Microfoam--easier than it seems? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by jlunavtgrad »

another_jim wrote:most people thought that frothing milk so that it could be squeezed through a pastry bag was the height of cappuccino art.
That's an awesome quote Jim, and it sums up why I thought I hated cappuccinos. I had been an Americano guy for years, but that all ended two weeks ago when Rachael first poured me a cappuccino with microfoam. Reading your article on steaming milk was the most helpful resource Rachael and I found. All the videos and posts we found didn't explain it as well as you did in the link you posted above. I thought the community here would be thankful, why do you refer to it as a mistake?

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#12: Post by another_jim »

jlunavtgrad wrote: why do you refer to it as a mistake?
The guide has held up fairly well. The mistake I was referring to was in earlier posts about frothing milk, both mine and others, that made it seem more complicated than it really was. These early instructions were overcomplicated because they were aimed at people who already had developed bad habits that needed breaking.

Unfortunately, some of the old, misleading turns of phrase still hang around, so that newbies sometimes end up playing periscope with their frothing wands.
Jim Schulman

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#13: Post by Psyd »

another_jim wrote: Unfortunately, some of the old, misleading turns of phrase still hang around, so that newbies sometimes end up playing periscope with their frothing wands.
The 'periscoping' (if I can coin a verb) is necessitated by machines that cant really supply the oomph to incorporate air on their own. I've been comparing the two machine I go back and forth on, my aforementioned lever and two-group commercial, and you're absolutely right on with the powerful commercial machine.
The somewhat anemic lever pressure, the small valve and smaller boiler headspace*, married to a single hole tip (the three hole just deflated the boiler in no time...) conspire to require a bit more of a dance. If I don't surf the top to sip air in the beginning, there just won't be any fluff to the milk at all. It resembles the milk my cousin used to get out of his dairy cows. Thin and a bit yellow. Still sweet, still hot, but no art forthcoming.

The misleading part is only that that others with similar problems pass on to users with dissimilar kit. If the only experience I had was the lever, the only method I could teach would be the periscoping method, as it would be the only one that I knew.
I tend to (and y'all feel free to slap me down if'n I don't) give my advice as my experience with my kit in my house, my temp, my humidity, etc. Some caveat that indicates that these are the things that I have been told, and things that I have experienced, and what kit I've experienced them with. Trying to suggest that ones experiences cover all situations with all kit, coffee, milk, and locations is probably a fool's errand, as there will always be someone somewhere that has different results.
I can learn from the appearance of pucks, I can get good microfoam (not great yet, but good) using a periscoping technique with my anemic Tin Man, and I taste sink shots. Some of 'em have been great!

*OTOH, I've just decided that if I weren't to fill the danged tin man to his pointy lil hat every time, I may get more steam, and therefore, better microfoam.... Hmmm, learn stuff every day! Thanks for making me go and try new things y'all!
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One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175

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#14: Post by another_jim »

Your post got me thinking.

The best frother I ever used, Elektras and LMs (a great frother as far as I'm concerned) included, was the Solis SL70. It took about 55 seconds to do 4 to 5 ounces for a cappa, but the single hole tip was completely perfect, and I could have sold the result at the Benjamin Moore store. Some of the worst frothers are the Silvia, which takes as long as the Solis, and the Cimbalis, which are as fast as any Elektra or LM. The bad tips can make decent microfoam, but the milk and the jug have to be just right, and the stars have to be aligned

I don't have these machines in front of me, but my guess is that the good frothing tip can get very close to the surface of the milk without blowing bubbles, while the poor ones create all sorts of roil, turbulence, and bubbling no matter how deep you take them. This, at least, was my impression of the lousy Cimbali and Rancilio tips, they roil and bubble, they don't swirl or whoosh.

My advice to people with crappy tips is to consider replacing them. Buy an LM or Elektra tip sized right (the little three hole Elektra for smaller machines, the commercial tips for the big ones), screw off whatever tip you have, measure the threads, and buy an adapter at McMaster-Carr. Life is too short to torture yourself with a tip that is poorly designed.
Jim Schulman


#15: Post by Endo »

Distinct stretching and rolling stages (actually swirling) are used mostly on weaker steaming single boiler machines with one hole tips.

With more steam power and multiple holed tips, less movement is definitely better.

You can look at my video here and you'll I hold my pitcher steady on the tray to minimize movement. Stretching and rolling pretty much happen simultaneously.
"Disclaimer: All troll-like comments are my way of discussing"


#16: Post by wfallon »

Since I just made myself a nice cappuccino, I can't resist commenting on how right you are about "the stars being aligned" just right with the Silvia...

I recently acquired a PID'd Silvia, a little upgrade from my Gaggia, and I have to say I'm having a significantly harder time getting microfoam. I had excellent luck with the Gaggia - a 10oz pitcher, and leaving the plastic 1-hole piece on the wand without the frothing aid worked just about every time. First time since I had the machine, I went to steam for a Capp. on the Silvia yesterday, and I've been struggling. My first time, I ended up with milk everywhere... Not only because the steam blew it out of the container when I underestimated it, but also because my 5oz of milk stretched into 10 before I could say latte art... Not a good first capp...

The power is definitely there with the Silvia, but I have NOT found a good way to get silky microfoam for a 6oz cap yet. I agree, there is a lack of a "swooshing" swirling motion, and I can't get the same smooth stretching and whirlpool action I could on the Gaggia. I'm positive this is a case of a learning curve, but it goes to show that more power doesn't always translate to easier learning of microfoam, and the overall package of power, steam tip, etc. must be balanced just right... So far I think 6.0 is just about right for the Silvia's steaming. Good think I'm a straight shot fanatic : D


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#17: Post by Psyd »

another_jim wrote: Some of the worst frothers are the Silvia
wfallon wrote:I can't resist commenting on how right you are about "the stars being aligned" just right with the Silvia...

Odd, The Silvia was the second machine I poured art off of. The first was A Krups 963!
My preference/skill level on any given machine may have a lot more to do with what I learned them on than the actual quality of the machine itself.
I'm having a great huge time getting anything respectable from the Tin Man, but I have noticed that a half-full boiler makes better steam longer than a full one.
Espresso Sniper
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#18: Post by CRCasey »

My take on this whole thing is that it is easier to steam by sound than it is by look.

A second or two of tearing or squeal from the tip is normal, then you start listening for the more growely sounds, once you get them you let it get to the 'too hot for the hand' stage and stop.

Milk with a steam wand in it makes quite distinctive sounds at the various stages. I believe listen and learn is just as good as look and learn.

Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love-CMdT, LMWDP#244


#19: Post by jpreiser »

Endo wrote:I own all 3 Vivaldi wands: stock, S5 and no-burn. The wand makes no difference (except when using a huge pitcher, in which case the longer S5 can be a benefit). The tip, on the other hand, makes a big difference.
Thanks, that's what I meant to say.