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Quickmill Vetrano
Steaming Performance


A few months after the Andreja Premium review was published, a buyer contacted me lamenting its steaming ability. "Gallons of milk and I'm getting nothing but dishsoap bubbles. My trusty Silvia produces velvety microfoam with the stock tip. C'mon Dan, you said:

Some owners actually prefer a more modest steaming pace since it gives them additional time to "finesse" the development of microfoam. My personal preference is fast and rocking frothing, which the [Andreja Premium and Giotto Premium] delivered, nearing the stretching and texturing ability of a commercial machine. Their stock tips are also good choices, allowing for both fine microfoam and thicker, airier microfoam by adjusting the time and depth of the stretching phase.

"It's been frustrating for me. I don't understand how could you rate the Andreja Premium's steaming 9 out of 10!?!" I offered some hints (extra cold milk, pitcher in the freezer, practice controlling the direction of the rotation with water, etc.) and encouraged him to push on. A few weeks later, I received the expected "Eureka!" e-mail.

Several times since then I've had the same experience as new evaluation equipment arrived, reminding me that one must adapt to each machine, and in some cases, unlearn previously acquired skills. I bet if I asked him about Silvia's steaming today, he'd say, "It's excellent, but slower and a little wet compared to my new setup."

Latte art at home The Vetrano has the same "no burn" steam arm and water tap as the Andreja Premium. In addition to the comfort consideration (and not worrying about grab tabs), the rounded two-hole tip cleans easily because the milk doesn't bake on. I also like the direction, velocity, and volume of this arrangement; it's become a popular choice for top-end semi-commercial units. However, some upgraders like the gentleman mentioned above may initially prefer a "cheater tip" that reduces the volume and increases the velocity. Practically every vendor offers an exclusive low-volume tip that slows heating and increases velocity, which makes it much easier to stretch and texture milk at a modest pace, especially for single servings. Unfortunately the no burn steam arm uses a relatively unusual 8mm female thread instead of the more common 10mm male thread. After hearing from enough customers wanting to experiment with alternative tips, Chris' Coffee sourced an adapter, as shown in the photograph to the right.

Trying several low-volume tips, I found them indeed easier, but the microfoam was invariably airier. The dreaded "cottonball" formed in the milk if I didn't swirl and thunk constantly, which was unnecessary for the chrome milk surface I frothed with the stock tip. That said, an adapter and low-volume steam tip are small outlays, and it's nice to have the option. New owners may wish to give them a try, though I would be surprised if the pair didn't become semi-permanent drawer residents in a couple months' time. Some limitations of the alternative steam tips were also noted by others during this review's research:

I have the adaptor for my Andreja and I've tried the "new" 2-hole from Chris as well as the EPNW 2-hole tip (and a GoldPro is on its way). The biggest downside these have compared to the stock tip is that the alternative tips run much hotter and milk really does burn onto them much more so than with the stock tip - i.e. you lose one of the key benefits of the no-burn wand. This is especially inconvenient with the "new" 2-hole since the ridges on the sides make it more difficult to keep clean. As for results, I can manage microfoam with all of them and found the EPNW noticeably slower than the stock tip - good if you only want to steam a very small amount of milk.

—Teme (from the Bench on December 12, 2005)

Returning to the Vetrano's stock setup, I find it has enough ummph to approach commercial standards, but not so much that your average enthusiast feels compelled to wear protective safety glasses. The table below summarizes its performance compared to a few popular espresso machines.

8 ounces

10 ounces

12 ounces

Vetrano & Andreja Premium

30

41

48

Giotto Premium

28

38

43

La Spaziale S1

20

33

39

    Seconds required to heat water from 40 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (boiler pressure of 1.2 bar)

The Vetrano, Andreja Premium and Giotto Premium have the same swivel "no burn" steam arms and swivel water taps. They also have similarly-sized boiler, although the Quick Mills' are oriented vertically and the Giotto's is oriented horizontally. The different boiler orientations and water levels likely account for the Giotto's slight speed advantage, although it is barely perceptible in practical use, especially when comparing their performance while the boilers are actively heating.

Additional Tips & Techniques

As noted earlier, several owners who've upgraded to the Andreja Premium / Vetrano have reported troubles obtaining the same microfoam quality they had come to expect from their previous espresso machine (typically long-time Rancilio Silvia owners). Ironically, online forums are replete with new Silvia owners begging for suggestions or searching for alternative steam tips. Practically every vendor sells an "easier" one, which typically ends up in the drawer after a few months, demonstrating that much of the challenge involves unlearning the specifics of your previous setup. With that in mind, let's review the basic "getting started" suggestions for new Vetrano owners.

For purposes of practicing, I recommend wasting a little milk and working with no less than five ounces (12 ounce pitcher) or nine ounces (20 ounce pitcher). That will give you a wider margin of error. It's also worth practicing the mechanics with water. Spend 20-30 minutes just producing little bubbles without spraying and getting a good whirlpool. Do be careful of splashing yourself though, it's easy to boil a pitcher of water in less than 30 seconds! Pay special attention to the sound of frothing; not only does it give you an indication of the temperature (the tone lowers as the milk heats), a rhymmic tch-tch-tch versus tshhh-h sound similar to ripping paper identifies the minute boundary of steam injection you wish to control during the stretching phase. Equally important is the whirlpool you create by burying the steam tip deeper and at an angle during the texturing phase. This action blends the microbubbles evenly throughout the milk, transforming it from hot milk with froth on top to the pourable chiffon we call microfoam.

Reminder to keep it clean! Gunky milk residue building up in the steam wand? Ewww-w! Remember to purge the steam wand before and after each use, especially with the no burn steam arm. While I've never had a problem keeping it clean, I see that the tighter confines of this wand could punish those with less circumspect habits. To avoid introducing milk into the arm, have a slight outflow of steam going when inserting and removing the tip from the pitcher. For good measure, I also purge a spritz of steam from the wand after wiping it down. With this regime, I've never seen any evidence of milk residue on the interior surfaces of the wand or tips.

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