While most coffee drinkers would agree that making a good latte is an art in itself, there are other ways you can unleash your creativity using your coffee machine. Latte art is the term that applies to the patterns made in the milk foam that tops your favourite cup of Joe. Baristas in coffee shops spend a long time training how to make a flawless espresso, and the patterns that top your drink are the cherry on top. We’re all familiar with the pretty leaf and floral designs you commonly find, many of which were popularised by the renowned barista Davine Schoner back in the 1980s. But latte art takes the whole thing a lot further.

Imagine an impossibly detailed self-portrait or landscape painting, hard enough to achieve on a normal canvas. Now try doing the same work of art on a canvas made of frothed milk. That’s exactly what latte artists set out to achieve. Using the basic materials of espresso crema (the light brown froth that tops an espresso), hot milk, chocolate sprinkles and a sharpened point such as a pin, these talented artists elevate coffee pouring to a new level. It makes the whole endeavour even more impressive considering the short amount of time their creations actually last. As soon as the milk hits the coffee, the foam will begin to break up. The ephemeral nature of the artistry is one of its most touching characteristics.

Generally speaking, latte art is created by using two basic techniques. Free pouring produces patterns as you pour and is usually used for rosettes, hearts and leaves. It takes a seriously steady hand and some expert movements of the jug to get good results. More complex designs can require two pours, maybe even more. The second technique is etching. Etched designs tend to be more intricate, and are often done with a coffee stirrer or a pin. Etched designs have an even shorter life span than free poured designs.

Here’s a look at ten incredible examples of latte art for your inspiration. Most of these have been etched, and require a high level of skill to create. We hope you enjoy them!

Planet Latte

An out of this world adornment for a seriously strong coffee. This artwork has mainly used espresso crema, with frothed milk applied sparsely to produce the planet.

An out of this world adornment for a seriously strong coffee. This artwork has mainly used espresso crema, with frothed milk applied sparsely to produce the planet.

Foam Art Bear Coffee

And who says that frothed milk can only be used as a 2D canvas? To produce a 3D effect like this one it’s a good idea to chill your milk jug in the fridge before you begin.

And who says that frothed milk can only be used as a 2D canvas? To produce a 3D effect like this one it’s a good idea to chill your milk jug in the fridge before you begin.

John Lennon Latte

You’ve heard about people seeing Jesus in pieces of toast, how about the Beatle who was even bigger than Jesus in a cup of coffee? This example of John Lennon shows amazingly high level of detail, particularly around the eyes.

You’ve heard about people seeing Jesus in pieces of toast, how about the Beatle who was even bigger than Jesus in a cup of coffee? This example of John Lennon shows amazingly high level of detail, particularly around the eyes.

Magna inspired latte

A cute manga-inspired design produced by simple etching techniques. The artist will probably have used two different width stirrers; one for the girl’s outline and a second, thicker implement to produce the banner decorations.

A cute manga-inspired design produced by simple etching techniques. The artist will probably have used two different width stirrers; one for the girl’s outline and a second, thicker implement to produce the banner decorations.

Pegasus Latte Design

Check out the detail on the Pegasus’s wings! It’s incredible to think that the artist is working at speed with such a limited selection of tools and colours. The tone and muscle definition around the forelegs is equally impressive.

Check out the detail on the Pegasus’s wings! It’s incredible to think that the artist is working at speed with such a limited selection of tools and colours. The tone and muscle definition around the forelegs is equally impressive.

Barack Obama latte Art

With a two-colour palette this artist has produced an incredible likeness to the leader of the free world.

With a two-colour palette this artist has produced an incredible likeness to the leader of the free world.

Mickey Mouse Coffee Art

Here’s another emblem of the stars and stripes rendered in carefully crafted coffee tones.

Here’s another emblem of the stars and stripes rendered in carefully crafted coffee tones.

Cute latte panda art

Low on detail but big on personality; a panda design is a simple but characterful subject for this design.

Low on detail but big on personality; a panda design is a simple but characterful subject for this design.

Colored Flower Coffee Foam Art

Latte art doesn’t always mean a shades-of-brown colour scheme. Through clever etching techniques, restrained use of food dyes and a delicate spider’s web design, this designer has injected colour vibrancy into a traditionally two-tone art form.

Latte art doesn’t always mean a shades-of-brown colour scheme. Through clever etching techniques, restrained use of food dyes and a delicate spider’s web design, this designer has injected colour vibrancy into a traditionally two-tone art form.

Cat Latte Art

We’re loving this cute cat. The way it seems to peer over the edge of the cup really takes 3D latte art up a notch.

We’re loving this cute cat. The way it seems to peer over the edge of the cup really takes 3D latte art up a notch.

This guest article was written by Claire, who writes for the Printerpix Review Centre, a personalized photo product company. Claire is a keen photographer and enjoys developing her skills in her spare time.