Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 5:32pm Subject: Technique - how to steam milk
I've been struggling to learn how to steam milk properly - in the past I was getting dry foam floating on top of thin milk or if I tried to make micro-foam by sinking the tip a little more, I'd just end up with hot milk.
I posted this link in the mods forum (since I was showing off the mod I made to the steam tip on an old machine) but I hope it's OK to post the same link here since I'm asking for help on my milk steaming technique. This video has me screwing up a little more than usual since I was trying to work around the camera - but am I even in the ballpark with how much to sink the tip or do I have it too high for too long? (too much foam?) --- I didn't have any espresso prepared to pour it into ... so I simply pour it into an empty cup to show the consistency.
Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 5:39pm Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
It looks like you've made pretty alright (if on the dry side) cappuccino milk. If that's what you're aiming for-- great, you're done! If not, try stretching more gently and/or for a shorter period of time. I would also sink the tip sooner, and hold the pitcher steady-- stop adding additional air!-- at this point. Using a single hole tip you may also end up with higher quality foam by keeping the wand against the side, or in the spout of the pitcher, rather than so far out in the middle. Or you may not! The real question is (since it's difficult to tell in the video), what, to your senses, needs improvement?
Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 6:01pm Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
Thanks for the quick reply.
Yes ... I thought it was a little on the dry side. But I am not really sure what I'm aiming for since I generally just drink straight espresso. I really just wanted to learn how to make milk drinks properly since I seem to be the only person I know (outside of forums) who likes espresso straight.
The jerky pitcher was due to trying to reach around the camera to take a video and steam at the same time - so I am usually a little smoother than that.
I keep hearing about finding the spot that makes the milk whirlpool -- and for some reason on this particular attempt, the milk expanded so fast, it was almost overflowing before I had a chance to find the whirlpool spot (still not quite sure where that is). But I would start to sink the tip and it suddenly looked like everything stopped moving so I brought it back up a little (searching for the whirlpool).
I'm totally going off of videos and descriptions online - I have never seen anyone steam milk (properly) in person. And I've seen some descriptions say to make the milk whirlpool - and some others that want the milk to fold over on itself by aiming the steam straight down one side directing the flow to the bottom and up the other side.
Cappuccino milk is probably what I will actually end up using more often. But I would like to know how to make milk for latte art - I think that needs to be much wetter ... but so far I seem to go between dry like in this video and simply hot milk.
Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 6:32pm Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
You could pour latte art with that milk, it'd just have very thick lines (which can make for a great heart or tulip!)
I've found I like the tip of the steam wand in the pitcher's spout, pointed straight down (for a single hole) or at a slight angle away from the wall of the pitcher (for most tips). I think I like the wand in the spout especially because it allows me a quick point of reference to steam my milk the same way every time.
The particular pattern of whirlpool isn't the most important part, it's making sure both the top and bottom of the milk are in motion, so that foam gets incorporated throughout. You'll know if the tip is too low for incorporating/rolling/whirlpooling when you hear the pitcher ringing or see the surface of the milk stop moving. As far as too high, without hands-on instruction it's just a matter of practice.
This had a really large, round hole in the tip - seemed too large a hole to me ... so I pounded the tip flat on the sides so the hole was now a slit. So even though it is a "one hole" tip ... the steam comes out differently and how close I am (and the angle) to the side of the jug really makes a drastic difference.
Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 8:43pm Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
I couldn't find any videos or instructions for how to use the Sproline Foam Knife - maybe I didn't look hard enough. The only videos I could find were showing the action in plain water.
What direction do you have the slit in the tip oriented. Does the slit go vertically or horizontal? or?
I found I liked my homemade slit tip best at about 45 degrees ... so right between horizontal and vertical ... or maybe more towards vertical. I tried it horizontal and didn't like it as much (but I'm still not sure what I'm doing either).
I'd love to see a video of someone using the Foam Knife.
Posted Thu Jun 14, 2012, 8:54pm Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
I believe the slit is perpendicular to the pitcher wall against which it sits. If I get a minute I'll try and take a video tomorrow. Granted, the Foam Knife has a different and more intentional/specific shape than your tip, but similar ideas would probably apply to another elongated single-hole tip.
emradguy Senior Member Joined: 31 Mar 2011 Posts: 3,226 Location: Houston Expertise: I live coffee
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Posted Fri Jun 15, 2012, 9:01am Subject: Re: Technique - how to steam milk
I love your steam tip mod! I was thinking about springing for a sproline foam knife several weeks ago, but then read more and thought a lot and realized I was stretching too long. I was having a similar problem as you describe...I was able to make great foam, except that it was layering on top. When I decreased my stretch time, I saw a drastic improvement in incorporation of my foam and milk layers, and got big cheers (not literally) from my super-critical (in re foam quality) wife. I'm now working on consistency (I do still over-stretch more often than I'd like). Sorry I can't watch your video, but you tube is blocked here at work.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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