I've got a new PL041 from the phenomenal sale. It makes a great espresso, but I've got a question about steaming milk.
There's a handy thermostat light that goes off when the machine is hot enough to make steam for foaming. However, while I'm steaming the milk, usually a little more than halfway through the process, the light comes back on. Does this mean the machine isn't hot enough or that I need to stop steaming until the light goes back off?
The milk still heats up to the 140-150 degree mark while the light's on, but the foam isn't terrific. I'm certainly not getting lush layers of microfoam.
I've got the same machine. First, the light turning on is fine, and actually good since it indicates that the machine is actively producing steam so you don't run out! As for results, it's all about practice practice and more practice. I've had the machine for a little over a month and have been reading a lot of how to's and watching a lot of youtube vids as a guide. It definitely has the steaming power to achieve great results.
The 'steam ready' light is actually telling you when the heating element turns on and off. The ideal/maximum steaming will actually be to start steaming shortly before the heater element turns off. Time how long it takes for the 'steam ready' light to be 'ready'.... Start your steaming 5 seconds before this. Ideally the heater should stay on for the entire steaming. This will give you maximum steaming power.
Thats how you will get the best steam power. You're probably not noticing it as easily, because you have the wand immersed in the milk, but, when you turn the machine to steam mode, wait for the light to indicate its ready and then start steaming, what happens, is as you are steaming, you're losing steam power, and its progressivly getting weaker and weaker, until the machine thinks you should have more steam.
What you want to do, is let the machine heat up and be ready to steam. But instead of then starting to steam, try this.
First, bleed off any condensation in the wand. Just put a container under the wand, and open her up all the way until no more water comes out, and leave it open until the light comes on, plus, say, 10 seconds.*
After ~10 seconds, close the steam wand. Time how many seconds it takes for the light to turn back off. Let say, FOR EXAMPLE, it takes 1 minute* to turn back off. What is happening, is once the light came on, the heating element kicked on, to heat the water in the boiler to produce steam. It takes(for example) one minute, because thats the amount of time it takes for the boiler to be "full" of steam.
When you want to froth your milk, follow step 1 the same. Then, once you close the steam wand, instead of waiting for the light to come back on(1 minute), only wait 40-45 seconds*, THEN open the wand with the light still on. Why? Because the pressure in the boiler will drop, and cause the heating element to remain on the entire time you are steaming, allowing you to steam your milk the whole time with 100% of the machines steam power.
It might sound like a little more work then is neccesary, but on a single boiler machine like the Lelit(or a silvia, or Gaggia) its almost required to achieve microfoam. After one or two times doing it, you will see a big difference in the pitcher, and it will just become part of your routine.
I also HIGHLY suggest you read the article on this website about Milk Frothing. Its got a bunch of sections, from the very simple "how to froth", to a pretty geeky article on the different characteristics of milk fat, and how it relates to frothing, as well as some helpful hints on pouring latte art. Heres is a Link to the Article. Make a presspot of your favorite brew, sit down, and read the whole thing through. Afterwards, if you're not absolutley dieing to blast through a couple gallons of milk and hone your technique, head on over to YouTube and check out the plethora of milk frothing videos and latte art videos.. Namely, This Video. That video right there helped me a great deal when I upgraded to my current machine, as I had trouble adjusting to the much more powerful steam then a single boiler. Dont worry, soon you'll be pouring a double rosetta on every drink, and you'll be bored doing so :)
Good Luck, and let us know how it goes!
*All the numbers and times in this post are purely for an example only. It may take more or less time then I noted for the light to go on/off, you'll just have to experiment and see. The article I linked you to explains how to temp surf the steam mode as well, I believe.
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