I wanted to make a couple of observations about judging and scoring latte art contests. We’ve done about half a dozen latte art contests in Arizona over the last 6 months and I’ve been involved with a bunch of them. They’re really fantastic and a great way to encourage practice.

I would encourage any barista to join in the fun, and if you’re the owner of a coffee shop you should seriously consider hosting a contest at your shop. You can invite Todd Welfelt and myself to judge, or judge the contest yourself. There’s so many ways to organize an event like this.

How we have been scoring latte art contests

We’ve been scoring based on giving a maximum of 5 points to each of these three categories:

Balance & Symmetry:

  • Dividing lines are clean, even, and show no signs of hesitation.
  • Individual elements work well with and complement each other. There is no sense of awkwardness.
  • Harmony between the size of the cup and size of the design.


  • Clarity of design
  • Design style
  • Milk texture


  • Uniqueness of ingredients
  • Personal Flair/Passion (style points)
  • Unique presentation

A perfect score for a drink is 15 points. We’ve had two judges at each event and also add up to 10 points for cleanup and preparation.

How the World Latte Art Championship scores

I found the scoring sheet and rules on the WLAC web site, and I’ll summarize what I found:

  • Two patterns and presented picture identical
  • Contrast between ingredients
  • Harmony, size and position among patterns within cups
  • Creativity of the pattern
  • Successfully achieved level of difficulty
  • Overall appealing look
  • Professional performance (Service skills, confidence, flair)
  • Hospitality skills

I really like how specific the WLAC scoring is, but I have to admit it’s best for high level competition. Also, they judge on three drinks (macchiato, latte or cappuccino, and a designer beverage). There’s no way we would score hospitality.

Some random thoughts

In the beginning we judged based on taste (in addition to other factors). The problem is that if you do that you can’t call it a latte art contest, and taste is very subjective. So we don’t do that any more and I like it this way. It gives all of the observers a chance to enjoy one of the drinks and they don’t all go to waste.

We’ve been giving each competitor 5 minutes to make two drinks (anything they want) but during this time they must prepare and clean up their station. About 25% of competitors use more than 5 minutes. We’ve been relaxed about docking points if they’re less than 60 seconds over time. After that, we reduce their score by 5 points for each 60 seconds.

Previously, we used to have rigid rules and guidelines however we quickly realized it just complicates something that is supposed to be fun. If you’re interested, you can read the rules we posted for events in the past (#1, #2, and #3).

Scoring Sheets

If you’re interested, here are the scoring sheets we used at the June 28th Latte Art Throwdown.

At the end of the night we typically hand these out to each competing barista complete with notes from each judge.

I hope that these notes help anyone thinking about hosting a latte art competition. This is by no means the only way to hold such an event, and may be too casual for some purposes.

Special thanks to Steve Kraus at Press Coffee for hosting frequent events, and to Todd Welfelt for judging along with me and assisting with the rules and scoring sheet creation.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. So, if I free-poured a swan, in profile, I’d be docked for not having a symmetrical design? I’ve said this many times before; symmetry is overrated. I’m guessing that symmetry is only scored in a design that is intended to be symmetrical.
    And, are y’all still allowing etching? I’m one of the people that think of etching and free-pouring latte art as two very distinctive artforms. Kinda like tattooing and line art.
    Geez, I hope to make one of these soon! My niece just moved to Peoria, so that may be the excuse I need to get up there!

  2. If you free poured a swan you’d probably win. Especially if it had eyes.

    We have had some etching in the past but not last night.

  3. I’ve been thinking along those lines. I usually free-pour the swan, but eyes would be an added etched touch. I try not to touch my free-pours, though. If I do, I tend to turn the swans into dragons! In for a penny…
    My rosettas are turning out better and better, but I think they may be suffering from the efforts going into some of the other training.
    My diagnosis? Not enough coffees!
    So, that means that etched art competes right alongside free-poured art?
    Hmmmm…. Fetch me my thermometer, my needle, and my toothpicks boy, and bring me a fresh squeeze bottle of chocolate!

  4. So, that means that etched art competes right alongside free-poured art?

    Yes. In some of the earlier contests we called this the “competitors choice.” Now, we just let people make whatever they want. Although I’m going to clarify this point next time because on Sunday I don’t remember getting a single drink with etching.

  5. Just so you make it clear that etching and free-pouring share only two similarities;
    They are done in espresso cups with espresso and milk, and… nope, only that one.
    They are two separate and specific skills that really don’t have anything to do with one another other than the media used. Someone that draws real well but is a hack barista could, in theory, take your prize.