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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Best utensil for...  
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zeocen
Senior Member


Joined: 31 Jul 2011
Posts: 3
Location: New Zealand
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Jul 31, 2011, 3:02am
Subject: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

Hi all,

Firstly apologies for this thread, I did search but the threads I found seemed to be a few years old - I thought something might have popped up since then!

I'm really into milk foaming and, try as I might, it's never going to be steamed milk.  I've trawled through many reviews of lower model espresso machines with steam wands and the general consensus is that they're just too weak to produce good, consistent steamed milk.  Is this true?  If it is, are there standalone steamers that don't require a stove top?  This is particularly for the office where there isn't a stove to heat a stovetop steamer.  However if the only option for good steamed milk is stove top, I'd still be interested in knowing what the best one would be.

So far I've just been using a french press at home and a milk plunger at work (both are basically the same thing), while I can get it pretty good, it's just not steamed milk!  I've looked into those ones where you put the milk in and it whirs it around for you, but again it seems to just be agitating the milk rather than stretching it.

Hopefully this topic isn't run into the ground, forgive me if it is!


Regards,

Matt
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zeocen
Senior Member


Joined: 31 Jul 2011
Posts: 3
Location: New Zealand
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Jul 31, 2011, 5:42pm
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

No one? :(
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takeshi
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takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
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Location: Houston
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Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
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Posted Mon Aug 1, 2011, 1:46pm
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

zeocen Said:

I've trawled through many reviews of lower model espresso machines with steam wands and the general consensus is that they're just too weak to produce good, consistent steamed milk.  Is this true?

Posted July 31, 2011 link

Who wrote the reviews (consider the source)?  For which machines?  Any sweeping generalization like that is unlikely to apply to all cases.

What does "lower model" specifically mean?  What budget range?  Don't assume that your interpretation is the same as everyone else's.
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yakster
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yakster
Joined: 25 Feb 2009
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Location: San Jose, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Factory / La Peppina...
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Roaster: Behmor
Posted Mon Aug 1, 2011, 6:36pm
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

Matt,

I started with thrift store DeLonghi Bar 140 espresso makers (pump toys) and did ok steaming soy milk for the Wife.  I happened upon modified single-hole steam tips (drilled out acorn nuts) that really helped, see this CG thread.  I got tired of the temperature surfing dance I'd have to do with these machines and their small thermoblock heaters to try and wrestle a great shot out of them and moved on.

I shelved the DeLonghis for a La Peppina spring lever which I hooked up to a PID for temperature control which put an end to steaming milk for a while*.  Looking for a solution, I picked up a Bellman stove-top cappuccino maker that was missing the coffee filter and tried my hand at steaming milk with this... I could almost do it, but I could never sustain the whirlpool and the micro-foam was alluding me.  I had read that steaming with the Bellman was about as hard as steaming with a La Pavoni Pro lever so I thought it was just my technique and kept trying, but still wasn't able to steam worth beans.  I think the hole on the Bellman was just too large.  I even went so far as to pick up a 12 oz RattleWare handleless macchiato steaming pitcher to see if that would help; it didn't.  

Recently, I picked up a Gaggia Factory G106 lever (La Pavoni Pro with a few cosmetic changes) that came with the modified steam tip I had been using on the DeLonghis and steaming milk/soy is coming easily again.  I've read many threads that talk about breaking off toothpicks in some of the holes on multi-hole steam tips to give better steaming; this leads me to think that the tip you use has a lot to do with how well you are able to steam.  As for the Bellman, I've heard of others who have mastered the Bellman steaming, so I know that it can be done, but either their steam tip hole is a different size then mine or they have really worked at the technique because for me the Bellman is just too unforgiving.  I should really put it up for sale, though it's not pretty because I had to use a canning jar gasket in place of the missing coffee filter basket and gaskets to seal the unit for steaming.

BTW, I'd have no problem with using the DeLonghis for steaming milk except I don't have the counter space to leave them out.  As it is, I'm needing to re-finish a sideboard so that I'll have a home for my Gaggia Factory and La Peppina since the kitchen counter only has room for one espresso machine.

Good luck.

*The La Peppina actually does have a Vaporizor lid for steaming milk and delivering hot water that was added by the US importer, but using this doesn't work well with my PID temperature control.  The steam wand is simply a round pipe that has a crimped three bladed end to narrow the outlet for steaming that works surprisingly well.  It sort of reminds me of the Sproline Foam Knife steam tip.

 
-Chris

LMWDP # 272
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NobbyR
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Posted Tue Aug 2, 2011, 7:56am
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

Steaming power of an espresso machine does of course influence your possibilities of making frothed milk. This can vary from model to model, especially in the lower price range. But apart from that it's mostly a question of one's personal technique. You have to learn and practice.

I suggest to read this guide: click here.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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zeocen
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Joined: 31 Jul 2011
Posts: 3
Location: New Zealand
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Aug 3, 2011, 9:16pm
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

Takeshi:  I don't have any assumptions, only questions.  That's why I asked if it were true whether or not they have the ability to produce enough steam for what I want.

Yakster:  A lot of insight there, thanks a lot for that!

NobbyR:  Thanks mate, I have read that guide and have had a look at a number of espressos.  I think I have one in mind now but I wouldn't mind hearing your guys' opinions on it.  

It's the Saeco Via Venezia Espresso, has anyone had experience or know anything about them?  I have read a fair few reviews and it seems they're not bad and with some other steam wand (stainless steel panarello wand?) it can produce good microfoam.  There was some talk about "surf and brew"?  Not sure what that is a reference to, not up with the espresso jargon!
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,041
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu Aug 4, 2011, 4:26am
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

zeocen Said:

...It's the Saeco Via Venezia Espresso, has anyone had experience or know anything about them? ...

Posted August 3, 2011 link

The Saeco Via Venezia is a solid portafilter espresso machine with a single thermoblock steel boiler, which makes its temperature quite unstable, and you cannot draw espresso and froth milk at the same time. It works with a pressurized filter, which is mostly frowned upon, because it more difficult to clean and most of all tends to creat a fake crema. It's for people who don't want to be bothered with correct grinding and tamping.

Why don't you get a Rancilio Silvia or even better a traditional heat exchange espresso machine like the Isomac Tea, for example? And don't forget to buy a decent grinder. It's more important than the machine.

For further advise on espresso machines I suggest the YouTube-Channel of SeattleCoffeeGear: click here.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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dana_leighton
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dana_leighton
Joined: 11 Jan 2002
Posts: 1,939
Location: Little Rock, AR
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Isomac Relax; Caferina...
Grinder: Macap MXK; Baratza Vario-W;...
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Roaster: Poppery I w/PID controller
Posted Thu Aug 4, 2011, 7:44am
Subject: Re: Best utensil for microfoam?
 

zeocen Said:

It's the Saeco Via Venezia Espresso, has anyone had experience or know anything about them?

Posted August 3, 2011 link

I have a Via Veneto, and while I can't get microfoam of the quality of my Isomac, it can produce decent frothed milk. One of the secrets to lower-end SBDU machines is to make sure the boiler's heating element stays on for the duration of the steaming. To do this, you have to start steaming just before the boiler reaches the temperature at the top of the "dead band" on the thermostat. That means turn on the steam switch and start steaming just before the switch's light goes on. You can time it approximately by timing how long it takes to get to steam temperature and back off by about 10 seconds. That will give you steam pressure that will not peter out before you can stretch the milk.

 
Dana Leighton - Espresso hack and CoffeeGeek moderator
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