How to Perfect Steaming Milk

Here is our list of steps to achieve the perfect pitcher of steamed or frothed milk

A thick and velvety crema on a good espresso can make or break your coffee experience. This frothed crema is used to create the iconic finish on cappuccinos and the swirls of latte art. To create perfect steamed froth, milk is poured into a steaming pitcher then both heated and frothed simultaneously. Frothed milk is created when the steam wand is used to rapidly fold air into the milk, and create that silky smooth texture of micro bubbles. This is different than say a head on a pint of lager, as the foam just sits atop of the beer. Froth is different because, milk is mixed with the bubbles to create a thick silky mixture that doesn’t separate immediately. If the wand is not exposed at all no air is introduced,  simply heating the milk and creating steamed milk.


1. Fill your steaming pitcher to the base of the spout with cold milk. The amount you use will be relative to the drink you are making. For example, a latte uses slightly more milk than a cappuccino. With practice you will learn to adjust how much milk is needed per drink, but the spout base is a good general guideline. A bit too much milk is always better than having too little as you can always discard leftovers. Not enough milk messes with the balance of the drink and it will have to be remade.
2. Purge the steam wand to clear it any blockages and water droplets. This will prevent any impurities or large drops of water from being introduced into your crema or steamed milk. There should only be steam exiting the wand tip which will help create the velvet fine texture of your froth.
3. Insert the steam wand into the middle of the pitcher, slightly off center to encourage movement of milk around the pitcher. Make sure the pitcher is not dramatically tilted or the wand is too close to the surface of the milk, as this will violently spray milk out of the container. Heat the milk until the pitcher is slightly too hot to hold a hand against. Overheating can scald the milk which creates a bad smell and burns the mouth. Listen for a suctioning sound at the start which should turn into a low hissing noise throughout the steaming process. The higher pitched the hissing noise is, the more air is being incorporated into the crema.
For a Latte: Begin with tip of steam wand deep into the milk. Begin steaming and quickly lower the milk pitcher so the tip of the wand is just below the surface of the milk for just a couple seconds. Then raise the pitcher so the steam wand tip is deeper into the milk to stop introducing too much air. Continue heating until reaching the desired temperature. Properly steamed milk for a latte will look like wet paint and have a thick velvety texture. Be sure to pour the steamed milk soon to create a beautiful, creamy cap to the latte.
For a Cappuccino: Begin with tip of steam wand deep into the milk. Begin steaming and quickly lower the milk pitcher so the tip of the wand is just below the surface of the milk. This will help draw ambient air into the milk and the whirlpool action in the pitcher will create a larger volume of soft, velvety foam. Lower the pitcher as the milk volume increases to keep the tip just below the surface of the milk. Continue until the total volume of the milk has doubled, then raise the pitcher so steam wand tip is deep again and continue to heat the milk until reaching the desired temperature (140º to 155ºF)
4. Keep the wand in the pitcher for one or two seconds after turning the steam wand off. Steam is still escaping the wand briefly after it is shut off. This helps avoid removing the wand too quickly, and either spraying hot milk everywhere or introducing large bubbles into the crema.
5. Wipe the steam wand clean with a wet cloth, and purge it. Doing this immediately makes cleaning the wand much easier and prevents any impurities from being introduced into the next drink.
6. Swirl and tap the pitcher on the counter a couple times. This helps release any remaining large bubbles and creates a smooth froth that blends with the espresso crema. This is especially important when creating late art which requires am even velvety smooth froth.
7. Immediately add the steamed milk to espresso. Your steamed or frothed milk is ready to pour. It should be about one-hundred and seventy degrees, not hot enough to burn the mouth, and smooth when it pours. ___________________________________________________________________


Does milk type matter?
It does change the crema texture, influencing how long lasting or easy to pour the foam is. High fat milk yields a creamier and richer flavor due to the fat content. It also produces more of a wet velvety froth that is much easier to pour into latte art.
Low fat milk types like skim will create a very stiff and longer lasting froth. These also yield a less rich flavor experience, but are more suited for cappuccinos.


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Confident in your new barista skills? Try out a couple of our favorite new recipes for February. Valentines Day helped inspire these playful recipes featuring a balance of fruits and chocolates.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Mocha Ingredients:
2 tbsp (1 oz)  Dark Chocolate Sauce
1 tbsp (1/2 oz) Strawberry Syrup
1 cup (8oz) milk
2 shots espresso* Instructions: Steam milk and syrup/sauce together. Pour into a tall glass and add brewed espresso*. Spoon a thin layer of foamed milk over beverage.

White Chocolate Cherry Steamer
Ingredients:
1 tbsp (1 oz)  White Chocolate Syrup
1 tbsp (1 oz)  Cherry Syrup
1 cup (8 oz) milk Instructions: Steam milk and syrup together. Pour into a tall glass and a stir gently.

Iced Black and White Bowtie
Ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp (3/4 oz) Chocolate Syrup
1 1/2 tbsp (3/4 oz) White Chocolate Syrup
1 cup (8oz) milk
2 shots espresso, chilled
Ice to fill Instructions: Combine chilled espresso, milk and syrup in a tall glass filled with ice and stir well.

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