The only thing that could make the perfect coffee even better is when it’s as beautiful as it is delicious. These fun latte designs are perfect for impressing your brunch guests, your family, or even just to brighten up your own day. Here are three easy-breezy ways to pretty up a special mug of coffee.
The simplest way to get a seemingly complicated design on any foam-topped drink is to use a ready-made shape or design guide, like a cookie cutter, or, for more intricate details, a cookie-press disk. If you have a custom image in mind, you can also simply trace and cut a simple “stencil” out of the plastic lid of a deli container or a piece of card stock with a sharp blade or knife—a heart shape is an easy one, or even a few small hearts in different sizes.
Follow these steps for serving:
1. Brew a batch of strong coffee and fill a mug about halfway or 2/3rds with the brew.
2. In a small saucepan, gently and slowly warm milk, whisking it until it gets frothy. (Pro tip: You can also heat milk in a pan or in the microwave for 30 seconds, then transfer it to a clean French press and use the mesh plunger to kind of “whip” it until it foams.)
3. Pour the milk into the coffee, letting the foam sit on top.
4. Place the stencil close over the mug and use ground cinnamon, cinnamon sugar, or cocoa powder to “color” the design on top of the foam.
Another easy way to make your morning a little brighter is to add a few drops of food coloring to the milk that you steam or warm up for your homemade cappuccino or cafe au lait. Just a drop or two of red food coloring whisked in after heating it will give whole milk a lovely pink hue. If you use the same French press frothing technique listed above, you can add the food-safe pigment to the warm milk before “whipping” it with the plunger, which will help fully blend the color throughout. A sprinkle of cinnamon, a few shaves of chocolate, or even a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream on top completes the masterpiece.
Lastly, one of the most gasp-inducing designs is as easy as making circles and swaying lines with chocolate syrup and using a little bit of etching techniques to turn your mocha into something truly magical. Stir a little chocolate syrup with the hot coffee in a mug, and top it with a generous portion of heated, foamed milk (as described above). Using a squeeze bottle, you can create two very simple but elegant designs with almost no effort at all.
For a kind of “rose” effect, start in the center of the froth and make one small circle with the chocolate. Leaving a bit of white space between, make another slightly larger circle around the small one; then finish with one last largest circle, to make almost a kind of bull’s eye design. Using a toothpick or the pointed end of a chopstick, alternate dragging the tip from the center in a straight line out toward the edge of the cup, and then in the reverse direction to make “petals.” Go all the way around the design until you’ve come full circle.
To make something that looks more like the “fern” designs a master barista can create, use your squeeze bottle to draw a tight zigzag pattern across the cup, starting from one side and tracing up to the other, then returning back and repeating the pattern until the top of the cup is full. Then take your toothpick or chopstick and draw one steady, single line straight through the middle of the zigzag pattern to make a kind of “stem.” It doesn’t take any time at all, but you don’t have to admit that when you hear your guests’ delighted “oohs and “ahh!”s!