Be A Creative Coffee Connoisseur And Use A Stencil To Perfect Latte Art

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When you have all the right coffee gadgets to make sure you're making that perfect cup of joe, it's important to remember that aesthetics also play a vital role. Everything from the color of the coffee cup to something as simple as an interesting image floating atop the beverage can influence the coffee-drinking experience. We're all used to the customary cappuccino leaf latte art, and though it's a classic, most people rarely notice it anymore. Switch it up to something different, and the drinker is bound to do a double take and spend some time looking at their coffee. This may also get them to sip their coffee more carefully, paying attention to its flavors.

It all comes down to simple stencils, finely powdered cocoa or cinnamon, and thick milk foam. Whichever powder you use must be free-flowing to ensure an even dusting falls through the stencil. The foam must also be sturdy enough to ensure your art doesn't quickly sink into oblivion to the depths of the cup. Fortunately, there are different ways to achieve such a foam canvas, and with a bit of practice and a few tips, you can start decorating your cuppas with some very interesting latte art. Best of all, there are virtually unlimited designs to explore, and it's a great, simple way to upgrade your coffee. Once you get good at it, you can even try layering multiple designs to create even more intricate latte art.  

Assemble your latte art supplies

This kind of latte art involves placing a stencil on the rim of your coffee cup and carefully dusting it with a fine powder. Anything contrasting with white works, so while cocoa is the easiest, cinnamon, colored sugars, espresso powder, or even pumpkin spice are viable options. What's important here is that the powder you use is finely ground, free-flowing, and doesn't have lumps, which could smudge your outline. 

When picking which powder to use, consider how it'll affect the taste of your coffee. This won't matter with a design that has a few thin lines (like the outline of a star), but for larger or blockier designs (like a solid star), you will end up pouring quite a pit of powder onto the coffee. Cocoa has the lightest flavor and goes well with most coffees. Cinnamon also works well but can get spicy, so use it cautiously. You'll need to be especially careful when using espresso powder because too much atop a coffee can result in a bitter and powdery mouthfeel.

Now for the designs — you can find latte art stencils online or make your own at home by printing and carefully cutting them out. Ensure your stencils are made of plastic, not paper, so that you can wash and reuse them. Start with simpler designs before moving on to more intricate ones, and to ensure they appear sharp, place the stencil as close to the surface of the milk foam or espresso crema as possible.

Prep your latte foam canvas

There are multiple methods to achieve an even, supportive foam layer atop your coffee, and depending on how much time you want to spend practicing, you can choose which way to go. The first (and most common) is frothing the milk and pouring it into your coffee. This requires learning to make milk foam using a steamer or handheld frother. While the latter is easier to use, mastering the former is a more impressive skill, and if you're serious about coffee and have a milk steamer at home, spend some time practicing foaming milk. Whichever method you use, ensure that you swirl and tap the milk container on the counter a few times after frothing to get rid of large bubbles. The objective is to get a fine, slightly wet foam that will remain stable for longer (whole milk also works better for this).

The easy way is to top your cuppa with a layer of whipped cream and then use a knife to level it with the cup's rim. This gives you a thick, creamy (not to mention delicious) canvas for more intricate latte art designs that will remain visible longer. You can also use stencils to decorate the delicate brown crema atop your espresso. However, you'll need a narrow cup to ensure a thick layer of crema, and since there is no milk involved, the layer will disappear within a few minutes, so you'll have to act fast.