Perfect Latte | A Barista's Guide To Making The Perfect Latte
How To Make A Latte
Being able to make a latte requires practicing, fine-tuning & perfection. This simple guide is designed for the home user using an "entry level" espresso machine. In our coffee lab, we recommend used the DeLonghi EC702. For a competitive price point of under $200, this is able to make the perfect latte.
Step 1 - The Heat.
A critical first step is to ensure that the coffee machine has been heated up to the right temperature. Typically most machines have a light which is switched on when it at the optimum temperature. Ensure that your cup is preheated which can usually be done by placing on the machine tray or pouring boiling water in it for 30 seconds before wiping it. This will aid in the later steps in getting that perfect crema!
Step 2 - The Grind.
Tuning the grind is very important. You can go to your local coffee shop and pay a barista to grind up a blend for you or you can do it at home by using a coffee grinder. We use a Krups 203 Electric Stainless Steel Grinder at our lab. It’s affordable and very reliable in producing a good grind. For a great production of crema, it’s all comes down to experimenting. First grind it to a course batch. If no shot is getting produced, reduce the grind so it is finer. Keep adjusting until the the extraction becomes fine enough to produce a crema that sits on top. If the water passes through too quickly, the grinder needs to be finer. However, if the grind is so fine that no shot can be produced, the grind is too fine. A perfect crema, a double shot (using both filters on portafilter), should likely to take 25-30 seconds from the point at which the pump is activated. The flow of the shot must be consistent and steady. Overall, it is all about trial and error in achieving the perfect crema production.
Step 3 - Fill the Portafilter.
Pour the ground coffee into the portafilter so that it is completely filled. The next step is to use the bottom balm of your hand and remove any excess coffee and to the level out the portafilter ready for tamping.
Step 4 - Tamper.
Use a tamper to apply pressure to the ground coffee in the portafilter. A solid level entry tamper is the RSVP Terry’s Tamper or to go a level up would be to use Rattleware 58-Militer Round-Handled Tamper. Tamping is an important process of applying approx. 30lb of pressure to ensure the extraction is steady and not too fast. The tamper must be applied evenly on the ground coffee otherwise the extraction will produce an uneven and poor production of crema.
Step 5 - Extraction.
Ensure that there is no old ground coffee stuck to the filter where the boiling water is driving out of the espresso machine. This can be done by pressing down on the extraction button on the machine for 2-3 seconds. Next you must quickly insert the portafilter into the espresso machine and press the extraction button. Most machines provide directions as to how to insert it. The quicker to put the portafilter onto the machine, the less chance you will have in burning the ground beans which will produce a bitter coffee. An unwanted result. The extraction should last 20-30 seconds assuming the grind is at the optimum course. The espresso shot MUST go directly into the cup where the crema is formed and the milk will be poured into later. The perfect crema production is one of the most crucial steps since this is where all the flavour comes from. A crema is the caramalization of sugars, oils and proteins with a well extracted coffee.
Step 6 - Texturize The Milk.
First you must heat up the steamer wand located on the machine. The aim of this step is to achieve a creamy, velvety consistency to the milk. It’s best to use full cream milk in order to achieve this. For a perfect latte, pour enough milk into a stainless steel jug until it reaches the start of the pouring dip in the jug. The milk must be COLD. We recommend using a 12oz stainless steel frother pitcher which can be found here.
The next step is place the steam wand approx. 2cm in from jug and no more than 1cm beneath the surface of the jug. Turn the steam wand on and adjust the jug with you hand until you hear the milk “hissing” or in other words expanding. When the milk begins to expand, it must going in a counter clockwise motion around the jug allowing small bubbles to form. The bubbles should not be big. Once the milk has been expanded enough (remember 1cm foam) and has reached a temperature of 80ºF, bring the steam wand into the centre of the jug and continue the spinning motion until the milk reaches 150-160ºF. NOTE: the milk must no longer be expanding during this time. An easy way to get the final temperature right without having to use a thermometer is to hold the milk jug until it becomes too hot to hold.
After stopping the steam, place the milk jug on a bench and use a wet cloth to clean the wand. Next you must bang the jug onto the bench several times which allows the bubbles to rise to the top of the jug. Swirl the milk vigorously for 30 seconds in a clockwise motion and further bang the jug onto the bench until there a no bubbles remaining. This allows there to be no separation between milk and foam making it much easier to pour in the following step. You know you have texturized the milk correctly when the milk is sweet, silky and has a glossy appearance.
Step 7 - Pouring & Latte Art.
Start by pouring the texturized milk into the bottom of the latte glass until it reaches almost half way. Next, begin to bring the milk to the centre of the glass and start a shaking motion while moving the jug left to right so more foam allows to come out of jug. As the milk begins to reach the top of the glass, allow the jug to follow back down to the bottom of the glass followed by a sweeping movement. The trick to latte art is to solely focus on getting the milk to a perfect texture before practicing any form of art. Once you can consistently produce good quality milk, start practicing latte art. Remember: without silky milk, latte art is near impossible.
Step 8 - Beans.
Finally, to make that perfect latte it’s important to choose the right style of coffee bean for maximum results. A great bean to try out first would be Cameron’s Organic French Roast. It ticks all the boxes: its fresh, has great acid balance, perfect oil balance and has a hint of roasted chocolate on the palate. For the price, it’s hard to match it. A great beginner’s roast.