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microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
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bloocanary
Senior Member
bloocanary
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Posts: 362
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: rancilio silvia
Grinder: solis maestro
Vac Pot: yama (imploded)
Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 2:47am
Subject: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

so ... for anyone who's been wondering ... it is possible after all to create latte art with the starbucks barista :-)  i was starting to wonder.

while trying out my new solis maestro and nonpressurized PF, i finally made a shot that was sorta drinkable ... so i figured i'd foam some milk to soften it up.  lo and behold, for the first time ever, i made pourable microfoam.  up till now, although i'd gotten pretty consistent in terms of being able to make some kind of foam, the foam would always hit the espresso and just float -- i'm guessing that means the bubbles were too big, and hence the foam had too much air in it.

this time, when i poured, the foam plunged into the espresso ... then it seemed to hit the bottom of the cup and *then* come floating back up.  after i had gotten some milk in there, i was able to get an expanding white spot where i was pouring ... and shake out the following.

kinda ugly, but it's *something* ... my first latte art :-)

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mgrignan
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Joined: 14 Jan 2002
Posts: 77
Location: WY
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 7:03am
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

Aw, rats! Now that I know it's possible, that's one more obsession to pursue. (I've occasionally gotten pourable foam, but nowhere near homogeneous enough for latte art.)
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jettrue
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Dec 2003
Posts: 5
Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 1:43pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

Great job! Any tips for us beginner barista users?? Since you now seem to be a novice? LOL  I'm just getting that floatable foam that you mentioned right now. ;-) Oh, and what kind of milk do you use? whole?
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bloocanary
Senior Member
bloocanary
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Posts: 362
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: rancilio silvia
Grinder: solis maestro
Vac Pot: yama (imploded)
Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 3:51pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

well, i'm defintiely a novice (or less) ... this morning's cup was back to the floating foam.  oh well, at least it's still much more velvety than any i've gotten at starbucks.  

i used whole milk ... the key is to get dry, consistent, strong steam.  

1) first, when i bleed, i open up the valve all the way and let it run until the ready light goes out (i usually bleed for one second, dump the first bit of water, then go right back and open it all the way up ... otherwise, if i don't dump the first burst of water, the steam splatters it all over the place)

2) then i shut the valve and let it heat up again, until the light comes back on ... at which point i open it all the way up and bleed until the light goes out again

3) i bleed 3 times total, during which time i've put sugar and milk in my pitcher.  the 3rd time, you should notice that the steam coming out is much more even, without sputters.  if it still sputters, you can bleed more, but i found 3 to be a good compromise ... i could stand there all day bleeding i suppose

4) the first time you do this, you should time how long it takes for the water to reheat (between shutting the valve and the ready light coming back on

5) after the 3rd bleed, wait *less than* that amount of time, and start steaming *before* the light comes back on.  this ensures that the heating element stays on the whole time.  if you don't wait long enough, the steam will be weak.  if you wait until the light turns back on, the heating element will be off when you start

6) the wand should be almost but not quite vertical ... plunge in as deep as it goes, and about halfway between center and the edge of the pitcher ... open valve all the way.  immediately pull pitcher down until you *almost* hear slurping ... if you get a slurp, you need to put the wand in a little deeper (move pitcher up).  it's a balancing act, but somewhere between too deep and not deep enough, you should hear a rhythmic tch-tch sound (as a beginner, it's not very rhythmic but it *is* periodic ... and it's about 1/3 silent or too deep, 1/3 tch-tch or perfect, and 1/3 slurping or not deep enough).  it's imperative to brace your hands as much as possible against the machine ... we're talking fractions of millimeters accuracy here.

7) you should notice the milk level rising to about 133% (*very* roughly) or so by 100F ... at which point plunge the wand in deep and move the wand to the edge of the pitcher.  adjust the positioning until you get a nice spinning action ... this spins the milk around to mix the bubbles in and break up bigger bubbles

8) at about 140F, shut off the steam, pull the wand out, wipe *immediately* with a wet towel, release a short blast of steam to clear it ... then quickly bang the pitcher on the counter a few times to break the big bubbles (tricky not to splatter milk everywhere), then swirl the milk as vigorously as possible w/o spilling it for a few seconds.  

9) pour immediately ...

i watched a few good videos that helped ... moderators, any chance of creating a centralized place to put these videos?  in the meantime, i would suggest searching coffeegeek for "video" and see what you find.

g'luck!  keep me updated on how you do!

j
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Giovani
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Giovani
Joined: 3 Aug 2003
Posts: 49
Location: Sydney
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: 3 group astoria
Grinder: looking for one
Roaster: lol
Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 4:26pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

that description was sooooo obsessed. i LOVED it! and funny thing is, I know exactly what you mean "tch-tch" - gr8 sound

i have a Saeci magic and the same process you described works exactly the same. i think ur intructions could be considered quite universal for domestic machines
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bloocanary
Senior Member
bloocanary
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Posts: 362
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: rancilio silvia
Grinder: solis maestro
Vac Pot: yama (imploded)
Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 4:34pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

:-) obsessed indeed.  i'm in med school and studying for finals right now ... this week, i lived on a weird 27-hour cycle (24 hours awake, 3 hours asleep) ... yet i was obsessed enough to spend 2 hours at 4 AM one day working on my espresso.

i think that's a verifiable disorder.

however, for people who are thinking "that's a bit too involved" ... i think with practice, you can do espresso, milk, and cleanup in under 10 minutes.  one of the coffeegeek experts outlined his procedure in one post, i think, and timed it at about 6 or 7 minutes.

and oh so yummy!  it ain't just the art ...

j
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bloocanary
Senior Member
bloocanary
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Posts: 362
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: rancilio silvia
Grinder: solis maestro
Vac Pot: yama (imploded)
Posted Thu Dec 11, 2003, 9:33pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

ah yes ... so as i mentioned, this afternoon i got floating foam.  but just now, i made purable microfoam again.  i'm not positive, but the one thing i intentionally changed was that i only stretched (the first part where you surf the surface of the milk) to just slightly under 100F (~98F).

people have said that stretching at higher temps lead to bigger bubbles ... and some even suggest stretching only to 80F.  that may make the difference.  my worry was always that i won't have enough foam, so i would tend to push over 100F ... like to 110F or even 120F.  the problem is that if you *see* foam, it's probably gonna be big bubbly foam.  so when you're getting better foam, it just looks like milk in there.  the key i guess is to keep track of the level of the milk when you started, and trust that if it's higher, it's got foam.

in any case, stretching to under 100F seemed to do the trick.  i'll try 90F next time and see what i get.

one other thing is that i swirled the pitcher a bit longer before the pour -- about 10 seconds.  as far as i know that helps distribute the bubbles more.

let me know how you guys fare.

j

(PS, i just tried really good beans for the first time ... vivace's dolce ... wow, it came out smooth and *thick*, more like a thin syrup than watery like the espressos i've always had ...)
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bloocanary
Senior Member
bloocanary
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
Posts: 362
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: rancilio silvia
Grinder: solis maestro
Vac Pot: yama (imploded)
Posted Sat Dec 13, 2003, 11:16pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

i posted the videos that i found online about microfoaming and latte art ... i still refer to them periodically, and find them quite helpful ...

 "various espresso skills videos"

check them out if you haven't seen these skills before ...

j
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jettrue
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Dec 2003
Posts: 5
Location: USA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Tue Dec 16, 2003, 2:45pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

Thanks for the tips!  I was actually able to make some pourable foam today! No art, still working on that, and I need to get some cappucino cups anyway.

Thanks for the video links as well, I had no idea how to even begin with the latte art.

Having lots o fun here...who knew making coffee could be so entertaining! LOL It was really hard wrapping up the new MCF grinder today and putting it under the tree, can't wait to use it!
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SilentBob
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Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 136
Location: Bremerton, WA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Isomac Tea
Grinder: Cunill Tranquilo
Vac Pot: Cory Electric Auto
Drip: Manual pour-over
Roaster: Whirley-Pop
Posted Tue Dec 16, 2003, 4:21pm
Subject: Re: microfoam and latte art w/ starbucks barista
 

Here's my technique for producing microfoam with my Saeco Rio Vapore - I'm pretty much a spaz when it comes to pouring, but I can make velvety-smooth microfoam nearly every time.

(I've already pulled my shot, and it's sitting there cooling and the crema is evaporating...)

Aim the steam wand at the drip/spill tray.  Open 'er up all the way.  Shoot water all over the drip/spill tray, if it's nearing full, it spatters coffee everywhere.  As soon as the water clears, close the steam valve and leave it closed for a couple seconds.  Open it again for about 10 seconds, then close.  One more time.  The "steam ready" light should NOT come on for optimum steaming.  If it's on, it means the machine thinks it's at steaming temp., and the boiler is inactive.  If you can keep the light OFF, it means the boiler is active, and your frothing time will be drastically reduced (takes me about 40 seconds to steam milk for one cappuccino if the steam wand is clean).

I put about 5 oz. of milk in a 12 oz. pitcher.  Aim the steam wand at an angle towards you and to the left - I angle it to the maximum that still allows me to reach the milk with the tip, and not spill milk, and still see what's going on inside the pitcher.  (Make sure the steam valve is closed), then insert the end of the steam wand into the milk, open the valve (all the way, every time), and dance the tip around making the "tch, tch" sound for NO MORE THAN TEN SECONDS - otherwise you get big ol' gloppy foam that don't pour worth a crap.  I don't watch the thermometer to tell me when to stop "stretching" the milk - I let the body and texture of the milk tell me when to stop.

When I'm done "stretching", I aim the steam tip at the near edge of the pitcher, until it starts swirling the milk, then ease it over as close to the center as I can while still allowing the milk to spin.  HOLD IT THERE, with the tip just beneath the surface of the milk (no "tch", "tch" here, or you'll get medium-sized bubbles that won't dissipate).  NOW I start watching the thermometer and a funny thing happens.  At about 130 degrees, I notice the milk increasing in volume again!  At 150, I close the valve, remove it from the milk, wipe, tap, swirl, and pour another feeble attempt at latté art.

My Isomac Tea should be here Thursday or Friday, and I look forward to improved steaming ability.  And the ability to brew and steam simultaneously.  And the ability to pull consecutive shots without manually relieving the pressure inside the portafilter.  Oh, and the beautiful acres of stainless steel and that fabulous-looking E61 grouphead!
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