The Art of the Barista San Diego Coffee Culture

The Art of Being an Expert Barista

You’ve probably been to a cocktail bar and been served by one of those incredibly skilled bartenders — the people who can simultaneously mix great drinks and put on a performance. But did you know that it’s not just bartenders who do this? Baristas, the artisans of the espresso machine, do the same, in little-known competitions called throwdowns. In fact, we have a Thursday Throwdown every week here in San Diego, where baristas from across the city display their well-honed abilities.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-1Barista Fundamentals

There’s one ability that ranks above all others: making a good espresso. As espresso shots form the basis of all your lattes, cappuccinos, and many other drinks, so it’s crucial to be able to get it right, every time. A good barista knows pressure to tamp the espresso grounds in the portafilter, the correct amount of water, temperature and time to pull the espresso shot.

The World Barista Championship

So if the espresso is the foundation that all baristas need to know, then what skills does it take to make it at the top level? Well, competitors at the World Barista Championship, now in its 17th year, are tasked with preparing four espressos, four milk drinks, and four original signature drinks, in a 15-minute performance set to music. These baristas are then judged on five criteria:

Taste
Cleanliness
Creativity
Technical skill
Overall presentation

This competition format allows baristas to demonstrate both their ability to flawlessly execute the fundamentals, but also their knowledge and innovation in creating new and unique coffee drinks. Berg Wu, the 2016 World Champion, created a drink with an orange and honey reduction, Earl Grey tea and espresso, before infusing it with mandarin essential oil through an aromatizer. It remains to be seen if anyone can top this at the 2017 World Championships this November in Seoul, Korea.

Latte Art

The most visible skill on display is the latte art. If you’ve ever been served your coffee, looked into your micro-foam and seen a heart, a rosette, or a tulip, then you’ve seen latte art.

These simple designs are known as Free Hand Pours, where the barista uses only their steady hand and trusty milk pitcher. In the World Latte Art Championships, however, things get more creative, as competitors are also judged on a Designer Pour, for which they are permitted to use a stylus and textured milk to draw with.

In the World Championships, these pours are judged on their symmetry, creativity, visual appeal, and difficulty. If that reminds you of olympic sports like gymnastics or ice-skating, then you’re exactly right — and like these athletes, latte artists are also judged on their professionalism, ability, and stage presence.

Community Gardens and Farms – Achilles Coffee Partners with Food2Soil

Achilles-Coffee-San-Diego-Food2SoilAchilles Coffee Roasters is proud to contribute to local San Diego community gardens and farms through our partnership with Food2Soil, a collective of restaurants and gardeners seeking to make better use of waste products in the food and beverage industry. We’re making every effort we can to get to Zero Waste, through composting, recycling, and/or reusing everything possible at our two locations.

Composting Spent Coffee Grounds

All of our spent coffee grounds are saved in repurposed buckets and Food2Soil picks them up once a week. Once our coffee grounds leave our locations, Food2Soil distributes them to local San Diego composts, gardens and farms. These partners then work our grounds into their composting bins, turning our grounds into nitrogen-rich compost.

When added to compost, coffee grounds increase the acidity of the mixture as well as add much-needed nitrogen to a finished pile of compost. The compost that Food2Soil’s composting partners create gets distributed to local urban farms, community gardens, and urban agriculture organizations.

San Diego Community Gardens and Farms

The produce that is grown from the local farms that use Food2Soil’s compost eventually makes its way back into local San Diego farmers markets and restaurants, closing the loop from waste products to nutritious, flavor-filled local produce. This is important to us because Achilles Coffee is committed to sourcing local produce, eggs, meats, dairy and bread whenever possible.

We hope that our small steps to close the loop as much as possible will start a chain reaction in both the local San Diego roaster industry, as well as in the San Diego food and beverage industry as a whole.

Sustainability in the Restaurant Industry

While we focus on making outputs from Achilles Coffee more sustainable by partnering with Food2Soil, we’re also doing everything in our power to source local, organic, and sustainable ingredients for both our food and drink. It’s our goal to make sure that both the inputs and outputs of our business are as local and sustainable as possible. This serves two purposes:

  1. We reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible
  2. We contribute to other local San Diego businesses by both sourcing ingredients from them, and then returning our compostable waste back to community gardens.

We can’t control what happens to resources once they leave our store, but we do everything we can to make sure what comes into our store is environmentally sound. It is our goal to replace the plastic cups and straws we use with products made from plant based materials. We hope to roll this out at our two locations in 2018.

If all local businesses take simple steps to reduce, reuse and recycle and source from local suppliers, together we’ll make progress towards a more sustainable and connected local business environment, which is one of our core values at Achilles Coffee Roasters.

The Growth of Third Wave Coffee

3rd Wave Coffee Expansion

The growth of third wave coffee is an undeniably good thing, both for coffee lovers and coffee shop owners alike. Coffee’s place in our culinary landscape has been cemented as a legitimate culinary experience as opposed to a simple drink we consume in the morning. The 3rd wave created a market for coffee that entrepreneurs all around the country have tapped to make a living doing what they love — roasting, brewing and serving artisanal coffee.

Growth-Third-Wave-Coffee-Achilles-Coffee-Blog-San-DiegoAs the demand for specialty coffee continues to grow and expand, two companies with the biggest ambitions are Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. Both hailing from the Bay Area, these two coffee companies started from humble beginnings, as single-location independent cafes.

The Institutionalization of Third Wave Coffee

The growth of third wave coffee has attracted venture capital investment, with Philz raising over $75mm and Blue Bottle raising over $100mm. This begs the question: what are they going to do with all of that money?

For both companies, the answer is simple: grow, grow grow.

Blue Bottle has already opened two cafes in Tokyo, with a third on the way. They’re planning to open cafes in most of the metropolitan areas of Asia, as they’ve been incredibly successful in Tokyo already.

Philz has built 34 locations in the last 15 years of their existence. They’re in San Diego now with a location in Encinitas, and a La Jolla location on the way. This new round of funding sees them trying to add 50 more locations in quick succession. That’s over double the number of locations they built in the last 15 years.

The growth of Third Wave Coffee and the cash infusion these companies received is a rapid accelerator of growth…but it comes at a cost. Many Blue Bottle employees have left the company to start their own independent cafes, citing the “corporate takeover” of the company.

The backlash makes sense — both Blue Bottle and Philz were once small, independent, single-location coffee shops. They attracted employees who loved the company for what it was. It’s no surprise some of them are fleeing after seeing the ambitious growth goals of both of these coffee companies.

Corporate Chains vs. Independent Locally Owned Coffee Shops

For coffee drinkers, there’s a different question to answer: will these companies lose what made them special in the first place?

Is there such a thing as growing “too big” to be taken seriously as a member of the 3rd wave movement? Are we seeing the 4th wave of coffee? At what point do Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle become so ubiquitous and their business processes become so systemized that they’re indistinguishable from the big players like Starbucks or Peet’s?

While you can’t fault a company for wanting to grow, at what point will coffee drinkers turn back to the small independently owned coffee shops to recapture some of the vibe that made Philz and Blue Bottle so popular in the first place? The answer remains to be seen, but with Philz and Blue Bottle locations popping up all over the place, we’ll see soon enough.

The History of the Espresso Machine – The Purest Form of Coffee

Coffee In Its Purest Form

For many coffee aficionados, espresso is coffee. They consider it the purest form of the coffee bean. But what is espresso and how did it become so popular today? Most people know of it due to the proliferation of artisanal coffee shops, but couldn’t define what espresso is if you put them on the spot. The history of the espresso machine and espresso dates back to 19th century Europe.

Espresso is a method of preparing coffee. Specifically, it is a method where highly pressurized hot water is forced over finely ground coffee. This produces a concentrated coffee drink with a distinctly strong flavor.History-of-the-espresso-Machine-Achilles-Coffee-San-Diego

Because good espresso is the product of a consistent and high-quality process, it required the invention of an entirely new machine to produce. The first espresso machines began to pop up in Italy in the 19th century.

Even back then, coffee was big business. In Europe, cafes were spreading all across the continent. However, brewing coffee was still a slow process. It would sometimes take 5-10 minutes for a fresh cup! Being the impatient creatures that we are, inventors thought to create a steam machine to reduce the time it took to brew a cup.

The Invention of the Espresso Machine

The person who invented the espresso machine was Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. He received a patent for it in 1884, but it didn’t become popular due to the fact that it was only used for the Turin General Exposition and wasn’t widely available. Aside from the fact that he held the first patent for an espresso machine, Moriondo doesn’t have much to do with the history of espresso.

That honor is reserved for two men: Luigi Bezzerra and Desiderio Pavoni.

Luigi was a liquor producer and the inventor of the single-shot espresso in the early 20th century. He took Moriondo’s machine and made multiple innovations to it, most of which are still present on modern-day espresso machines. Two of these include multiple brewheads and a portafilter.

Pavoni’s contribution to the espresso machine begins when he purchased Bezzerra’s patents in 1903. After purchasing the patents, he added to the design, including a pressure release valve. This innovation was more for the baristas than it was for the customers, as it prevented them from being splashed with hot coffee.

Espresso is Born

This is where the word “espresso” came to prominence. Pavoni decided to market this new process for coffee as espresso, meaning “made on the spur of the moment.” As the Pavoni machine became more popular, copycats began to pop up throughout Italy. It’s no surprise – these machines were able to produce at least 100 cups of coffee every single hour. That is a massive speed increase compared to old methods.

Espresso machines would go on to be improved upon in major ways more than a few times. In 1961, a motorized pump was added so the machine no longer had to rely on the strength of the barista. Espresso machines continued to become smaller, more efficient, and more affordable, leading to their expansion out of Italy and into other parts of Europe and America.

The history of the espresso machine is long and storied, but what it did for coffee is the exact opposite. It allowed for the quick production of a concentrated, delicious cup of coffee.

Fair and Direct Trade Coffee – Cooperative Coffees

Coop Coffees is an interesting player in the 3rd wave coffee movement. What they do is simple: they import green coffee from smaller-scale farmers and their exporting cooperatives all around the world. That’s not so unique, is it? After all, the fair trade coffee movement has been around for quite some time. What makes Cooperative Coffees different?Buy-Green-Coffee-Beans-Online-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-California

 

What Cooperative Coffees is doing differently is evolving the definition of “fair trade.” They already adhere to the “Nine Basic Principles” of fair trade:

 

  1. Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers
  2. Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships
  3. Build Capacity
  4. Promote Fair Trade
  5. Pay Promptly and Fairly
  6. Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions
  7. Ensure the Rights of Children
  8. Cultivate Environmental Stewardship
  9. Respect Cultural Identity

 

What they’ve done is take these nine principles and update them to the present day.

 

When the fair trade movement first started, the goal was to build a unified and transparent network between coffee growers, purchasers, and roasters. However, it has instead created a tangled web of different purchasing networks and companies. All of these players are operating by different sets of rules. This means that the definition of “fair trade” is much murkier than it once was.

 

In fact, this murkiness is part of the reason we’ve seen a push towards direct trade coffee, where roasters deal directly with a particular farm, often making site visits and building a person-to-person relationship with the farmer. Direct trade is often hailed as the gold standard of trade practices, but it’s a one-to-one relationship. What about smaller roasters that don’t have the capacity to directly visit farmers?

 

By updating the Nine Basic Principles and adding the cooperative aspect to their business, Coop Coffees is creating a more transparent and fair market between small-scale coffee growers and small-scale coffee roasters. By creating a collective of roasters that all commit to purchasing under these fair and direct trade coffee principles, they are giving farmers and their communities much more than just income. They’re giving them stability.

 

As if this wasn’t already enough, Coop Coffees is expanding all across the United States and Canada, with a new location coming to Los Angeles soon. They have dozens of exporting relationships with cooperatives in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. On the demand side, they have over 20 member roasters in the cooperative.

 

Will we see a Coop Coffees member roaster make an entrance in San Diego? Or perhaps another cooperative will dip its toes in the water down here. Either way, this evolution of the fair trade movement is a good sign for artisanal roasters around the country.

Misconceptions and Common Espresso Based Drinks

The Macchiato

Recently there has been much misunderstanding when it comes to what the names of common espresso based drinks really mean. If you go to Starbucks and order a macchiato you will get one drink, while if you go to any third wave coffee shop and order a macchiato you will get something entirely different. These misunderstandings cause your wonderful barista to make a drink for you that you did not want in the first place! Today I would like to clear up some of these misunderstandings and talking about what some of these drinks traditionally are.

First, let’s start with probably the most misunderstood drink: The Macchiato. If you go to Starbucks and order a macchiato you are going to get a large sugary drink with whipped cream on top. A traditional macchiato is far from that. In fact, a macchiato is a very small drink consisting of a shot (or double shot) of espresso and just a “dollop” of milk on top. The entire beverage only comes out to be between two and four fluid ounces depending on the size of the cup and which coffee shop you go to. If you speak with someone who is very traditional when it comes to their espresso based drinks, they will also tell you that the dollop of milk is only to be foam; however, the standard in most specialty coffee shops in America is a “wet” macchiato. This means that it consists of steamed milk and microfoam on top, which allows the consumer to enjoy some beautiful latte art which the barista expertly pours.

The Cortado

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-CortadoWhen you add just a little more steamed milk to your espresso than a macchiato, you get a cortado. The cortado comes from Argentina, and if you get a “real” cortado then you are going to be served a four ounce beverage that has a double shot of espresso and steamed milk with no foam. However, the more standard version of the cortado you will find is going to have a little bit of microfoam on it, which allows for some more wonderful latte art. Sometimes, people also refer to the cortado as a gibralter, because it is often times served in a gibraltar glass.

Flat White vs. Cappuccino

If you add just a little bit more milk to your espresso than a cortado we come to two very controversial drinks: the flat white and the cappuccino. Both a flat white and cappuccino are traditionally served as a six ounce beverage. They both have the same amount of espresso in them (generally a double shot), but they differ in the consistency of the milk poured. A flat white is closer to being a smaller latte than anything else, which I personally like to call a manly latte. It has steamed milk and micro foam; however, it has less foam than a latte would have. The flat white is very popular in New Zealand and Australia, and many people expect the same quality here in the US as they get there. A cappuccino has much more foam than the flat white has. A traditional cappuccino will have one third espresso, one third steamed milk, and one third foam with each third being about two ounces. Seeing as both of these beverages are quite small, next time you see someone order a 20oz flat white you will know it is not true to its nature.

The Latte

Finally we come to the latte. There are so many kinds of lattes ranging from just steamed milk and Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-latte on hardwoodespresso, to vanilla lattes, to caramel lattes, to really as creative of a latte that you can come up with to make. Lattes come in many sizes, but they all share the same fundamental feature with each other. This feature is that they all have the same amount of micro foam on them. One way that this can be visualized is a latte has two fingers of foam widthwise, and a flat white has half a finger of foam.

These are the core espresso drinks that any barista should master. From there, creativity is the only limit to what kind of deliciousness you can create behind the bar!

The Pour Over Coffee Method

The Filters

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Buy-Coffee-Online-Hario-v60There are many ways to create a delicious cup of coffee at home. Today I want to talk about making a great cup of coffee using the pour over coffee method. To get started, you need to make sure that you have some fresh roasted coffee beans and all of the right equipment. For beans, Achilles Coffee Roasters has many options that will fit everyone’s personal tastes from light to dark roast. As far as equipment goes, the first thing you need is a cone and filters. There are three major options that we can choose from. At Achilles Coffee we use a ceramic Hario V60. There are other choices as well: The Kalita Wave or Chemex with the corresponding filters. For whichever one you choose to use, there is a basic pour over process that will work no matter what.

The Grinder and Kettle

Next, if you did not get your beans pre ground at the store you need to have a home grinder. It is recommended to not get your Baratza Encore coffee grinder. It is a conical burr Achilles-Coffee-Roaters-Buy-Coffee-Online-Hario-Kettlebeans pre ground and to only grind them within fifteen minutes of making your coffee. A really solid home grinder can be purchased for around $100. My recommendation for home grinder is the grinder that has thirty settings from coarse to fine that evenly grinds your coffee to near perfection. Lastly, I recommend  a Hario kettle, which has a spout that allows you to control the flow of water as you pour it over the grinds. With all of your equipment in hand, it is time to make that awesome cup of coffee.

The Pour

The first step in the process is to heat up your water. The ideal temperature for water is 200 degrees. The best way to achieve this is to bring your water to a boil and then let it sit for about thirty seconds. While your water is heating up, you can go ahead and grind your beans. Your grind should be quite a bit finer than a french press grind (which is generally very coarse) Buy-Coffee-Online-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-200x150and quite a bit coarser than an espresso grind (which is generally on the very fine side). Experiment with your grind and find what works best for you! It is recommended to use between 25 and 30 grams of coffee for a 12oz drink, and 30 to 35 grams for a 16oz drink. When your water is up to temperature, the first thing that you want to do before adding your beans is to place the filter in the cone and pour a bit of water to seal the filter to the cone. After this point, there are many different theories on how to pour the water over the beans; however, it is an agreed upon idea that the entire process should take somewhere between four and four and a half minutes. The easiest way is to begin with a slow steady pour from the outside and spiral inward. After all of the beans are saturated, allow the coffee to sit and “bloom” for about 20 to 30 seconds. Then repeat the pour from outward spiraling inward again, but only allow the coffee between 5-10 seconds before adding more water with the same spiraling pour. Keep repeating this process until complete!

What is the Third Wave Coffee Movement?

Third Wave Coffee Movement

You’ve probably noticed the third wave coffee movement happening around you already, without even realizing that’s what you’re seeing. Increasing numbers of small shops, many of them with the name Roasters in their titles, have opened in neighborhoods across the US. Generally speaking, they tend to be Spartan in appearance, lots of exposed stone or natural wood, overhead Edison lightbulbs and any number of glass or steel contraptions behind the bar. If you’ve walked in, then you’ve noticed that these shops have their own lingo and practices: they talk about different types of roasts, single origin beans, and frequently have a list of adjectives on their menu for each discrete coffee that they brew, adjectives that might seem more at home in a wine-tasting workshop than in a place where you’re picking up your morning brew. And surely you’ve noticed the lattes, where there was once maybe a large blob of thick foam atop your drink, there are now delicate, artistic designs drawn in milk, a heart, a fern, or a tulip.

So what’s going on here? Obviously, the third wave movement of coffee consumption is about more than the aesthetic signifiers listed above, so what is the third wave actually about?

As the name “third wave would imply, it’s actually the third of its kind to come along. The first wave movement of coffee (retroactively named, obviously) refers to the time in which coffee became a widespread American drink, the morning beverage of choice, brewed at home, and readily available on the shelves of most local grocery stores. Think Folgers and Maxwell House coffee. This happened for a few reasons, but developments and innovation in the shipping industry had a lot to do with it.

The second wave of coffee refers to the period of the proliferation of coffee shops across the country, Peet’s in Berkeley is often credited with kicking off the second wave. During the second wave coffee movement, customers were introduced to espresso and the variety of drinks that are espresso derived lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and macchiatos, to name a few. Coffee shops became places to spend time and socialize, European-style.

Third-Wave-Coffee-Movement-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-EspressoAnd now we’ve reached the third wave. Third wave coffee, often referred to as Specialty Coffee, was really spearheaded by coffee shops and roasters like Intelligentsia (out of Chicago), Stumptown (Portland), and Counter Culture (North Carolina). In third wave coffee, coffee is treated like a premium product like wine or craft beer. People pay careful attention to its origins and beans are roasted so that the roast highlights the unique qualities of each bean, rather than roasting to create a uniform black coffee taste. This attention to detail carries over to the way the coffee is brewed in third wave shops as well. Baristas are educated and trained to properly pull shots of espresso. In addition to batch brew, coffee is often prepared by the cup such as pour over, with attention to the grind of the coffee, the temperature of the water, and the brew time. This all takes place so that you, the consumer, can truly appreciate the unique cup of coffee in your hands!

The Process of Coffee Cupping

You may have heard of the term cupping if you are involved in the coffee world or happen to be trying out lots of specialty coffee. Unfortunately, like much of the terminology belonging to the modern coffee industry, this one can seem pretty obtuse if no one has explained it to you yet. “Cupping?” You might be saying. “Isn’t that what we do whenever we make coffee- brew it, and put it into a cup?” Well, actually, cupping refers to a pretty specific process of brewing, tasting, and establishing the qualities of different batches of beans when they’re freshly roasted. The cupping process almost always follows some pretty strict parameters to ensure consistency and a sort of “intellectual honesty” when it comes to tasting the beans and evaluating those tastes.

The definition of a coffee cupping is this: it is a (usually professionally) conducted procedure of brewing and then observing and evaluating coffee- mostly with an eye to smell, texture, and- of course- taste. Here are the aspects of a professional-grade coffee cupping that are so stringent and effective:
First, the beans must be freshly roasted. According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (also known as the SCAA– and pretty much the go-to source for any coffee information or specifications you may need), the bean sample should be roasted within 24 hours of the cupping. This is especially tricky because coffee beans need time to rest after they’re roasted- and the SCAA says 8 hours of resting, at least.

Once you’ve got your freshly-roasted (and freshly rested!) beans, you can start getting the coffee ready to taste. CuppingAchilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Cupping-2a according to standards requires strict measurements of coffee to water ratios- 8.25 grams of coffee per 125 mL of water, according to the SCAA. You should weigh the beans before grinding them, not after. And speaking of grinding- there are regulations around when that can happen, too. Your coffee sample should be ground as close to brewing as possible, and absolutely no more than 15 minutes before.

Instead of using a typical brew method (like a Pour Over, or a French press) for the coffee that will be evaluated during a cupping, the hot water is poured directly over the grounds. Because of this, a few minutes need to pass between pouring and when the coffee is ready to taste- otherwise you’ll just be drinking coffee particles. Three to five minutes is recommended in order for the grounds to settle appropriately.

Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-Coffee-Flavor-WheelNow the tasting and evaluation can actually begin! For a professional cupping, there will usually be a long form that is filled out to help those present go down the list of qualities that the coffee has or lacks- these are qualities like aroma, body, acidity, balance, sweetness, uniformity, and aftertaste, among many others. Basically, any aspect of the coffee that can be judged is examined on its own, and then used together to create a holistic evaluation of the coffee (and to frequently give it a score). This score, made up of the judgments reached during the cupping, help to determine whether you’re getting a specialty cup of coffee or not, and what words will be used to describe it when it is passed on to buyers across the country.

Latte Art: Turning Crema to Canvas

A signature of the third wave coffee movement is latte art, espresso drinks finished with a design. You’ve absolutely witnessed this: lattes finished with ferns, hearts, or flowers freshly poured by your barista. It’s a testament to a well-pulled shot of espresso, milk with good micro foam, and a barista who knows what he/she is doing (and who has likely poured a few hundred lattes).Latte-Art-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego

Latte art is a really fun addition and beautiful detail, and there’s really no way to fake it. To even have a shot at making one of those beautiful designs, you’ll need your shot of espresso to be fresh and have a nice layer of crema (that light, tawny foam-like layer floating atop a well-pulled shot of espresso). Additionally, you’ll need to have steamed your milk well. It helps a lot if the milk is fresh and cold before you begin steaming, and it’s considerably easier to pour latte art with full fat dairy milk (latte art is possible with non-dairy milks like soy or almond milk, and also with fat-free dairy milk, but it’s definitely trickier to pull off. If you’re a beginner, you should absolutely start with good old-fashioned whole milk.). Your milk needs to be fully micro foamed, and the timing is best if you pull the shot while you steam your milk.

There are actually two categories of latte art: free pour latte art and etching. Free pour is what you’ll see most of your third-wave baristas doing- as they pour the drinks, they also manipulate the foam to draw the design as it comes out of the Latte-Art-Espresso-Achilles-Coffee-Roasters-San-Diego-300pitcher and flows into the cup. Etching happens after a latte has already been poured: a barista will then use the existing foam to draw or stencil a design or picture on top of the latte- some baristas even sculpt three-dimensional art out of the foam! However, because of the time required to render art in the etching style, it’s likely that the drink will have already begun to cool, and the foam to have degraded a bit by the time the consumer gets their drink. For this reason, free pour latte art tends to be favored by coffee shops that place a high premium on the taste of their coffee bean.

To be able to free pour a design into a latte, you’ll need to use your freshly steamed milk and freshly pulled espresso just as soon as they’re done. One important step is the first bit of milk poured into espresso – it ought to be done from a height of at least six inches, and with enough force that the milk breaks the surface of the crema. This is a delicate balance – too soft, and the milk will just float atop the crema, ruining your canvas. But too hard, and you’ll break apart the crema too much for drawing.

After you’ve broken the surface, pour carefully until the foam begins to come out of the back of the pitcher- once this happens, you’re able to start making designs!

Next time you are at your favorite coffee shop check to see how your espresso drink is finished. A well-finished latte is a sign of quality, freshness and barista experience.