Quickmill Alexia
Steaming Performance


Although the Quickmill Alexia is most appealing to the espresso purist, there will always be an occasional request for a cappuccino or latte from guests. So let's start off with some general pointers on steaming milk.

Holding the pitcher tilted slightly forward towards you with the steam pushing the milk end-over-end to incorporate air works well, as depicted in the image below on the right. The two phases of steaming, stretching and texturing, are distinguished by the depth of the tip placement in the milk which affects the amount of air introduced. In the first phase, the tip is slightly more than 1/4" below the surface. After purging condensation from the wand arm and placing the tip in the milk, open the valve wide open, steaming until the sides of the pitcher are warm to the touch, or about 100°F. If you need to increase the stretching time, start with an ice cold pitcher—I keep mine stored in the freezer.

To finish incorporating the air introduced in the first phase, continue steaming with the tip buried in the milk, using the force of the steam to roll the liquid into a creamy mixture of air and milk. That's microfoam and it has a sweeter, thicker consistency than plain steamed milk. Before pouring, remember to settle any larger bubbles that may have inadvertently been formed by thunking the pitcher firmly against the countertop. This action will burst the larger bubbles and settle the airy layer. Finish by swirling the milk in the pitcher, fast enough that the liquid whirlpools up the sides, revealing a chrome appearance and paint-like texture of the milk. (Refer to Jim Schulman's The Home Barista's Guide to Espresso, specifically the Frothing and Pouring Milk section for more help.)

Milk rolls along bottom and back up other side Now let's move on to the specifics of steaming milk with the Alexia. The combination steam/hot water wand is mounted to the left side of the machine and has a swivel ball joint. That allows you to move the steam wand in any direction needed. The wand has a small rubber grip point for moving while hot. The stock wand is identical to that of the Quick Mill Anita; a "no burn" steam arm like the one on the Andreja Premium and Vetrano is available at an additional cost.

Since the Alexia is a single boiler machine, switch the machine to steam mode and wait for the boiler temperature to rise to steaming temperature. When building drinks, I recommend pulling the espresso shots first and steaming second. If you steam first, the E61 group will overheat and you will spend more time cooling the group down than you would have to wait for it to be ready to steam. Purge water through the steam wand into a second pitcher or the driptray. Be careful, the steam and water will exit forcefully! The steam will become drier as the space above the boiler water ("headspace") grows.

The machine has adequate steam performance and is quite easy to make good microfoam with. I was a little surprised when I actually timed how long it takes to steam larger volumes, it is slower than I would have guessed. Any volume less than 8 ounces is plenty fast, and unless you are steaming for multiple beverages, I hope that you will agree that 8 ounces of milk is plenty for the "exceptional espresso" that you just prepared. One trick to increasing the steam performance is to start steaming before the heating element turns off while in steam mode. This will keep the heater on for the duration of steaming. You can do this several ways:

  • Watch the boiler pressure gauge and start steaming when it reads around 3 bars,
  • Watch the clock and start steaming between 1:30 min and 1:45 minutes after flipping the steam switch,
  • If you have the PID controller start steaming, when the PID readout is above 270°F (assuming no programmed temperature offset).

Note: The PID readout indicates the steam thermostat cuts out at about 288-290°F and back on in the 260-264°F range.

The Alexia has a two-holed steam tip and the steam dispersion pattern is directional. With the wand pointed nearly straight down, center the tip in the pitcher and find the stretching zone, you can hold the pitcher level or try the pointers above for rolling the milk. Once you're ready to incorporate the foam, sink the tip a bit; depending on the pitcher design and milk volume, continue to hold the pitcher level or cant it to one side. Experiment to see what works best for you. The video below shows steaming 10 ounces of milk, though this one took a bit longer than my fastest steam times.

After steaming, Alexia's boiler should be refilled. Place the steam wand in a tall pitcher or mug (a rinsed 20 ounce steaming pitcher works well), open the steam valve, and then engage the pump switch to fill the boiler. Alternatively, you can use the brew lever to refill the boiler, but I prefer to use the steam wand as it ensures the boiler is full to the top. Directly after steaming, it takes about 4-6 ounces of water to refill the boiler. If you have the PID controller, you can stop flushing around 10-15°F above the set point (20-25°F if you're done using the machine for awhile). You'll have to wait a few more minutes or flush a bit more before the grouphead will be cool enough to pull another shot.

To measure the steaming performance I used a pitcher fresh from the freezer and filled it with the appropriate amount of water stored at refrigerator temperature (40°F). These times are an average of three sessions. The measurements were taken using a type T thermocouple and an Extech digital thermometer.

8 ounces

10 ounces

Quickmill Alexia

44

50

Rancilio Silvia

46

66

    Seconds required to heat water from 40 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit

The Alexia is an adequate steamer, but it is not a fast steamer, basically on par with the Rancilio Silvia. For the beginner, this extra time can be a good thing. Since the Alexia is targeted at the espresso purist, I don't consider this a significant disadvantage.


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