Steal These Master Barista Tips for Making Lattes at Home

Whenever I go abroad, I always return having learned at least one new thing that I incorporate into my life at home. From the granola recipe my hostess taught me when I went to Switzerland as a teen, to the trick my favorite Italian B&B owner shared for grilling perfect eggplant, these little tidbits are how I keep the memory of my travels alive! As you might imagine, my most recent trip to Italy as a guest of illy coffee left me with more than a few ideas to implement in the kitchen—and they’re particularly special to me as I acquired them during my time with one of illy’s master baristas. It’s not every day that one of the world’s foremost coffee experts lets you in on his secrets for making world class espresso drinks at home, after all! I’ve been putting his tips to work while making lattes at home, and I’m excited to pass them along to you guys here today!

Milk Matters! You know that thick, creamy froth that you get on lattes and cappuccinos at fancy coffee shops? You definitely can create that at home, but only if you’re using milk that has some fat in it. That’s because the fat molecules are what trap the air in the milk by forming the exterior walls of the little bubbles; without them, your milk won’t aerate properly and your foam will fall flat! Whole milk is ideal, but if dairy’s not your thing, then consider oat milk. Many brands add a touch of oil to emulsify the ingredients and create a creamy consistency, which makes oat milk a great nondairy option for getting the foam of your dreams at home!

Pay Attention to Your Pitcher! You know those gooseneck kettles that pour over coffee aficionados swear by? They love ’em because the spout allows them to control the water flow for a precise pour. So it only makes sense that a vessel for pouring the perfect latte would have its own special requirements! You want one with a spout that comes to a nice, clean point so you can direct your liquid exactly where you want it, and the spout should taper halfway down the height of the pitcher, like this one. I previously used a pitcher with a broad, shallow spout and would get frustrated when my milk came gushing out. Switching my pitcher has been a game changer!

Add a Dash of Cocoa: Okay, so our latte art at home may never rival that of illy’s master barista, but there is one trick he showed me that will help define whatever pattern we are able to create with our milk! If you put a shake of unsweetened cocoa powder into the cup before you add your milk, the cocoa will catch the edges of the milk’s stream as you pour for a deeper contrast between the dark hue of the cocoa and the pale white of the milk! As a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy a delicate touch of chocolate flavor—making your latte more delicious regardless of what it looks like!

Images: Anne Sage.