Brew espresso or steam milk first?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

#1: Post by Betenoire »

Hi All,
I'm new to the site, and have been doing lots of reading, and feeling a little dizzy at this point. My main concern is how to use the Rancilio Silvia for a cappuccino, which I recently bought second hand. The problem is this: if I brew the shot first and wait for the machine to heat up enough for the steamer, the shot has been sitting around so long, it's no longer hot. On the other hand, if I froth first, I have no idea how to lower the temperature quickly and to the right degree in order to start making a shot. Any advice would be much appreciated!


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#2: Post by Bob_McBob »

Unfortunately this is one of the main negatives of single boiler machines. The most popular sequence seems to be what you described: pull shot then heat boiler and steam milk. Are you pulling your shot into a heated cup?


#3: Post by prof »

You can do a couple of things to offset this dilemma, which is indeed part of the nature of the machine. Pull your shot into a preheated cup, and between pulling the shot and steaming the milk put the cup on top, on the warming tray. That helps offset the heat lost during the wait time. You ought to be able to get up enough steam within a minute or so: not catastrophic.


#4: Post by randytsuch »

What kind of a cup are you using?

If you have a big, heavy cup, and preheat it, then it will help keep the shot warm for a while.

Cappaccino cups seem expensive, but the nice ones are worth it, for this reason. I got lucky, and found a nice, heavy cup at a goodwill.


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Randy G.

#5: Post by Randy G. »

+1 on heated cups. I use the ACF cups ( . They are quite tough (even my wife has not managed to beak any!). Bought a set of four about 6 years ago, and still have 4! They will also hold heat. When I had Silvia, I would preheat the cups by filling them with water and microwaving them. I would then pull the shots directly into the cappuccino cups (after emptying them and drying them).

See: for a way to do that.
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#6: Post by flathead1 »

I agree on the heated cups but recommend the Bodium Pavina double walled espresso cups. Preheated they keep the espresso too hot to drink for a good long time, long enough to steam the milk and then combine into a preheated cup for the cappuccino.
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Betenoire (original poster)

#7: Post by Betenoire (original poster) »

Thanks for the ideas, guys. I haven't been using a heated cup and I'll try it. In fact, I might use a warm thermos. It sounds like you're all opting for the "shot first" method. Any reason not to froth first?


#8: Post by randytsuch »

It takes longer for a machine to cool down then to heat up, so I pull the shot, let the machine heat up, and steam.

Also, I think espresso will last longer, milk will start to separate as soon as you stop frothing, it is better to pour the milk right after frothing it.


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#9: Post by Bob_McBob »

flathead1 wrote:I agree on the heated cups but recommend the Bodium Pavina double walled espresso cups.
I was going to suggest them too, but I dislike transferring espresso between cups. I use my Pavinas to pull shots when I'm making lattes to go. It's also worth noting that they hold 3oz rather than 2oz.


#10: Post by randytsuch »

Bodum makes bigger double walled cups, so you wouldn't have to transfer.

BTW, I have the double walled espresso cup, use it every morning.