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August 14, 2008


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Bubka Penis

please do not do latte art unless I am the only customer in the store

sample cup

Latte art is very cool, but when we serve as many customers and have as much turnover and the rushed training that Starbucks does, teaching people to do latte art is impractical. Some people would be overly distracted by making it perfect: it would also "waste" time and milk.


I don't think there's any demand for this at Starbucks by customers. It's cute, but ultimately it's something that some baristas care a lot more about doing than the customers care about getting.


I disagree Mary. I think MANY customers would be delighted to see some good latte art. However, those customers would be limited to the ones who are taking their orders "for here" otherwise a lid would just obscure it and a straw would penetrate it, and never would its beauty be shown to the world.

I think Latte Art is a wonderful thing, however I don't think it should be "run" by corporate. If there's a barista in your store who wants to practice it, go for it. If they're really good, offer them a chance to teach others how to do it. It sure would be a great way to "Surprise and Delight" some of our customers by using our CORE drinks!


the thing about latte art is that in order to make it (free poured, not etched) the milk has to be at least a decent microfoam consistency. the way starbucks trains to steam their milk creates a lot of airy foam, which won't make latte art.

also, you can't really pour art if you're steaming for more than one drink.

it's completely implausable for starbucks to produce latte art on a company wide scale.

actually pouring the art doesn't take much time, however steaming for drinks individually adds considerable time.


I'd like to learn latte art. It can't be that huge of a deal to teach one simple design to new baristas. Alterra does it.


I didn't say customers wouldn't enjoy it; they just don't care about it either way. I have never heard a single person say they'd like latte art at Starbucks. To incorporate latte art would require milk to be prepared differently, the barista work-routine to change to accommodate the "artist," and drinks to be given to customers without the lid on (this might sound odd, but a legal liability?). All in all, it's a nice thing but not worth the hassle.


So, all the time on this site I hear how Starbucks is selling an "experience" or third place atmosphere. Wouldn't something like this help make it just that. Set Starbucks apart, make it a true gourmet experience, add to the high end feel so many people on here think Starbucks has?
Yet, it isn't worth it because you won't be able to serve customers quickly enough?
So the "experience" is taking a back seat to making money? Can you have it both ways?
I think this sort of thing is pretty cool, and can really add to the experience.


Yes, it can add to the experience, but it will add to the wait time. The VAST MAJORITY of customers DO NOT WANT THIS, even if they were aware of it. It does not change the quality of the drink, and only slows down the line. Not worth it. If it is VERY slow, the drink is for IN THE STORE in a cup, and the customer agrees, let the barista do it. Otherwise, DO NOT OFFER IT.

Posted by:

Truck: Starbucks does not teach baristas to make airy foam. It's those baristas who choose to not care about their foam that create airy foam. I started with Starbucks in the past year, and I remember quite clearly discussing foaming with my manager with an emphasis in creating the right kind of foam.

On another note, there are so many factors that dictate latte art not being taught or a priority with Starbucks. As has been mentioned, speed of service is one factor. Another factor is the amount of time and money (training and cost of milk) that would go into teaching latte art. At my store, we have a partner that has been with us for over a month, and she still struggles drink-making itself. Trying to ask her to add latte art into the mix would be entirely overwhelming. One of the biggest factors in not doing latte art is the fact that we don't have the right pitchers. The spouts of the pitchers we currently use are far to wide. We would need entirely new pitchers with a much sharper point to them to legitimately attempt latte art.


I can make beautiful blobs when I make cappuccinos for people. As hard as I try, my equipment must be the cause to my inability to make individual designs. I make beautiful foam on the machines they give me.


I attempted latte art in my home for a few months using a Starbucks barista machine. It made decent microfoam. Latte art is kinda difficult to learn and takes a lot of practice. I just never had the time (or milk to waste) to continue. So I sold my machine. For those of you who don't want to buy milk to waste, I have a friend that worked at a supermarket and she told me that I could go in and ask the manager if I could have any of their expired/damaged milk (since they throw it away), which would have been great for steaming practice, but not to drink of course!


In Canada, drinks are served without lids and I always try to leave a nice little design - ie., flower, stars - but I really don't want to see this being regulated by corporate. I'm willing to bet that most customers will really not care.

That being said - I'd love to learn how to do it right. :)

ASM...slowly regaining confidence with SBUX.

I have been with the company for a while now, and I had been with another coffee company (local indie shop) b4 that, and I will tell you that though it is fun to do latté art, it is a hassle and on top of it -most customers don't appreciate it the way a barista (from whatever company) does. That being said, I do latté art for some of my customers and yes, i brought in my own steaming pitcher from my previous job to do it. I only do it for the customers that followed me to Sbux from my old company -where we HAD to do latté art. Its really fun and if there is time I am always willing to teach my baristas a thing or two about it, which might be why they want to follow me when I get my own store!

I really do believe that a lot of people take themselves way too seriously to see that though Starbucks has its faults and it IS going through a very hard time, we are still a great cup of coffee no matter what store you go to. It may not be the best, however it is consistent -only rarely does another store do that much worse or better. So go and rate and rave all you want about how Sbux should be, in the mean time I will continue to work with it as it is and as it will be, because in the end -its a job, I may really love it, but its a job.


it wouldn't actually be great for steaming practice, if what you're aiming for is latte art- you need to start with fresh cold milk.

there are actually a few organic milk companies that are developing "barista milk". the product you start with determines what you end with, and if you practice with spoiled milk, you'll get good at steaming spoiled milk.

you don't need a "pointed" spout, but you do need a bell pitcher, and a defined spout to pour from.

and lastly, latte art does not literally affect the taste of a drink- however, it does indicate well steamed milk, and any foody will tell you that your taste experience starts with the visual impact.


Will latte art make bitter watery espresso taste better? How about just learn how to make perfectly good/smooth/sweet espresso.


"I don't think there's any demand for this at Starbucks by customers. It's cute, but ultimately it's something that some baristas care a lot more about doing than the customers care about getting."

Completely agree. I'm in SB every day and I can't remember the last time I saw someone having a drink in anything other than a to-go cup with a lid anyway.

It would add to the experience and be a distinguisher, IF it could be done without adding any wait time. Almost as if you held a doily on top and sprinkled cinnamon on something -- that quickly.


I have been with the company for a while now, and I had been with another coffee company (local indie shop) b4 that, and I will tell you that though it is fun to do latté art, it is a hassle and on top of it -most customers don't appreciate it the way a barista (from whatever company) does. That being said, I do latté art for some of my customers and yes, i brought in my own steaming pitcher from my previous job to do it. I only do it for the customers that followed me to Sbux from my old company -where we HAD to do latté art. Its really fun and if there is time I am always willing to teach my baristas a thing or two about it, which might be why they want to follow me when I get my own store!

Is that even allowed, bringing in your own equipment? If so, count me out as a customer! That seems really disgusting and completely unhygienic!

I mean, a customer can't come in with something and ask you to blend it into their drink... why can a barista bring a container from home and use it to make drinks for the public?

Health code violation if I ever heard one.

Burgh Barista

@ espressoblend: Is it REALLY that disgusting? I mean, gosh, forgive that ASM for trying to be legendary...

Personally, if you brought your own milk for me to steam, or you brough your own add-in, or whatever, I would do it for you. Come to Pittsburgh for your coffee, I won't give you any hassles!

So I don't really see the parallel you're trying to draw here, not that I necessarily agreed with you to begin with.

Yes, Starbucks frowns on a barista bringing in a non-Howie-approved, but still: let the ASM make his customers happy.


As long as the from home pitcher has an "NSA" or OSHA stamp on it, it is fine.


starbucks does not give you the right tools (pitchers, etc) in order for latte art to be possible. and starbucks never taught me how to many ANY type of foam, let alone the right "kind." they taught me how to steam milk, which was, put the wand in the milk and push the button. I learned how to make good foam from youtube.


RE: the pitcher

I'd love to flag that up to corporate and see what they say. I bet they'd have a freak-out for the liability that the barista is exposing the company to.

Plus, it really is gross. How do I know where that's been? What's been in it? I mean, I guess with any pitcher at SBUX, I'd have no reassurance, but I guess you have some sort of reasonable comfort thinking those pitchers haven't been in someone's house...

I guess it's like pot lucks at the office. I wouldn't touch any of it because you don't know what your co-workers kitchens look like.


Wow, espressoblend, you sound pretty uptight. Do you let fear rule all areas of your life?

GlenFeliz Regular

No one at the location I go to would know anything about this.

Well, if you're equally as grossed-out by potluck lunches at your office, then you and I will have to agree to disagree on levels of disgust.

My point remains, however, that the ASM said that they only use "the pitcher" for customers who want and are used to receiving latte art from them.

Bottom line: if I were a store manager or DM, I would "officially" disapprove of the used such a pitcher, but I wouldn't be able to bring myself to chastise an ASM for attempting to be legendary.

Burgh Barista

The above comment was by me as well, forgot to add my name.


The only times I've gotten a beverage with the latte art on top, the prices have been ridiculous. that includes a terrific indie shop in the Castro in San Francisco, and a really overpriced shop in Northampton, MA.

In SF, the flavor of the coffee was phenomenal, and I would have loved it, rather than merely liked it, had it been hotter. Too much time making a pretty picture.

In Northampton, I asked for the largest mocha they made. I got a 12-oz cup with a fern-like design on top, cooler than I like, and bitter as all hell, with glops of chocolate powder throughout. For $5.

Needless to say, I do not patronize that place anymore. I found the Bux instead.


so, it intentional that your beverage from the castro was not "hot", and it directly affects the reason that it was phenomenal- milk sugars begin to break down between 140-150 degrees- making the milk noticeably sweeter, which is a compliment to many espressos- hotter than that and the sugars are completely broken down, so it just tastes like regular milk. (was it ritual or blue bottle, by the way?)

also, latte art is an indicator that the shop is taking what they're doing with espresso seriously- it's not always the case, as you experienced with the second shop you mentioned, but it's much more likely that there's decent espresso under a rosetta than under big old soap bubbles.

that's part of the reason that I'm glad starbucks will not roll out latte art corporate wide- it would be deceptive, as the quality of espresso is consistently mediocre, and art would lead people to believe they were getting something extraordinary, when the reality is it's still starbucks coffee under pretty milk.


I do not want my barista wasting my time making dumb art -- when all I want in the morning is my darn coffee. This is a stupid posting.

Burgh Barista -

Read your guidelines...you can't add anything to the drink that a customer brings in themselves. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen.


uh, with the auto froth and super auto matic machine there is no skill in the job of soda machine attendant at charbucks any more. There is no way to do latte art with the milk that comes out of one of those auto frothers. Hey they can't there employees to make a drink right, how to you expect them to make art while doing that!


movington, that is exactly why starbucks is the store for you.


I just started making drinks at home and haven't attempted latte art yet but it looks fun. I'm kind of glad Starbucks doesn't do it - it is something that should be reserved for *actual* gourmet coffee. Also it would be pointless in a to-go cup.


Microfoam, check. Icey cold milk, check. Steep spouted pitchers, check. Decent crema in the espresso shot, not so check... Latte art demands dense foam, a good pitcher, sure, but it also calls for espresso with a rich, thick, dense crema on top. Something the machine's we're working with don't even come close to creating. You CAN make "art" foam on a Verisimo, and you can take the time to do art during slow periods (friends coming in at closing, anybody? Like you don't stand around chatting anyway...) but the espresso we make is so not up to par for pretty drinks! :(


espressoblend... gosh, I have worked with so many "coffee nazi's" & "health dept nazis" that have your overreacting, dramatic, unknowledgeable attitude, whew, so glad i don't have to deal with your drama every day.

ok, back to latte art, everyone

ASM...slowly regaining confidence with SBUX.

As long as the from home pitcher has an "NSA" or OSHA stamp on it, it is fine.

Posted by: justalongfortheride | August 14, 2008 at 04:53 PM

It has been approved VIA my DM and the Health Inspection person for my area. Also, "Espressoblend", I would like to note that the steaming pitcher is cleaned -ALOT- as is the rest of our steaming pitchers. Maybe if you thought before typing you wouldn't seem so nasty. I will go out of my way to make sure the customer is happy, if that means that I have to ask my DM for the approval of certain items, then so be it. Try some customer service sometime, its rather enjoyable -you know, instead of telling them what they cant have.


I purchased a latte art pitcher for my store....same as any other one we can run through the same sanitizer we put the other steaming pitchers through...only diffrence, pointed spout and smaller size. I honed my latte art skills on my home espresso machine, and brought them to work, but it is not easy on the verismos. Two major hinderances: We have no steam wand pressure control, which makes it difficult to steam smaller amounts of milk with perfect microfoam...I can do it pretty consistantly but it is difficult to teach. Second issue is the shots and crema from the verismos leave somthing to be desired. I have played with the maestrna (however its spelled) and though there is still no pressure control, the four hole wand and better quality shots, may make latte art a future posibilty on a wider scale.

Crema the crop

The issue with crema pointed out by "b" is the main stumbling block we face. There is no thick, dense crema on our shots to support the microfoam. Hence, no possibility of truly intricate pours (rosettas). I bought a FrancisFrancis! X5 recently, and was playing with it in our store. I steamed some milk on the 801 and used the shots from my machine. I poured the milk into an art pitcher after i steamed it and poured some very good art. So, as far as milk and steaming goes, it's more about "la mano" than "la macchina".

Herman M

Because everyone has become so uptight on this thread, I'd like to lighten it up. Espresso art is not hard at all. Even three year old could do it, thanks to the wonders of modern petrochemical technology.

Yes, now even the least artistic among us can create stunning designs on top of foamed milk with no training at all! All you need are our fabulous espresso art stencils.


Seriously. Saw these at World Market the other day and someone had to come check on me as I was laughing like a madman.

There, now doesn't this thread seem a little less ugly than before my post? ;-)


During the blackout/rush period, the last thing we need to think about is making a latte look 'cute'.
Sure it's a fun skill, but it shouldn't be anywhere in the training.



I did some coffee art for a while at Sbux and decided that it just wasn't worth the effort unless i was closing and had time to talk people into getting 'for here' drinks. It greatly depends on my 'value' of the customer in question, as to whether I'll even bother with it. It's good fun thought, I do enjoy it =)


It might be fun as a promotion, though .... the Latte Artist would be at this store between these hours ... stop in and have your drink customized. But not full-term. By definition, it's a novelty and the novelty wears off.


Could you also call it 'foam art'? I have a great acronym...FART !!!

former manager

truck and posted by:

Yes, baristas are *supposed* to be trained to create dense foam with micro-bubbles (this creates a creamier, sweeter sensation on the tongue even though the chemical composition of the milk hasn't changed), but the results are clearly mixed.

As to partners caring about the quality of their drink making, if the baristas don't care it is because the manager doesn't care; if the manager doesn't care it is because the district manager doesn't care; if the DM doesn't care it is because the regional director doesn't care; if the RD doesn't... well, you get the point. Eventually it leads to Howard not holding his employees accountable for the right things.


well, the chemical composition actually *does* change. the sugars in the milk (lactose) begin to unravel, creating actually sweeter tasting milk, at around 140 degrees- they are completely unraveled by 150 degrees- undoing any sweetness of the lactose.

former manager

Sounds more like a change in structure rather than composition, but I appreciate the lesson ;-)

Terry P

Sorry - kind of off topic, but I just saw a comment by WIbarista, saying that latte art would require barristas to serve drinks without the lid on. I have never seen barristas here put lids on drinks for customers. Maybe that rule is US only? (I live in Canada.)

Bob the Hobo

"I don't think we want to legislate creativity,"

Right. . .and yet they have requirements for something creative like human interaction.

Don't worry, though, Starbucks: nobody will ever accuse you of having anything like creativity, "legislated" or not.


I can do latte art at home but at Starbucks its too hard, even if I can make a heart its not visible because the crema we make is way too thin for it to be seen.

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