Milk foaming on La Pavoni

A haven dedicated to manual espresso machine aficionados.

#1: Post by Kaarina »

I am still struggling along my learning curve with my LaPavoni. Our marital difficulties are now centering around milk foaming (getting a decent espresso with good crema being thankfully achieved already).
While I systematically go through gallons of milk trying and experimenting, I would love some experienced advice. How much practise and experimenting can it really take before I have to start worrying about my intelligence?
I use ice-cold 2% milk in a frozen pitcher, bleed the false pressure away, dip the wand tip just below the milk level, get the indentations to the milk, then dip lower to start the whirlpool.. and all I get for my troubles is some foam on top of a lot of hot milk. Phew.

with a slightly desperate tone,
Kaarina :cry:

User avatar
Team HB

#2: Post by cannonfodder »

I was having the exact opposite problem, dish soap bubbles, looked like something from starbucks. I plugged one of the three holes in the wand tip with a toothpick. Just push it in until it stops and break it off. It worked wonders for me. The next try my froth was not perfect but very acceptable. I can whip up gobs of microfoam on my Isomac but my lever had always been problematic until now.

User avatar

#3: Post by luthier »

I've changed the steam tip of my Europiccola recently. A nice friend made it for me.


After some practicing I can do okay foaming.

You've been perfecting your technique for a long time...... So have I.

Paul L

#4: Post by Paul L »

Well, I'm about half way through my first week with the Europiccola and I'm definitely in that beginner's zone with it. In fact, if a friend or any of you visited I would make you a Capp with the little Gaggia and proudly say look at what you can achieve from this humble machinery. If I made it with the Europiccola I would shuffle uneasily looking at my shoes and say I haven't really learned how to use it yet. If I did not see one skilfully used before I bought, if it was not respected by some folks that deserve respect and if 2 of 10 frothing attempts I make were so-so I would wonder what the fuss was all about.

Sticking to the theme of this thread I've a long way to go to overcome that non-existent 8 out of 10 and improve the other two. I now understand what Kaarina was struggling with and I have quickly become mighty sick of the 3-hole frothing tip. I don't want to succumb to the contraption one can attach and I know from the Gaggia that I can happily work with a single-hole tip. Like the one posted by Luthier :D

I take it your friend doesn't fancy making another tip Luthier? Anyone any ideas if and where they can be sourced. I guess the bit I don't understand is that it seems nigh on impossible to have all 3 holes just under the surface where I know they're needed as one or more is always too high or too low. Or, I've got a lot of milk to get through if the 3-hole can be mastered.
Coffeetime (UK) Greens Club

Paul L

#5: Post by Paul L »

Like the child on Christmas Eve, the espressoholic arriving home with their latest acquisition, the sports fan whose team scores a goal, a try, a touchdown, a home run etc. I have finally produced something other than flat milk and a few bubbles. Sadly, feeling like a complete geek it's one of those moments. Close the eyes, take it in, re-live it, get excited, share it, consider one should be far too old for this, tell the World anyway. Yep, on the 6th day of trying I have enjoyed my fist real foam and therefore cappuccino on my Lever Fever journey.

First things first, I have to credit to one person in particular, a long-term LP user who I haven't seen post on here yet so it's not good form to name them. However, I am indebted to them with their email counselling just about every day as I work my way through flat coffee and flat milk.

I don't know about you guys and gals but I sometimes ponder on just how much I pick up thanks to the internet, the information exchange and intake and underneath it all, good folk who were happy to share. When a pastime flames, it ain't a lot of fun but in espressoland in 4 months I have not come across a better bunch of posters and help towards others as I have with the coffee forums. Like you all here, I like to pass it back too so I'm going to ramble on in the possibility it might help someone else.

In my case the problem was overcome tonight by changing one thing that perhaps one would not even think of and which I picked up as habit using only a Gaggia Cubika before now. It might surprise you.

For those with a short attention span - I steamed with the nozzle in the centre of the jug rather than near the side.

For those who like a story - pull up a sheep.

The Cubika was my first 'proper' machine back in April. It took me a week to get anything resembling froth and until a fortnight ago I learned to be extremely accurate in using the most of its limited steam power. My routine was: Bleed, wait a few seconds, plunge, come up quickly to place the single steam hole just below the surface, listen intently for the ch, ch sound I read about, remain completely zen still as the milk rises and gently lower the jug to keep that same position. Oh, and remain completely zen still as the milk rises if I did not already mention that, probably the single most important aspect.

Only I learned that all this was best done at the edge of the small 12oz jug I use to create some whirlpooling. I could stretch the 5oz I typically use to 12oz like this and usually did. I thought the end result was often a bit hot but it was generally good and when I tried plunging half-way I did not like the large bubbles that quickly started forming and spoiling my fine foam. Yes I had read some of the guides about stretching then heating but I did not explore further.

A couple of weeks ago when seeing an LP in action it was made to look easy and I watched with interest as the milk was partially stretched then plunged. The end result was creamy and did not fall apart as I had expected. As a typical male I went into the cave, as they say, and when returning home from the trip a couple of days later I sceptically tried stretching less and then plunging. I had about 9oz of fine foam and I plunged at that point. There were the damned spoilers, the damaging bubbles starting to form around the neck of the steam wand at the milk line to coin a phrase. Then, miraculously, the bubbles closed up again and I sharply shutdown the wand and withdrew it and allowed the usual settling, banging and swirling of the jug. And the result? Wow, not the thick foam and separated milk I had grown accustomed too but wonderful luxurious foam, not too thick but just great from the first sip to the last.

So, when I picked up my LP Europiccola my chest was proudly pushed out and my imaginary barista badge was shining brightly. It did not last long. Over the space of the past 6 days my shoulders have sloped, the chip fell off and a grey cloud has hung over me at every frothing attempt. I tried everything, lowering the wand, raising the wand, changing the angle, opening the throttle, backing off a bit and I started to buy more milk, tip away, cool the jug with cold water and try again immediately. By day 4 I was having about 3 attempts to each espresso sitting waiting, the 3rd being as flat as the 1st by which time I would pour it into the flat espresso anyway. When it got too much I would produce something wonderful with crema and velvet milk from the Cubika. Damn if the LP attempts did not taste better in some way though, there definitely seems to be something about the sweetness form the lever shot that others report on.

Tonight was the same - although on the espresso side I am slowly getting crema bit by bit. I have great expectation of course at the imminent arrival of the 51mm Reg Barber to replace the undersized plastic drastic I am currently using.

But then...

It went something like this:

" Here we go, let's froth. Patience, young man, patience, oh not again, flat as a pancake, I don't understand this. Ditch, rinse to cool, re-fill, let's go again. I am not giving up.
Stay still, be accurate, patience, oh not again. Hmm. Rinse to cool, re-fill, let's go again. I AM NOT GIVING UP!
Oh what the hell, I don't know why I bother trying to whirlpool, let's stick the nozzle under the milk right in the centre of the jug and see what happens. Oh my God, what's this, this is just like the Cubika only faster. Whoa, this is fast, quick old chap - plunge further, how long shall I stay here? Damn, I have no idea. If only I had held the jug rather than the handle as I was advised to do so I know the temp. Never mind, should I care? Not if this is as good as I think it is. Turn off and withdraw fast.

Now what have I got here? I don't believe it, I don't believe it. Thee real McCoy. Hmm, I never told anyone I frothed at the side of the jug, this all happened really fast, can it really have been the cause? Well, I don't understand it but there it was. Hmm. No-one else said where they froth, did they? I don't recall reading it anywhere. It must be one of those unspoken things, a bit like assuming you wear underwear on the inside - well unless your name's Sammy Piccolo or something." So I guess everyone froths in the middle only they take it for granted. Who knows, ah well I've found something that works."

Was it good, you bet, and it's time to go make another...
Coffeetime (UK) Greens Club


#6: Post by Kaarina »

Hi Paul!
Actually, I am improving pretty much along the same lines. I just don't really know what did I do right when I first was able to produce some decent foam, but I seem to be able to repeat it - every once in a while. Sometimes I still mess it up, though.
Did I understand your technique right:
1. stretch with the wand in the centre just below the surface so that you see indentations on the surface of the milk
2. then just take the wand away? or do you do the whirlpool too?

My problem is the second phase. I seem to be getting great foam and then I mess it up in the whirlpooling phase. Haven't still figured out what is my problem (this time)
sunny regards,

Paul L

#7: Post by Paul L »

Hi Kaarina, I felt even more stupid when I read the "Home Barista Guide to Espresso" on the resource section and found the following under milk near the back of the guide:
The milk in the pitcher should whirlpool or form a standing wave of turbulence in order to fold foam into liquid. With a one hole tip, angle the entry, and keep it close to the edge of the pitcher to rotate the milk into a whirlpool. With a multi-hole tip, point it straight down and keep it near the center of the pitcher--the hole dispersion pattern on a properly designed tip will create a whirlpool or a standing wave of turbulence for you. If your multi-hole tip does not do this, change it for another, or block some holes and convert it to slower, single hole use.
I bet you'll instinctively say "yes, that's it" just as I did. When we get it right it's clearly because we created that turbulence, I agree the power means that it then heats up rather fast. I've got a spare steam tip coming which I want to convert to single hole so that I can control more. In the meantime I'm still experimenting with the power. The main thing I have found is that I need to be rock steady as getting the steam tip in the right place for the turbulence is about millimetres. I now have the Macap next to the LP and I can touch the jug against the LP boiler or my arm against the Macap body and this steadiness helps enormously. I guess we're all different.

I'm now just waiting for the Reg Barber to arrive as I'm assured by a few that the undersized plastic drastic is not doing things any favours. Watching crema come through with your own lever effort is a great sight though and I like the lack of pump noise and vibration.

It is also the silly little things I like such as the smoothness of the group filter when you clean it. You pull the shot, unlock, pull some blank and then wipe clean and somehow it just feels good. Or you wipe the body and it instantly gleams at you as the heat prevents any water marks building. OR you know the temp is getting there because the water movement in the sight glass tells you if you don't already have the wand open and hear hissing.

You know I figured, if people can happily use one for years and be fussy about their results then it clearly works and it's about working out if its style and idiosyncrasies are for you. It's never going to pull shots like a machine gun but if you only need one or two shots it seems great and I do like the taste. I have not yet particularly notices sourness or bitterness reported, if anything it certainly makes my Gaggia shots taste bland for some reason.

Coffeetime (UK) Greens Club


#8: Post by Kaarina »

I do get a whirlpool during the stretching phase as I keep the three-hole wand in the centre (provided the placement is perfect). Actually, why should I move the wand to the side for the whirlpooling phase?? Cannot I just keep on whirling with it in the centre until I just take it off?? If the whirlpool is supposed to mix the milk with the foam, then cannot that happen simultaneously, or is there some wisdom in doing foaming and mixing consequently?
I hope I don't confuse you..

Paul L

#9: Post by Paul L »

Hi Kaarina. No, not confusing me but I'm no expert, purely a novice. I use the centre of the jug like you which I read as turbulence. I read whirlpooling as wand at the side of the jug trying to get the milk spinning round. From my limited experience and in line with the HB guide we should not move the 3-hole wand to the side. In fact it was the reason I could not froth a thing for about 6 days!

Until using the LP I had only used a 1-hole wand on a Gaggia and I learned to whirlpool at the side through trial and error. It definitely helped create a smooth velvet finish. Ironically I just got really, really good with it when the LP arrived and I have some way to go to catch up. I bought a spare 3-hole LP tip which I'm going to block into a 1-hole and see how I get on with it. I think it will be better as I will have more time. The other difference between machines is that LP frothing is really fast and I find I have to watch and move quicker. However, knowing me I will continue to get better with the 3-hole before I get the 1-hole modified by which time I will have another unecessary gadget on my hands! Is it just me that does this?

Coffeetime (UK) Greens Club


#10: Post by jmalick »

This all seams so obvious when you finally figure it out. I've had my LP for quite some time now but up until about 2 years ago I was blissfully unaware of "micro foam". This all changed when I realized latte art was not just a fluke or black magic (well it may be black magic). After gallons of double/shorts I realized while watching my local barista, my pitcher was too big. Turns out I could never get a good standing wave going. What-the-heck I thought and went to the local espresso accessories supplier to get my self a smaller (500ml) pitcher. To my surprise my LP's 3 hole steam wand was doing the wave like a champ. I couldn't have been happier. The art still leaves a little to be desired but I have my foam.

Now here is where the obvious part comes in. Every morning I religiosity make my wife a double/grande. And every morning I try to create her one of my highly unimpressive works. I get nothing but a dollop of decent foam on a bunch of flat milk. This has been driving me craze until this very morning when I was reading this very set of postings... Could it be the pitcher size?.?.?. I ran upstairs flipped the switches and stood over my little LP. It's true a watched pot never does boil or at least it takes a really long time. There I was with my dusty 750ml pitcher in hand. In went the Grande worth of milk, wand dipped, full steam ahead and what do you know but the old familiar standing wave. Yes comrades I had foam not perfect but workable. The art still leaves a little bit to be desired but for once I had something to present.

I guess my point is there appears to be an important ratio needing to be explored and I think it is exposed surface aria to depth and/or volume of milk. Sounds like a good topic for a thesis.
Jeff M