Pouring good latte art is half good steamed milk and half pouring technique. This guide focuses on the steaming.
Good coffee need not be a luxury! My Gaggia was fairly inexpensive, but it's not the best—especially at steaming. Know your machine (and its limitations) and you'll do well with it.
I use a 12-ounce pitcher and a thermometer, both from Rattleware. You can use a larger size if you want, but I think this is an easier size to control—and the perfect amount for a latte!
After pulling your espresso, once your machine is ready to steam, clear the wand for a few seconds. You want to move past this "spitting" to the clear, dry steam you see at the end.
This is the right amount of milk for my cups, approximately 3 fluid ounces of milk. I know it's to the bottom of the thermometer clasp. You can also measure it. Don't want to come up short!
Aerate the milk by placing the steam wand just into the milk so it gurgles and bubbles like this. Go to about 30°C/85°F. (Sorry the angle isn't ideal!)
Leaving the wand in I turn down the steam at this point or the Gaggia peters out before the end. (Like I said, not the best!) Just long enough to rebuild pressure; the light comes back on when ready.
Open up the steam most of the way and angle the wand deeper in the milk; you want to "swirl" it in a circle to make a more homogenized texture. (Pun completely intended.) Go to about 70°C/150°F.
You'll see there is a nice silky sheen to the milk and there are almost no visible bubbles—this is the texture we want!
If you do have any large bubbles around the edge, you can tap the pitcher on the counter and swirl it around to get rid of them.
Go forth and pour! ☕