Let's get right into this. No preamble, no rigamole, no flowery words.
What You're Going to Need
Before undertaking the quest for perfectly steamed and foamed milk we’ll need to assemble a handful of tools and accessories to assist us in our pursuit of steamed/foamed/frothed milk perfection.
| Pitchers |
There's a gazillion styles out there - but we like the 20oz, 'needle nose' style the best.
Sure, you could use a plastic cup, but then again, you could take coffee advice from a Safeway clerk. Let's do it right. If you aspire to pour latte art it will need to have a sharply defined spout like the one in the picture. If you're just steaming milk, any shaped pitcher will do, taking care to keep the size of the pitcher in proportion to the steaming capacity of your espresso machine. You shouldn’t need anything larger than a 20 oz pitcher in any circumstances and if you think you do I would rather see you steam two small pitchers than one big one. It allows for more control and in turn a better drink at the other end.
Unless your name is Sammy Piccolo, do use a thermometer when you steam your milk. It will allow you to be consistently great. Get a nice one too, with an easily readable dial. Not one of those cheap things they always sell home users with the dial face the size of a dime. A cheap thermometer will make you hate life, so find a good one. We will discuss the burning question of what temperature to steam the milk to a little further on.
This is for wiping off the residual milk left on the steamwand after steaming. Keep it clean and moist. Do not fall into the temptation of wiping anything else with this cloth.
Spoon or Spatula
To spoon or not to spoon that is the question. I generally aim to steam the milk in a way that I do not need a spoon. Ideally we want the milk to separate IN the cup, not in the pitcher after which you have to scoop the foam, or hold back the foam etc. Have a spoon around when you are learning. They can be especially helpful for building cappuccinos or when divvying up foam for multiple drinks.
Of Course, Milk
| Milk Everywhere! |
Lots to choose from; I wonder how buttermilk froths...
Lots of choice. There is no right or wrong way to go although there are some preferences that I would like to suggest. Put out of your mind that some milk has more fat than others. We worried about that sort of thing in the late ‘80s and those days are over. Going back to our manifesto, coffee is a sensory experience and we want to have the finest one we can muster. A little fat in our milk gives us a running head start to a special coffee experience.
I would like to suggest that you make whole milk your default milk of choice. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to do it or if you are Canadian you can use 2%. If you must use non-fat milk you may, just don’t tell me about it. If you’ve been really good and are going for a special treat I highly endorse the use of Creamo/10% table cream to soften and round out an espresso macchiato a la Seattle style. There are of course some alternative forms of milk (Any volunteers to milk the buffalo? “Hey there girrrrl, steady, steady…my wife needs a cappuccino this morning…”) but our focus will be on regular ol’ cow milk. The different properties of milk and how they influence the steaming and foaming process will be attended to further on.
Well that is pretty much the meat and potatoes of what is required. Beautifully simple. I assume that you have proper sized cups warmed and at the ready as well as the multitude of other obvious things that you require to make coffee (fresh roasted coffee, tamper etc.).