Good Milk and Latte Art

good_perspectiveHow many times have you heard someone say, “It’s a great coffee shop! They have latte art!”? We hear it all too frequently, and so, here’s our case for the promotion of good milk vs. latte art. The ability to identify “good” milk will progress your journey towards becoming a coffee connoisseur and help you discern a good shop from a great one!

While we are advocates of latte art, good, properly steamed milk is where it all begins. If you are served latte art in your drink at a local shop it usually means that they know what they’re doing, but that’s not the whole story. When milk is steamed it goes through several processes making its way to what we call “micro-foam.” In the hands of the barista there is a period of time where air is introduced into the milk via the steam wand, which can create some larger sized bubbles. The baristas job is to use the steam wand as a tool to whip those larger bubbles down into a silky looking, thick micro-foam. Chemical changes are occurring in the milk as well. The lactose and proteins in the milk are changing into different structures, one being the well-known sucrose, which helps the milk taste sweeter. If the milk gets too hot, about 170F, these changes turn into more sulfuric compounds, causing the milk to taste ‘burnt’. Once the milk is steamed to the perfect temperature and the perfect consistency, the barista can use the foam developed in the steaming process to make something extra appealing on the top of your beverage. However, what you may not know is that if the micro-foam is thin the barista can still pull off some great art. Sometimes it’s even a little easier to make extra pretty designs out of ‘thin milk’ since the foam will be easier to manipulate for the artist pouring it.



                                                                                                                                                                                                       Above: Notice the milk on the left is thinner, has less foam, but still has a good consistency. The milk on the right is what we refer to as good milk, it has a the consistency of micro-foam with the proper thickness. Smooth and sweet!

So now that you’re informed take a deeper look next time you’re at your favorite shop. Does the art look good? Great! The next level to look at is the thickness of the foam. Make sure it’s nice and thick. An easy gauge would be the thickness of your pinky finger. If it’s only as thick as a piece of cardboard they didn’t quite nail it. Did they serve it to you in a glass? That’s even better! They’re offering some transparency for you to delve into the quality yourself. Look through the side of your glass and check the thickness of the foam in addition to the art. Lastly, remember to always be nice to your barista, they’re often trying to perfect their craft. We just wanted you to have a tool to weed out the ‘looks good’ vs. ‘is good’. Now go drink coffee!


Perspectives on “Why ‘Good Jobs’ Are Good for Retailers” for Specialty Coffee Bars

Behind the craziness of a coffee shop is always someone sitting behind a pile of bills wondering how to drive up the profits of the shop, while still keeping coffee prices at a competing level. Lets face it, business costs are increasing, customers are feeling financially pinched, and barista turnover remains a constant challenge. So what do you do? Zeynep Ton wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called, ““Why ‘Good Jobs’ Are Good for Retailers” and her recommendation is simply to invest more in employee training.

You’re saying, “no way.” “If I invest more in employees and training, then customers will have to pay more, and coffee is expensive already.” Statistically, it is true. In order for a business to be successful, they need to have “a combination of investment in the workforce and operational practices that benefit employees, customers, and the company.” That is the overall goal, right? We all want to have a good workplace for our employees and a place for customers to feel satisfied, but why does that seem so hard to do?

Labor is the largest controllable expense for a business and many retailers see it as a cost driver rather than a sales driver. When we see sales decrease, then we need to decrease our staff, which makes sense for an immediate effect. Wrong. It actually hurts the overall goal of a successful business because that is what creates the vicious cycle of poor morale, operations, and sales.

The overall goal should be to focus on labor. Investing in employees by spending time/money on a full training will create excellent and efficient operations, which will boost sales and profits and allows for a larger budget to invest more in the employees. Also, Ton recommended cross training the employees so they are able to become more productive and knowledgeable about the product for the customers, and eventually they will be able to train the other employees.

To be able to do that in our industry, that would look like a few weeks of training on the bar to learn about coffee, the machines, ways to brew, and the goal of the business. Having a few weeks of training will help the employee to strive towards better customer service and serving a higher quality cup of coffee. Customers will notice the craft and will have a higher appreciation towards the shop and bring in more sales.

At Deeper Roots Coffee, we realize that it takes a lot of time to train employees on the bar. Sometimes, it is hard to do trainings when there are customers lined up and the other daily tasks are adding up. We want to help in this process by offering trainings at our roaster in Mount Healthy. Your employees will have the opportunity to learn about coffee origins, flavors and tastes, brewing methods, and much more. These sessions are offered every Wednesday night during the summer as a group, or we are happy to schedule a different time. If you would like more information on our trainings or would like to sign up, email us at

The full article is available for purchase at the Harvard Business Review website at www.hbr.orgImage