Recently I attended the Savour Food & Wine event in Halifax. As I was making drinks I was asked several times “how do you draw on top of the coffee?” Being a Barista for the past five years I have heard this question many times. My answer is always the same, it’s an equal balance between air, pouring height, and speed. But let’s get back to the basics first!

A good espresso drink always must start with one thing, good espresso! Make sure when you’re choosing your bean for your espresso it has flavour notes that are bold enough to come through the milk. I personally prefer a medium-dark roast for an espresso bean, but everyone has their own preferences! Here at Nova Coffee we highlight our Black Dog Espresso which is a mix of Guatemalan, Mexican, Peruvian and Ethiopian. Roasted to a medium-dark finish, this coffee pulls nice subtle notes of nuts and dark chocolate through your milk (or milk substitute).

Once you have settled on what kind of coffee you would like to serve, you’re going to need to keep an eye on how your espresso is running. Too fast and it will end up being sour through your drink (don’t worry, sour won’t mean you’ll get sick! Sour refers to the flavours on your pallet. If you taste the coffee more on the front of your tongue, it’s too sour!) If your coffee is running too slowly, it will end up tasting too bitter. (Bitter sensors are on the back of the tongue!) For a perfectly rounded espresso you should taste with equal parts of the tongue. An ideal shot of espresso will run around 25 seconds for one ounce. While I am not going through the entire “dialing in” process today, you should aim to keep your grind consistent so that your espresso is running around 25 seconds and adjust as needed (watch the weather! Weather will often affect how your espresso is running!)

Next select your milk. If you are a non-dairy drinker, you will want to source out an alternative that steams well. Pacific makes a great selection of Almond, Soy and Coconut that is in their “Barista Series”. These milk substitutes are blended with espresso in mind and make the perfect option for steaming! If you do drink dairy, try to stay away from skim milk. Skim milk is not only hard to steam, it holds very little health properties and usually ends up being too thin to mix with an espresso. Ideally you want to use a homogenized milk. The fuller fat, the better the flavour! Remember when you’re steaming fuller fat items that your steaming will get louder. If you’re steaming eggnog or cream, make sure no one in your house is sleeping!

Finally, before you begin, choose your cup. Ideally for latte art you want a wider based cup. The wider the base, the bigger the canvas!

Begin making your beverage by pulling your espresso shot(s), you can run your espresso directly into your cup. If your cup doesn’t fit, run your espresso into a shot glass for easy measurement. While your espresso is running you can begin to steam your milk. Pour your desired amount of milk into a stainless-steel pitcher and insert your steam wand so that the tip of the steam wand is submerged in milk. Make sure that your steam wand is positioned slightly to the side of your pitcher, to create a whirling motion with your milk or commonly referred to as a “vortex”. You will begin steaming, and aerate your milk at the beginning, this will only take a couple of second and then you will submerge your steam wand in the milk to continue the heating process. Once complete (use a thermometer, appropriate temperature is 60-70 degrees Celsius. Stop steaming around 60 degrees to allow for the milk temperature to continue climbing after you’ve finished), turn off your steam wand (don’t forget to wipe with your damp cloth and purge!) and tap your pitcher on a counter top. You can swish your milk slightly in the container to give the texture of a paint. If the milk is bubble free, smooth and glossy looking it’s ready to pour! If the milk still has many bubbles in it, it is an indicator that you have aerated too much. Continue the tapping and swishing process until all bubbles are gone, and milk is smooth and glossy.

Don’t forget to knock your espresso puck!

When pouring your milk, you will start a few inches above the cup. Begin in the center of your beverage, you don’t want that pretty art ruined by the edge of the cup! Some people prefer to hold the cup slightly tilted when beginning your pour, the benefit of this is that if you do end up slightly off center, the cup can be moved back to a flat position to correct the milk position. The higher you pour, the easier it is for the milk to submerge below the espresso, the goal when pouring is to keep your brown coffee canvas in-tact. Continue to pour slowly until the volume is approximately one -two ounces below the edge of your cup. At this point you will lower your pitcher so that you are pouring in a closer proximity to the liquid, slightly speeding up your pour. This will cause the milk to “pool” on top of the coffee. The easiest form of latte art is a heart, and I recommend that everyone start there and work your way up. To pour a heart, you pool your milk as described and at the end lift slightly and drag your thin stream of milk through the pool of milk.

When learning latte art styles, it is important to practice practice practice! It will become easier in time. Once you are ready to graduate from pouring a heart, you can search YouTube for some great tutorials on how to pour different designs!

We also offer our customers some basic espresso training! If you’re unsure of what process is best, or want more consistency in your business, please feel free to reach out ( and we will set up a time to meet.