Is Practicing Latte Art Without Coffee A Good Idea?

Learning to make latte art at home can be time-consuming, especially when baristas create intricate designs. To save money and avoid wasting precious espresso and milk, one popular solution is to froth up dish soap and water. Pour the mixture into a cup filled with water and food coloring to create latte art. Dish soap’s ability to replicate a frothy, milk-like texture is remarkable, as bubbles form tight air pockets when steamed.

However, this method has been met with controversy, with some users questioning how using dish soap on the steam wand doesn’t ruin or clog the machine. Professional espresso machines are designed to only touch milk, so there is no definitive answer to this question. However, it is important to exercise caution when using non-coffee or milk substances around the machine. Even while cleaning the machine, use water and a steam wand-specific cleaner.

There is no official statement from a leading roaster or espresso manufacturer regarding this hack. Most professional cafés use dish detergent and sanitizer, not dish soap alone, in their cleaning routine, so the long-term impact on the machine is unclear. La Marzocco, an espresso machine giant, promoted this hack with its YouTube tutorial.

If dish soap is concerned about damaging the machine but still wants to avoid wasting milk, try heating regular, watered-down milk. This trick allows pouring without using a whole latte’s worth of the stuff, and it should foam in a similar fashion to fat-free or reduced-fat milk.

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