Latte art is (imo) one of the hardest things to learn 'online' - that's not to discourage you, but more to just say it's taken me a loooong time to finally get consistent with art. Videos help. Reading helps. Q&A helps...but don't beat yourself up too much if on top of that it still takes a long time. Many, many cups. Many, many 'failed' tries. You'll get there though.
reidw wrote:I run this whirlpool to create foam until the jug warms up to the temperature of my hand and then I submerge the tip a bit more and continue to try and create a whirlpool.
First thought, although the principal of stretching milk till warm is good for (fast) commercial machines...if you're getting that 'kissing'/stretching sound all the way till warm on the Express, it's possible that you're adding too much (hard to tell without video/photo)...
reidw wrote:when I pour it, the milk is too thin (or maybe too heavy??) to land on top of the crema, even when I pour very closely and very gently. However, when I get to the very bottom of the milk jug I have a very thick foam.
This is interesting to me. It sounds like you have plenty of texture (since it's leftover at the bottom of the jug). But, clearly it's not showing up even when you 'drop in.' To me, this sounds like you're really slowing down flow (out of the pitcher)...which could be confirmed by your use of the word "gently."
I know you might feel like you've already got this covered, but my suggestion would be to give your pitcher a good swirl after you've purged...then try and pour really quickly and see if something shows up on the surface. I mean, of course, don't just dump the pitcher over, but maybe aim for a thick stream of milk coming out the pitcher somewhere between the diameter of a pencil and a finger? Don't even worry about starting high, then dropping in. Just integrate the milk by swirling, then pour 'quickly' from down low...if you have any white foam that sits on top of your shot/faux shot, you'll know then that you have enough texture to mark the milk. You may be unknowingly slowing down flow way to slow when you drop in (it tends to happen because people are overly focused on getting designs, rather than just getting white foam to show up).
reidw wrote:It's like the foam separates leaving a thinner, runnier milk on top with an almost too heavy foam on the bottom. From what I understand, I shouldn't have to waste most of the milk to get to something manageable.
Actually, as milk separates your foam will stay up top...but, even with milk separating and foam starting to float on top, if you pour slowly enough (as it sounds like you're maybe doing), the liquid milk will pour, leaving foam behind (which might be why you notice plenty of foam after you've nearly emptied your pitcher).
I know that's a lot. I might be reading/understanding incorrectly, but hopefully some of that lines up with your experience and will be helpful. Try just getting foam to show up by pouring more quickly and from down low first. Don't try for any designs yet...just white foam showing up on top. If you can get that, you can move on to starting to learn the coordination of marking milk intentionally and in a controlled way to get designs.