Looks like microfoam, but it won't mark the surface until the very end - Page 2

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

#11: Post by portamento »

Adam_Sickles wrote:The pitcher is too hot to touch, I sink the wand in deeper and let the milk roll (I think it's a whirlpool, not sure).
Adam, if I read you right, you may be overheating the milk. When the pitcher is too hot to touch, you are done; you should stop steaming. Usually you want to stop texturing the milk around the time the pitcher just starts to feel warm to the touch. So just as it heats past your body temperature, it's around 100 degrees and you want to sink the tip and let the milk roll.

The length of the texturing phase depends on your steam power and tip, but when the "pitcher is too hot to touch" is definitely too late to sink the wand and roll the milk.

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#12: Post by JmanEspresso »

^^ My thoughts exactly.

With the Motta Pitchers, since they're thicker then most steaming pitchers, its tricky to go by feel if you have no reference. On the flip side, pouring latte art with Motta pitchers, is a piece of cake.. provided the milk is done properly.

Just in case you're not already.. Keep your pitcher(s) in the freezer at all times, ie: store them there. When you're going to make a milk drink, before you do anything else, pour the milk in the pitcher, and put in back in the freezer. THEN go build your shot and do what you do.

You can use a thermometer to help you out, but once you get comfortable, you probably won't need it. Stretch the milk until 80-100F, and then dip the wand slightly and spin/churn/texture the milk to 140-150F.

The pitcher itself, while stretching, will go from Cold, to Neutral, to Warm. When it changes from neutral to warm, is around when you should be done stretching, and should start texturing the milk. When its hot, stop. While using the therm, pay attention to what the pitcher feels like.

Letting the pitcher sit for 30 seconds after the fact, will make it easier to knock out any annoying medium sized bubbles, and after you spin it all back together, the milk will end up slightly thicker.


#13: Post by SimonSoCal »

just want to make sure.
If I were to practice with cold water and soap, should I also expect to have the same result as frothing milk?

Another word, is the microfoam and texture as I pour out the water should give the same consistancy as the milk?

If so, I guess I have failed so far. By pouring the water, I still have clear water running under the foam layer. Only until the clear liquid running slow will the top layer foam will start pouring out in large chuck.

Also based on Jim comment, will it be better to do the espresso in a latte cup instead of shot glass? Or how can I tell if the creama is not intact? **usually I made the espresso first and take my time to do the milk. By then, most creama that was there at the top layer of the shot glass does get thinner. Is that consider not intact?


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#14: Post by malachi »

Adam_Sickles wrote:... the visible bubbles get incorporated into the microfoam until there are only a few bubbles. The pitcher is too hot to touch, I sink the wand in deeper and let the milk roll (I think it's a whirlpool, not sure). Then I stop the steaming, taking the wand out....
You're over-stretching the milk.
And you're over-steaming it as well.

These are both common errors.

1 - you should lift the pitcher (to as you say "sink the wand in deeper") far, far earlier. For a latte I suggest doing this once the pitcher is no longer cold. For a capp I would suggest you do this the minute you start to feel the pitcher warm up.

2 - If the pitcher is too hot to touch, that's a sign that you should stop. Not continue steaming but stop. Unless you've got extremely over sensitive hands, a pitcher that is too hot to touch is usually a good sign you've either got the milk to max temp or have over steamed it.

I suggest people learning hold the pitcher in their hand (wrapped in your palm with your pinky on the bottom) rather than holding it by the handle. This allows you to better react to the changes in temp (see point 1 above) and also have a quicker reaction to reaching target temp.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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#15: Post by Peppersass »

I've had similar problems with steaming milk and pouring latte art, but after months of practice and experimentation things are getting better and I can now draw some decent art. Not every time, but often, and sometimes the art is of high quality. Taste of the milk, however, is consistently good and often excellent.

Note that I use skim milk almost exclusively. The lack of fat content makes skim milk difficult to texture and pour, but it can be done. I think practice, experimentation and persistence have been the keys to any success that I've had.

Which brings me to my best piece of advice on this subject: practice, practice, practice, and keep trying! (goes for preparing espresso shots, too.) Also, don't be afraid to experiment and try variations based on the advice you've gotten. This will help you to learn what works and what doesn't for your particular machine, milk, coffee, pitcher, cup, etc. Everyone has a slightly different setup, so what works in one context may not work as well in another context.

Here are specific things that seem to have helped me:

1. Ditching the thermometer. Can't argue with the temperature recommendations you're getting, but the thermometer gets in my way and I've never gotten consistent results with it. I've gotten better results eyeballing the consistency of the milk and judging progress by the feel of the pitcher and sound of the steaming. YMMV.

2. Going to the 4-hole EPNW tip for my GS/3 (machine-specific).

3. Reducing steam pressure to about 1.4 BAR. This is machine-specific, too. My GS/3's steaming range is 1.2-2.0 BAR. Too much steam pressure/heat make it hard to control frothing and warms the milk too fast for maximum sweetness.

4. Using the correct size pitcher for the amount of milk. It should be filled 1/3-1/2 max. I use Motta and Bumper pitchers, but if you get everything else right the pitcher brand/type isn't critical.

5. Refrigerating, but not freezing the pitcher. I know a lot of people recommend keeping the pitcher in the freezer, but I found that it cooled the milk so much that I ended up stretching too long. Heck, some of my best product has come after dumping out a bad batch and just rinsing the pitcher with cold water and refilling with milk. The milk needs to be cold, but not too cold. This may be a machine-dependent thing.

6. Moving the wand around the pitcher when frothing. I used to keep the wand rock still at the center of the pitcher. I can generate more frothing and control it better by moving the tip around the surface of the milk.

7. Frothing gently. Position the tip so you hear gentle hissing with an occaisional suck, suck. Avoid constant sucking or voilent stretching. It'll create bubbles.

8. Reducing frothing time. Again, this is probably machine-dependent. I stop when I see the first signs of expansion, maybe 1/4"-1/2" or less increase in height of the surface.) My pitcher doesn't feel warm at all by this time. It's probably gone from refrigerator cool to just below body temperature at this point, but no hotter. If I didn't stretch quite enough, I'll pull the tip up slightly during the texturing phase and add a little more air then. Nothing wrong with this as long as there's still time to incorporate the new foam. I think it's better to do this than to continue stretching in the first phase because the milk gets too hot too soon.

9. Not sinking the wand too deep when texturing. I knew you weren't supposed to drop down to the bottom region of the milk (where you hear a noticable increase in loudness), so I was sinking the tip into the middle of the milk. But this made it harder to get the milk moving. Now I sink the tip until it's completely covered, maybe 1/2"-3/4" below the surface, but no deeper. The hissing and sucking should stop.

10. Moving the wand around the pitcher when texturing. Similar to the advice for frothing. After sinking the tip, I move it around the surface, which quickly gets a vigorous whirlpool or standing waves going. This action is critical for incorporating the foam into the milk. Once the milk gets going, I stop moving the tip or just move it around slowly. If the action is very vigorous, the tip can get uncovered and suck in more air. If that's not desired, I sink the tip a little further. If the milk needs a little more volume, I can easily draw in a little air by lifting the tip slightly.

10. Stopping texturing just before the pitcher gets too hot to hold. I've generally gotten best sweetness and texture by stopping *before* my hand starts to feel pain, and always stopping if I do feel any discomfort. Through practice, I'm starting to know when that's about to happen. Personally, I think it's better to underheat a little than to overheat. I know a professional barista who agrees. Note that the feel of the pitcher may depend on the construction. I find the Motta pitcher conducts heat a lot faster than the Bumper pitcher.

11. Dumping the batch if it has a lot of bubbles *in* (not on) the foam. Try again. It's not good to let the espresso sit, but if I know the pour is going to be bad, I steam another batch.

12. Adjusting sitting time depending on how much the milk was stratched. The longer it sits, the more the milk thickens and separates. You would think that pouring immediately would be the way to go, but I've found this can result in the product being too thin for art. I've found it's best to wait at least 10 seconds, and up to 20 seconds. If you stretched too much, don't let it sit more than 10 seconds. If you didn't stretch quite enough, let it sit longer.

13. Tapping and swirling as needed. I tap the pitcher on the counter to get rid of any surface bubbles, which sometimes come from pouring the milk into the pitcher or accidentally sucking in air a little too violently. Swirling the pitcher tends to polish the surface. I don't know why this is good, but it is. It also lets me judge the consistency of the milk. As many have said, if it's shiny and like white paint, the texture is perfect. But sometimes I'll see a blob of foam swirling around the surface, which indicates I may have stretched too much or didn't incorporate well. This can be dealt with by ...

14. Using a spoon to hold back foam when pouring. I was having problems with poorly incorporated foam floating to the top and pouring out on the crema right at the start of the pour. I found that holding back the foam with a spoon allowed liquid milk to flow out from under the foam and start filling the cup. As soon as the pour gets going smoothly, I can remove the spoon and the thicker foam won't come rushing out.

15. Moving the pitcher back and forth at the right moment. In most of the latte art videos I've seen, the pitcher is moved slowly back and forth just before the white blob begins to appear. I've found if I keep the pitcher stationary the blob may not come up and I get a big blop of white at the end of the pour. It may be that moving the pitcher helps the foam to penetrate the crema. But if you start moving the pitcher back and forth too soon, you may break up the crema so much that the milk won't float. I think the right time is when the cup is about 2/3-3/4 full, just before the white starts to float to the surface.

16. Getting the height of the pitcher right. Aside from milk texture, I think this is the most critical variable for pouring latte art. I, too, had problems with the heavier foam at the end of the pour sliding out on top of the crema and making a big white blob. I could sometimes make a fern design, but it was pure white and the leaves lacked any delicacy. Better incorporation during texturing was one fix. The other fix was to adjust the height of the pitcher above the crema. The exact height really depends on the consistency of the milk, consistency of the crema and where you are in the pour, so you have to adjust it on the fly. If the milk is perfectly textured or a tad loose, you need to bring the tip closer to the milk. This lets the milk slide out of the pitcher more gently so it'll float on the crema. If the milk is very foamy, move the spout higher. This will cause the milk to sink lower in the crema. The height of the spout is also important when you move it away from you to create the final design. I'm far from an expert on exactly how to manipulate height and I may not be interpreting what happens correctly. What I do know is that you can significantly alter the results by varying the pitcher height, and this is something you should experiment with.

My sense is that if you make espresso and pour latte art often enough, you eventually develop a sixth sense of how to adjust for variables on the fly. This is why practice, experimentation and persistence are essential.

Adam_Sickles (original poster)

#16: Post by Adam_Sickles (original poster) »

Thanks everyone for the great advice!

Last night and this morning, I was able to successfully make my first fern/rosetta using all your advice. (It wasn't pretty but I was very happy.) Thanks everyone for pointing out that I was overheating the milk, and that I needed to get the spout closer to the espresso, that made a big difference.

I would post a picture but was late for work this morning.

Tonight i'll try to:
-practice whirlpooling using water
-practice with the thermometer and stop stretching when the pitcher goes from neutral to warm
-experiment with thunking more/less and letting it sit more/less
-moving the wand around while stretching or texturing



#17: Post by sdavidp »

Tonight i'll try to:
-practice whirlpooling using water
I think we have the same machine. If you're having trouble getting the whirlpool with the two-hole tip I can post a picture of where I place the tip in the pitcher when I steam.

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#18: Post by Hoenen »

For the substitute, I use soy sauce. You can buy 750ml for 1 EUR or so. I like it for the thickness, maybe need to water it down a bit though. Will look like this, not a nice rosetta, but you can see that it will look and feel realistic.

LMWDP #326

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#19: Post by roastaroma »

Ciao Adam,

At the risk of beating this horse to death, it might also be worthwhile to experiment with different brands of milk. I was recently surprised to get lousy foam with a carton of organic whole milk (Safeway's house brand "O") -- it made no difference how I varied my technique. When that carton ran out, I switched to Horizon Organic, and the velvety microfoam was back! Clover is another organic brand in California that produces great results (used by Blue Bottle Coffee's outlets)

Buona Fortuna,
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
LMWDP #223

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#20: Post by mute »

I'll second the milk sentiment. I use organic 2%, and have found that with Wegmans brand organic milk, I really had difficulty getting quality microfoam. I went back to using Horizons and I have no issues at all.