Lance Hedrick is best known for his Youtube channel and Instagram page where he covers all things coffee. He mostly reviews new equipment and researches way to improve brewing of espresso and pour over, but he is also a very accomplished barista, winning the Latte Art World Championship in 2017 and multiple other events around the world.
Latte art is created by pouring steamed milk into espresso and using the contrast in colors to create beautiful flowing shapes. The milk doesn’t mix into the coffee like when regular milk is poured into drip coffee is because when the milk is steamed, air is infused into the milk creating micro foam which floats on the surface. This adds to the richness of a latte, as well as allowing baristas to show off their craft by adding a personal touch to each cup.
This is a tulip pour from Lance’s Instagram which shows perfect symmetry and flow of the foam.
Good latte art takes many more steps than just the pouring of the milk into espresso, the volumetric increase of the milk when it is steamed should be around 30% in order to be the right consistency to flow when poured and not just form into a clump of foam with no discernible shape, but also have enough foam to form the layer of foam on top which holds the shape together. Also, if the milk sits for a few seconds too long after steaming, the foam floats to the surface of the pouring pitcher and doesn’t come out uniformly when poured. When it comes to the actual pour of the milk, there are also many factors that come into play like the height the milk is being poured at, the flow rate of the milk, the location it’s being poured, and when the art starts forming. If the pour is too high, the foam will submerge in the coffee and turn brown, which is desirable at the start to create the background, but later ends up making a brown mess. Ideally, the pour starts off high, then lowers to place the foam on top of the coffee and remain white. If the flow rate is too high, the flow disrupts the art and mis-shapes it by creating unwanted vortices, and if the flow rate is too low, there is not enough force to push the foam aside and form flowing shapes. Lastly, if the pouring pitcher is lowered too early, the art expands too far and takes up too much of the cup, and if it’s lowered too late, the art isn’t able to expand and remains small and sad looking.
Each of the elements listed above are very finicky, so in order to end up with a beautiful latte, each needs to be executed exactly right. This is where I find the beauty in his art, because it is technically very challenging to achieve, while also being beautiful to look at. Fluid flow is hard to control, so being able to shape it exactly how you want is impressive.
A picture from Reddit which shows what most beginners would pour, there is little contrast between the white and brown, there is no defined shape, and the bubbles are course and visible to the naked eye. If you were handed this at a coffee shop, your expectation for how the coffee taste would be low.
Another picture from Lance’s Instagram. The art is symmetrical and takes up most of the cup while depicting a tulip flower.
“Dive into Anything.” Reddit, www.reddit.com/r/espresso/comments/zazww8/bad_latte_art_is_that_a_cow/. Accessed 5 Sept. 2023.
Lance Hedrick, www.lancehedrick.coffee/. Accessed 5 Sept. 2023.
“Lance Hedrick on Instagram.” Instagram, www.instagram.com/p/CM7b-0SjQ1i/?img_index=2. Accessed 5 Sept. 2023.