Priming the Canvas
The background is half of what the customer sees of your latte art. This chapter is dedicated to teaching you how to produce a homogenous surface on which to lay your designs. For folks who are new to this craft, we will deconstruct the process of filling neatly. For those who are already experienced, this lesson will help you give your patterns sharper contrast and make your designs more persistent. A painter primes a canvas by adding an undercoat that makes the canvas less porous and preserves the painting. With the same goal, the latte artist needs to eliminate anything that distracts the eye from a design or makes the foam degrade more quickly.
[In the case you are interested in competing professionally, keep in mind that the way you approach the first 50% of your pour determines half of your points in a latte art championship.]
Brown Paint, White Paint
Referring to the Barista Hustle Cowculator, you will observe that the dissolved and undissolved contents of whole milk are quite similar, in certain ways, to those of espresso. They both behave strikingly similar to paint emulsions and contain coloured compounds — the lactose in milk is white and the melanoidins in espresso are brown. They also contain oil, dispersed across films of foam or held in suspension.
Contrast is a critical element in latte art, and easy to master. If you blend espresso and steamed milk in a 1:1 ratio, you will end up with a background colour approximately halfway between that of the two colours. If you make an 8:1 milk-to-espresso mixture, the background colour of your design will be only a bit darker than of the colour of the milk. (Please refer to the graphics below.)
Let’s say a typical espresso has a volume of approximately 25–35 ml. The World Latte Art Championships requires a cup volume between 190–300 ml. If you used an 8-oz or 240-ml cup, a 1-oz or 30-ml espresso shot,