Even though I’ve made thousands of lattes over the past 25 years, both for myself and for others, I’ve never come close to mastering latte art. Some days as I pour the velvety-smooth milk over the espresso, it takes on the pattern of a delicate flower or a rippled heart. Other days it plops in there like a big blob, and no amount of squinting or imagination can conjure a recognizable shape out of it. A couple years ago I decided to take a picture of each morning latte for a hundred days in a row, hoping that the act of keeping a record of it would work some psychological magic on me, force me to slow down and think about the process, foster some kind of consistency, and maybe, just maybe, lead me to latte art mastery.
It’s not like the goal was unachievable. Plenty of baristas around town here and elsewhere create perfect rosette after perfect rosette for their adoring customers. I couldn’t blame my equipment, either. After Sara and I (along with our friends) sold our coffee house, we realized there was no going back to those anemic little espresso machines and grinders. Instead, we sprang for a small yet powerful machine with a heat exchanger, temperature control, and plumbed-in water line. Aside from the occasional thunderous rumble from the pump, it runs like a dream.
So how did my experiment go? Did I improve the design, cup by cup, until I had reached Van Gogh levels of artistry? Not exactly. I’d compare it more to garage sale art with an occasional Jackson Pollock. And despite doing the exact same thing every time — well, as close to exact as I could get — the results were wildly inconsistent. You can see for yourself if you want. I just uploaded the photos for all the world’s praise and ridicule on a web page I created.
p.s. Suddenly it occurs to me that I should be doing what the kids do whenever they want to learn something new: Check it out on YouTube!
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