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Seattle area still has espresso morons


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Hey there.....

I'm kinda new to this forum, but not eGullet. I frequently make a pest out of myself in the Pastry and Baking forum, but I felt like bothering another forum, so here I am.

I did a coupla searches and read some of the pinned topics on Coffee and Tea, particularly milk foaming techniques for creating latte art. There's still some things I didn't really find info on regarding this topic.

I make Lattes and coffee drinks for my friends at work.....we have 6 year old Faema that seems to chug along ok, but by NO MEANS would I call myself a barista. In fact, I think I probably pull some pretty lousy espresso shots. I wouldn't dare pull any for our fussy clientele, I'd probably drive them all away. Hey, I know my limits. But....I want to change! I'd like to make a decent latte for my friends, because they always make a decent latte for me. But I don't want to ask THEM how do it 'cause I want it to be a surprise.....one day, I want to serve them their lattes and have them say, "Hey! This is pretty good!" I'll settle for that. I also want to do what they don't know how to do, and that is....some latte art. I think I can master that....but I just want to know a few things.....(besides how to pull a good shot)

In order to make latte art, it is essential that you have crema on the top of your shot, right?

And by crema, I mean the tan foamy stuff on the top of the espresso BEFORE the milk is added.

Is my terminology right?

How do you get crema?

Is it a natural occurrence?

Can you enhance it by how you tamp your espresso?

Does the grind have to be just so?

Is crema affected by how long it takes to pull your shot?

Should you pull your shot directly into the cup you're serving it in, or can you pull it into a small pitcher or shot glass first?

Or is latte art all about how you foam the milk?

Can any of you guys help me? :wacko:

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Latte Art (which has been around for decades) can only be achieved if the following criteria are met: espresso with thick crema, milk that is fresh and steamed to silky perfection, and a barista who knows how to pour it. Without these, Latte Art cannot exist.

You need to answer a lot of questions, but very generally you can begin by making sure of a few things:

- get some good quality coffee that is fresh (roasted within 1 week). find the best local roaster you can.

- grind it fresh right before you pull your espresso. basically you should be pouring 2oz in about 25-30 seconds. if you're way out here, you should research more about how to tune your gind and tamp. good grinding, dosing and tamping all contribute to good crema.

when you've got your espresso shots right, thick crema and tasting great, just go read the Milk Frothing Guide by Aaron De Lazzer.

be patient, practice, be prepared to waste a lot of coffee and milk, and you'll be pouring latte art in no time.. er... maybe in a few weeks. there's a lot to learn about coffee and espresso.

Alistair Durie

Elysian Coffee

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my two beans worth ... :raz: couldn't resist.

the true definition of latte art doesn't really have anything to do with taste, so the crema of the coffee in that sense wouldn't be that essential ... Hopkin, not sure if you agree, it is one topic on my list to chat with you about! That being said, there is no point to drinking coffee/serving coffee or focusing on latte art if the espresso is without crema, espresso without crema is something like a bicycle without wheels.

Chefpeon, you are lucky to have offers from Abra and Shel, take them up on it and have fun!

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the true definition of latte art doesn't really have anything to do with taste, so the crema of the coffee in that sense wouldn't be that essential ... Hopkin, not sure if you agree, it is one topic on my list to chat with you about!

huh? sushi I cant believe i gotta explain this to ya! :blink:

latte art defined: espresso, crema and lusciously steamed milk gracefully combined together. the way that latte art is poured leaves the crema layer with the silky foam on top - the two sweetest parts of the drink. it somewhat seperates the 4 elements (espresso, crema, milk, foam) for a more complex experience.

compare this with *$ or any big chain - espresso that has steamed milk dumped on it, crema all mixed in, bubbly foam spooned on top. yuck. two dramatically different drinks.

if you need proof i'll make 2 for you. you're due for a visit anyhow!

Alistair Durie

Elysian Coffee

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Nah, Shel's latte art is kindergarten stuff, but he can teach you to pull a nice shot with crema, and to foam milk correctly, then, artist that you are you can teach him to do the latte art!

Edited by Abra (log)
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the true definition of latte art doesn't really have anything to do with taste, so the crema of the coffee in that sense wouldn't be that essential ... Hopkin, not sure if you agree, it is one topic on my list to chat with you about!

huh? sushi I cant believe i gotta explain this to ya! :blink:

latte art defined: espresso, crema and lusciously steamed milk gracefully combined together. the way that latte art is poured leaves the crema layer with the silky foam on top - the two sweetest parts of the drink. it somewhat seperates the 4 elements (espresso, crema, milk, foam) for a more complex experience.

compare this with *$ or any big chain - espresso that has steamed milk dumped on it, crema all mixed in, bubbly foam spooned on top. yuck. two dramatically different drinks.

if you need proof i'll make 2 for you. you're due for a visit anyhow!

Ok, guilty as charged :blink: ... yes I'll pop by soon and no need to make me a BAD drink!!! What I was thinking when writing this, was about an old colleague who used to sculpt foam on the top of drinks - his orca comes to mind. In my mind, this was also latte art maybe I'm just way off base.

Anyway, hopkin, my bad! I agree with all you have said in regards to crema and the seperation / combination as well as skill. My real point was what is the point of latte art if you don't know how to pull a decent shot of espresso and/or if you can't steam up some nice smooth foamy milk.

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Latte art is tres cool and although it doesn't really have anything to do with taste, it's a very useful pursuit for the home espresso enthusiast - even klutzes like me who have trouble making a good rosetta.

Why? It's really very simple. The processes and techniques required to get one to the point where it's even possible to pour latte art inherently require that fresh roasted beans be used that are ground for each shot... properly tamped... pulled at the right temperature... the milk must be perfectly foamed... etc. This means that even if the resulting "art" is not of the highest order the drink will tend to be better than what you might have produced previously. In short, in the pursuit of latte art forces you to improve your espresso techniques.

Good and abundant crema is essential in order for the balance of espresso and milk to develop properly on the surface as the pour fills the cup and the silken, velvety texture of properly micro-foamed milk also makes this possible. Most interesting to me is the fact that the sum is truly more than the parts. I find a properly made cappuccino or latte (i.e. 2 parts or 3 parts foamed milk to 1 part espresso respectively) to have characteristics that aren't discernable in either plain old foamed milk, straight espresso or millk based espresso drinks that lack good espresso or the right texture of milk.

As a matter of fact I'm drinking one right now :smile:

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Good and abundant crema is essential in order for the balance of espresso and milk to develop properly on the surface as the pour fills the cup and the silken, velvety texture of properly micro-foamed milk also makes this possible.

That's been my first obstacle......the crema! I have a little crema in my cup after pulling the shot,

but not enough to make art with. What I'd like to know is, what are the criteria for achieving abundant crema?

What is the "proper tamp"?

What temperature should I shoot for?

And using espresso coffee that's not freshly ground will affect it?

I think I've got the milk foaming thing down pretty well.....

but damn you crema! Why do you taunt me so? :wacko:

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To achieve good crema, it is essential to have freshly-roasted beans. Anything over 2 weeks old is not good. Yes, they have to be freshly ground. Once coffee is ground, its oils start to evaporate and turn rancid. Ideally, the coffee should be ground no longer than a minute or two before you actually pull the shot.

The grind:

If a good-quality espresso grinder with sharp burrs isn't used, the coffee grinds will be of inconsistent size. Inconsistent sized grounds will not allow the water to push through the puck evenly. In some places, the water will channel through and in others, it won't make it through at all.

The tamp:

The portafilter basket should be filled to the top with ground coffee, leveled off with your outstretched finger, and evenly tamped with approximately 30-35 pounds of force.

Provided that you have a decent machine and all of the above guidelines are followed, you should be on your way to getting decent crema.

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Wow Beto.....

thanks for the tips!

I will try them tomorrow!

I did get some good crema this morning.....I ground it fresh.....what a difference!

Guess I didn't foam the milk right though 'cause I still couldn't get that little pool of milk

to show up in the center of the cup. Everything just mixed together and there was no

way I could pour any art.

I'll give it another shot tomorrow......ha! Get it? Shot? Barista humor! :laugh:

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The "latte art" hasn't happened yet. Did another shot this morning......good crema.....

but I must not be doin' the milk right. I reviewed the milk foaming and texturing techniques

that I was referred to, above. I noticed that one mentioned combining skim milk and whole

milk was best, and I've also heard using just whole milk alone was best. My co-worker told

me she heard that 2% was best.

So now I'm sorta confused. I've been using just whole milk. Maybe I'll try the combo of whole

and skim on Monday and see how that works.

Anyone with opinions or suggestions on this matter?

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Whole milk generally makes better micro-foam in my experience. Mixing whole and skim is an easy way to get 2% (we do it in our cafes as we don't stock 2%). Skim milk makes light fluffy foam but the milk and foam separate very quickly.

A few key things....

- always purge the steam wand of excess water just before steaming

- start with the tip at the botom of the pitcher when you activate the steam and quickly lower the pitcher to get the tip so it's just below the surface of the milk

- you should hear a sort of ripping sound as the air is introduced into the milk and then keep lowering the pitcher as the milk expands or "stretches" so the tip remains just below the surface and you keeo hearing the same sound

- at all times and particularly during the final phase, try to angle the steam tip and the pitcher so that a swirling motion is occuring in the pitcher

- when the milk reaches about 80 degrees or so it should have increased in volume by about 25%; now raise the pitcher so the tip is almost at the bottom and get the swirling motion going as rapidly as possible

- this final phase will help reduce the larger bubbles into the tiny bubbles that comprise true micro-foam which can be poured in one motion

- at about 140 - 150 degrees stop the steam, remove the pitcher and immediately wipe down the steam arm with a wet towel then turning it back on for a brief second or two to purge any remaining milk from the tip

- it's often helpful to tap the pitcher a few times after this to break up any remaining larger bubbles

The ultimate source for links to milk foaming tutorials and some really good short movies illustrating the process:

Thomas Gauperaa's Blogspot

Scroll about halfway down the page and look for the links on the left.

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Thanks a lot Phaelon!

I clicked on the links and did a lot of reading this morning. Wow.....this is going to be more of a challenge than I thought! Possibly 6 months of practice before I get that elusive art in my cup!

But what the heck, it's not like it's going to be painful or anything.....since I make myself a cup every morning anyway!

Of note: One article said it's important to have a four hole fan dispersion steam wand. I know my steam wand at work is just a single hole type......would I be wasting my time trying to create latte art on that machine? Or is it achievable with that type of wand, just a bit harder?

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It won't take six months - trust me on that. Best bet is to get a couple gallons of milk and some weekend or evening when you can get some time alone with the machine just start practicing. Do lots of steaming before you even bother making the espresso shots to pour the milk. Try pouring the milk after steaming and look for a sort of velvety silken texture in which the milk pours as a continuous stream of dense foam rather than milk with a separate layer of fluffy foam.

Once you get "over the hump" with one or two half decent pours you'll find that it's not so tough to pour rudimentary latte art. It really helps to have a relatively shallow bowl shaped cup to do the pour. Deeper cups with straight sides (e.g. like take-away paper coffee cups or conventional coffee mugs) are not good.

You might try calling Terry Z and his staff over at Espresso Parts and see if the 30 degree 2 hole steam tip will fit your machine. It's also possible that the newer style La Marzocco 4 hole tip will fit but check with them to confirm. Many people find the 2 hole tip a bit easier to work with on high end semi-commercial home machines (rather than the stock 1 hole or 2 hole tip that comes with the machine)but I'm not sure how well that transfers to commercial machines.

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Looks like I'm gonna have myself a foaming party over at Abra's this weekend!

I'll be a steamin' fool, for sure.

Yesterday, I ALMOST ALMOST had a kind of a thing, art-wise in my cup. It was just barely there.....I knew that the milk was almost right, but not quite there. I thought maybe this

morning I'd be able to pull it off, but no......I had a crappy foaming day I guess! I keep

ending up with foam on top of hot milk! I can't seem to make the whole pitcher microfoamy!

Argh!

I did check my steam wand a little more closely......silly me! It's a 6 hole fan dispersion!

I think it's six anyway.....I know it's more than four. So I've got the right equipment, the

right kind of cup, the right ingredients.....it's all there.....just gotta work on the barista

skills! I really should re-name this thread "In Pursuit of Latte Art-The Blog", but I don't know

how to re-name a thread....if it's even possible......

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  • 2 weeks later...

Anne (and others in Seattle)!!!

The 2005 United States Barista Championship is in Seattle from March 9-13th! You should come and check it out! Bronwen Serna (of Hines Public Market Coffee in Seattle) and Chris Deferio (of Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca, NY) are not only great people and great baristas who will be competing (or in Bronwen's case, likely judging... she's the 2004 USBC champ!), but they're also among the world's best latte-artists!!!

Check out www.scaa.org for details!

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