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How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
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ppopp
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ppopp
Joined: 10 Sep 2004
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Location: Boulder, CO
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 8:13am
Subject: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

Hi everyone.  I was just reading Mark's article on buying an espresso machine, and he showed a picture of a machine that had a push-button switch for opening the steam valve, rather than a mechanical valve that you could adjust.  It got me thinking that I always turn the steam knob on my SL-70 until it is completely open.  My SL-70 is a great steamer, but not so great that I feel the need to back off of the steam power using the valve.  The valve isn't that great anyways, and the adjustment would be pretty course.  Sometimes I think push-button switch (that opened the valve and activated the boiler too!) would be pretty convenient.

So how many of you actually use the valve to control steam power?

 
Peter

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john_
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john_
Joined: 12 Jan 2007
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Espresso: La Spaziale, Cremina
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 8:23am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

I ramp up the steam while the steam wand enters the milk, and ramp down while the wand leaves the milk, hoping that this will keep milk from working its way up into the steam valve.  Otherwise I am at full blast.
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__________
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 9:57am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

I have only an on/off button on my machine. It also activates the boiler heater as soon as you hit it.
It isn't a problem - rather the opposite. It's much easier to stop the steam just at the right moment, rather than have to turn a knob closed (quickly !)
I'd like to think that having a valve snap shut perhaps helps prevent milk going back into the boiler at all (though I always give it a quick "blip" after it's out of the milk just in case).
Having owned machines with both types of steam control, I much prefer the on/off switch. I sold my old Tea yesterday, and while getting it fired up and checking it out so the buyer could play around with it, I realised how much more fiddly the manual type valve is.
Perhaps it's just what you get used to.
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rbh1515
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Posted Thu May 3, 2007, 12:41pm
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

I have an Astra Gourmet--4.2 liter boiler.  Its a steaming powerhouse.  At first I was concerned that when steaming small amounts of milk, it would be a problem.  Actually it works very well.  I think this may partly be due to the design of the tip.  My machine also has a very quick on and off knob (it only takes no more than one full rotation between on and off).  I always use full on or full off.   Rob
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alsterling
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alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
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Location: Dana Point, CA
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Espresso: La Spaziale S1 (Had Expo)
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Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 7:14am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

You can see my setup below with the S1. (The small ss cup in the photo is for bleeding water from the wand and soaking of the tip for cleaning....not for frothing) The La Spaz has a progressive open steam knob. Since I usually use a short 12 oz. SS frothing cup, and only froth enough for my 8 oz. lattes and 3 oz. ristretto machiattos, I definitely gauge my steam from a little to alot. Because I produce single drink amounts of milk, I have removed the stock 3 hole tip and replaced it with the after-market 2 hole tip. I dont' want high volumes of steam, unregulated. I crack open the steam valve at a low volume point when I'm steaming very small (3 oz. approx.) of milk for the ristrettos. The longer I can steam without passing on the heat, the better. I also store my stainless frothing mugs in a refridgerator to the immediate left of the espresso bar. This lowers the temp of the container, which holds the milk temp down when it gets to the frothing (stretch) point. It's my belief that once you have a given favorite beverage, there is a reason for adjusting your steam output for best frothing. Key issue here, as I've observed, is maximum infusion of steam with minimal transfer of heat. You still have to bring the milk up to temp before it will froth, and I'm not sure how I'd manage if all I had was an on-off steam valve option? Only if I were frothing large amounts of milk at a time would I open the valve full. At that point, I'd put the 3 hole back on the wand.

Best, Al in SoCal

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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
Joined: 4 Dec 2004
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Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 9:46am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

Add me to the list of those who open the steam valve all the way for frothing. The steam wand on my Vetrano came with a 2 hole tip that microfoams 4 oz cold milk in 15-20sec, ideal for my double capps. I suppose there might be entry-level machines that require finessing due to excess steam pressure, but inadequate steam pressure is more likely to be an issue for a first espresso machine purchase. Large commercial machines with BABs (big ass boilers) are a different story.

Great article overall!
____
John
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Jeff_K
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Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 10:37am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

If I am foaming a small amount of milk (2-3 oz. or so), I open the valve just enough to give me what I want and anything more would probably heat the milk before I could turn it off, that or paint the walls and ceiling with it.  I like having the ability to control the steam in that way.  Full blast is what I normally use, though.
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mcKoffee
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Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 11:44am
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

Usually full open, but have you ever tried steaming ~1oz milk (or a tad less) in a 3oz SS pitcher for a no milk waste double shot machiatto? I have and do, but couldn't without steam control! It is tough to get the texture just right though:-)

See quasy hijacked Article Guide thread for example but don't reply about it over there!
"Re: How to Buy an Espresso Machine"

 
miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness
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alsterling
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alsterling
Joined: 28 Dec 2005
Posts: 682
Location: Dana Point, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale S1 (Had Expo)
Grinder: Macap M4 & Gaggia MDF
Vac Pot: Not yet...
Drip: Capresso MT-500 & Melitta...
Roaster: Hottop Digital
Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 12:14pm
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

Hello Mike!

As Mike just mentioned, making extremely small amounts of frothed milk from only a couple ounces of milk is beyond tough.....unless you use modified steaming implements.

I went downstairs and removed the custom-machined 2 hole tip and put the OEM 3 hole tip on my La Spaziale. I don't know about other S1 or S2 users, but I tried steaming a couple ounces of milk as I normally do with the other tip................ the noise, at the reduced opening, was uncomfortable and when I opened up the valve a bit more, I got movement, but totally scortched the milk! Remember that larger holes in the tip require higher steam pressure....so while cutting back on the valve with the larger hole tips reduces total volume, it also doesn't create enough movement of the liquid.

I remember trying every way from Sunday to froth tiny amounts with the stock setup, and now remember how it was near impossible. IMO, the best milk added espresso beverage is the ristretto machiatto. It includes a very small amount of milk and foam, and thus allows the very essense of the coffee aroma and flavor to come through. I've set the auto-dosing on the machine to only give me the "front-end" or "tenderloin" of the extraction; which amounts to probably 1.0 to 1.25 oz of espresso from the double basket. That's my choice for best overall drink, and without the right steam setup, I don't see how it can be done? ............unless you steam 8 oz. for more than just that one serving!?

Best, Al in SoCal

 
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__________
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Posted Fri May 4, 2007, 2:58pm
Subject: Re: How many of you adjust steaming power with the steam valve?
 

This thread is about as likely to find a consensus among contributors as would a thread on the topic of doser/non-doser or HX/DB ;o) but I suppose that's the charm of a forum like this.

I suspect that we push-button, "full-on/full-off" proponents are outnumbered by the "twisty knob - let's finesse that steam volume" brigade partly because most domestic machines are the latter design. I've owned and used both, and the instant (or near instant) full on/full off of a push button is definitely better IMO.

I'm not at all keen on waste, but cummon, guys - just how stingy do you have to get to attempt to froth just 2 oz of milk (I think that's about 50ml? about one squirt of an udder ??)

In my part of the world, good quality, micro filtered and pasteurised milk (full, semi or skimmed) comes in at about 1.10 for a 2 litre carton. That's 0.025 for 50ml. (5 cents US ?) Espresso based drinks are a luxury product, so don't try to argue with me on the basis of cost ;o)

Even on MY limited means I can afford a bit more than that, if it means throwing some away. I don't often drink macchiatos at home  (and even 2oz is far too much for one of those anyway). My routine milky drink is a 150ml cappuccino with my breakfast. I wouldn't try frothing less than 100ml milk on any machine. If you need less than that for a coffee, you can always chuck the rest on your cereal or porridge.  

Do you have porridge in the US ? (I know your northern neighbours do).

100ml of milk is easily frothed at full on steam if you have the correct tip for small volumes. I do this every morning, and I prefer mine not taken over 60 degrees too. I may not make perfect microfoam every time (although it aint bad) but it will taste very good.
If you can't do it, try a steam tip designed for smaller milk volumes (my machine comes with a 5 hole tip as standard which is fantastic for, say, 500ml of milk, but too fast for the small amounts we're discussing. For that I use a 2 hole tip)

It might take a bit of practice, but little in this field doesn't.

Have courage. Go for it. Don't be a wimp about it. ;o)))  If you haven't tried a machine that works this way at least give it a try.

Also, there might be an argument that too little steam at low pressure while you're messing around trying to get it just right is messing up your milk in the meantime.

I'm not arguing that fullon steam/fulloff steam is the only acceptable approach, but most definitely it should not be dismissed as something to be avoided.

I do like threads like this one ;o)
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