.
Ok, some more latte art shots that are really starting to take form now.
A few changes I’ve made to my routine after chatting with Ben of previous posts fame (and a professional coffee trainer).
1) Stretch the milk less.
There are two stages to steaming milk, stretching and rolling. Stretching is the name given to when you are actively incorporating air into the milk by leaving your steam wand close to the surface of the milk and drawing air down into it. Basically if you do this for the entire time you will get lots of big foamy bubbles (which is bad for latte art). If you don’t do it for long enough however, you’ll just get hot milk, with no velvety texture at all. I however, have probably been over stretching to make sure I get nice texture (which i think adds to the mouth feel when you make a nice latte), but also makes it really hard to pour latte art with any definition.
So now I just stretch for a few seconds (this is specifici to my Silvia of course) before rolling. Rolling is when you put the steam wand deeper down into the milk and get a vortex going around it, which rolls the milk around and distributes the heavier foam throughout the rest of the milk…giving you a really nice consistency.
2) Pour slowly and wiggle
If you pour too quickly it’s really difficult to make sure you’re getting all the milk in the right place to do art. So now I start by pouring really slowly, and when I see the milk starting to break through the crema on top I wiggle the tip of the jug to bring the heavier foam out, which I can then start pouring through side to side to get the shape of the rosetta.
3) Make good espresso !
Bad espresso will never lead to good latte art. The better the espresso (nice dark reddish/brown crema, well extracted) the more well defined the latte art is going to come out. If you pull a weak blond looking espresso, it makes it that much harder to get a nice looking rosetta on top.
Having recently popped in to see Ben at the Barista Academy I got to borrow his La Marzocco naked portafilter. Unfortunately it didn’t fit my Silvia, but the LM double basket does fit into my Silvia portafilter. So I’ve been pulling a few practice shots with the LM basket instead. It’s a little deeper than the standard Rancilio double basket, and the walls are straighter, and the holes in the bottom go right out to the edge of the basket, as opposed to the Silvia which has a little gap around the edge where there is no extraction.
Having said all that you’d think i’d be getting better shots with the LM basket, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I assume it must be because of my dosing/tamping method and the amount of coffee I’m putting in each shot, because each shot I’ve pulled with the LM basket has been soggy on top (a sign of under dosing), and a lot faster than normal.
I think the additional holes in the LM basket, as well as the increased size, all add up to there being less resistance in the puck, which means fast/under extracted shots.
So to test this I kept the grind at exactly the same level and repeated my procedure with my standard Rancilio double basket, and immediately got a much nicer, properly extracted shot.
The lesson in all of this. Better equipment does not add up to better espresso if you don’t know how to use it properly :)
I’ll keep playing with the LM basket and try adjusting my technique to see if I can compensate for the differences i’m seeing.
It could also have a lot to do with the beans I’m using, which are a couple of weeks old now… Not having a roaster is causing me much pain.
Also, here’s a couple of latte art shots I’ve taken in the last couple of days. Still not getting them how I’d like despite getting Ben to show me… More practice required :)
Well i’d been getting kind of bored with trying to do latte art of late. My skills didn’t seem to be improving despite all my better efforts to get all the factors right. The image below is an example of the best i was capable of.
But things have all changed very rapidly. Sharon’s friend Serena was over and Sharon was showing her the website, and then some other shots of latte art… and then asked me to find the videos of people doing latte art. I hadn’t looked at them in a while and suddenly i realised what i’ve been doing wrong.
I’d been pouring from the middle to the edge and then trying to pour the rosetta back over the top… but what i saw them doing in the videos is pouring into the middle and then pouring back to the side whilst at the same time pushing the coffee outwards. So i gave it a try, and low and behold…it worked !
That was the first effort… followed very quickly by this one… Just to show it wasn’t a fluke.
Very happy by this point as it’s all so easy once you’ve got the technique right… Now i know all i need to do is work on my milk texturing and it will all come together. I managed to back it up this morning with another effort. The milk was too thick, but i’m getting close to it looking like some of the nice shots i’ve seen on other sites.
Yay ! All i needed was a little inspiration and there you have it. Look forward to some more inspired latte art efforts in the near future.
This is an example of my current drink of choice. A short macchiatto (or perhaps more accurately labelled, a piccolo latte, because i prefer more milk than the “stain” referred to by macchiato).
The latte art is coming along ok, i think i’ve got the milk steaming technique in hand now… The only problem now is trying to keep my hand steady enough to pour the patterns properly… But really, most of the fun is in the trying, and you always get to drink it in the end anyway :)
It’s an excellent resource that covers the main points of steaming and frothing milk, as well as a bit of the science of milk, and what chemical reactions are involved in getting that velvety smooth microfoam that makes espresso taste so good.
It also covers how to use various grades of espresso machines (basic home machines to full commerical machines) in order to get the desired result.
I’m finally kind of progressing with the latte art… This is my best effort to date.
I’m also part way through a long post of my espresso journey to date…but i keep getting distracted by annoying things like work…