Demonstration of the Quickmill auto milk steamer

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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

This site's target audience isn't the convenience crowd, but occasionally newcomers post questions about super-auto espresso machines, preground coffee, and similar less expensive/less effort alternatives to the equipment and techniques we advocate. In order to have an informed opinion about these alternatives, I make a modest effort to keep myself aware of consumer trends, such as the rising popularity of systems like the Nespresso:
HB wrote:During the holiday shopping, I stopped by Williams-Sonoma where a salesman was enthusiastically demonstrating the Nespresso capsule system. I tried two samples (Ristretto and Capricco). If I applied the SCAA barista competition scoring, they would be in the 1.5-2.0 range. It was a pleasant surprise since I was bracing myself for the super-auto dreck I sampled during my last visit. The salesman also demonstrated a combo milk heating / frothing unit ("Nespresso Aeroccino Automatic Milk Frother"). It produces airy "white cap" foam that looks inviting, but is devoid of texture and sweetness. To their credit, the Nespresso capsule / frother was about as good as a typical cafe in my area and far more consistent.

Together the pod system and frother go for around $300. Each capsule makes a single espresso and costs around $0.50. If you simply must have espresso/cappuccinos and have no time, it's worth stopping by Williams-Sonoma to judge for yourself. It's cheaper than a super-auto and the two drinks were better than the super-auto espressos I've tried. That said, my recommendation for the no-budget no-time crowd remains a good grinder and presspot for a truly memorable coffee rather than a minimally acceptable (N)espresso that is forgotten moments after it's consumed.
Not long after posting the above, Chris Nachtrieb asked for my opinion of a new steaming accessory from Quickmill. He said it was better than other auto frothers. "Sure, why not," I replied, and a couple days later a rather large box arrived at my doorstep.

For the first time out, I took it to our regular Friday get-together at Counter Culture Coffee. While it's an unfair comparison, I wanted to put the Quickmill auto milk steamer against the best of the best, the La Marzocco FB-80 (in fact, this particular espresso machine was used at the last World Barista Competition). After two or three practice rounds with the Quickmill, I prepared two steamed pitchers, one from the La Marzocco, the other from the Quickmill. Kevin prepared two espressos in identical cappuccino cups. Both pitchers were swirled and thunked. We did this two times and tasted them without identifying which sample was which.

The results? The milk from La Marzocco for the first cappuccino was quite good, but the second was spot on. Sweet, creamy, wonderfully polished chrome surface, nothing but microscopically small bubbles. I found that by "center cutting" the Quickmill's steamed milk, I could nearly eliminate visible bubbles. At its best, we agreed the Quickmill's texture was on par with milk prepared by an "average" barista on the La Marzocco, but it would easily be blown away by someone with better than average skills (for reasons of discretion, I will omit who in our trials prepared the designated "average" and "better than average" samples ;-)). The La Marzocco also demonstrated its superiority in terms of sweetness. While the Quickmill auto steamer was a lot better than the Nespresso Aeroccino in texture and sweetness, not surprisingly, neither auto steamer competes with the La Marzocco.

Below is a demonstration video:
As shown in the photo below, milk is drawn directly from its cold container and steamed using water from a separate bottle. A thermoblock does the "on demand" steaming. The mixing chamber (black plastic) has a needle valve for adjusting the steam / milk mixture. It's easy to use, even if you don't read the instructions. In total, I went through about a half gallon of milk tweaking the setting and practicing the "center cut" technique for best results.


Photo courtesy of Chris' Coffee Service
Dan Kehn

Beezer

#2: Post by Beezer »

That's an interesting gadget, and it seems to produce much better results than I would have expected.

However, it seems like an answer to the question that no one is asking. Is there really a market for this type of automatic frother device? I know some people are willing to pay extra for convenience, but here you still need an espresso machine to make the coffee, so you have to buy two devices - or actually three counting the grinder. Then you have to have them all cluttering up the counterspace at the same time. I'm pretty sure that most people who buy superautomatics do so because they want to simplify the process and have fewer gadgets on the counter. This device, while ingenious, will have the opposite effect. And of course people who are serious enthusiasts would rather froth their own milk the old fashioned way. So I don't see which customer this device is going to appeal to.
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Compass Coffee
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#3: Post by Compass Coffee »

Beezer wrote:That's an interesting gadget, and it seems to produce much better results than I would have expected.

However, it seems like an answer to the question that no one is asking. Is there really a market for this type of automatic frother device?
Absolutely, it's called SO. (Not single origin in this case but significant other.) I've had an espresso machine on our kitchen counter 7 years or so. While Debi can (if pushed as in I'm not home) make herself a respectable Americano, if she wants a "latte" she still simply nukes the milk.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

Mark08859

#4: Post by Mark08859 »

I usually just do straight espressos and don't steam that often. What is meant by "center cutting" the milk? Thanx.

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HB (original poster)
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#5: Post by HB (original poster) »

Mark08859 wrote:What is meant by "center cutting" the milk?
Center cutting is when you intentionally eliminate the beginning and end, taking only the middle. In the case of this steamer, it avoids introducing larger bubbles that tend to occur when turning the flow on/off.
Dan Kehn

akarin

#6: Post by akarin »

I was wondering about "center cutting" as well, until it occurred to me that it was the same thing the doctor asked me to do when I went for my annual checkup :wink:

akarin

#7: Post by akarin »

The black piece of plastic gadget looks exactly the same as the auto frother that came with my La Pavoni. I've never paid much attention to it. I guess it deserves a serious tinkering

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akarin

#8: Post by akarin »

Would someone be so kind to point out brand and model of the espresso machine used in this demonstration? It appears to be a compact single-group spring loaded lever, which hits my sweet spot! :shock:

Thanks in advance.

-Akarin

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Bob_McBob

#9: Post by Bob_McBob »

akarin wrote:Would someone be so kind to point out brand and model of the espresso machine used in this demonstration?
It's a Ponte Vecchio Lusso, one of the few home-sized spring levers.
Chris

akarin

#10: Post by akarin »

Ahh...thanks Chris. I have heard about it before, but never saw it in action. Looking at the video again, it makes sense that the maker had to pull twice. Didn't ring a bell at the time :oops: , but do now after you mentioned it. :idea:

Thanks a lot.

Best,
Akarin