Newbie with a single boiler: milk or espresso first?

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

#1: Post by Jonskiles »

This is my first post so hopefully I won't screw this up. I have been obsessively chasing pour-over coffee for a few years. I just took the plunge into the world of espresso. I picked up a Quick Mill Alexia Evo here on the site. I just pulled it out of the box and have not pulled the first shot yet. For what it is worth, I also picked up a Mignon Specialita to use as a dedicated espresso grinder (I use a Fellow Ode with SSP burrs for pour over.). I don't drink a lot of milk/espresso drinks and will mainly be just pulling shots of espresso. On those occasions where I do want to add some steamed milk, I am a little unsure of whether to steam the milk first or pull the shot first. Since it is a single boiler I understand I can't do both at the same time. If it doesn't matter...sorry for a silly question. Thanks. I am looking forward to falling down the rabbit hole.


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#2: Post by baldheadracing »

Steaming first works 'best' as it takes less time to cool down a boiler than to heat it up - because you can flush water to bring down the temperature.

However, that's more fiddling and multitasking (and practice) than brewing first and then flicking a steam switch and waiting - so if steaming is a rare occurrence then I'd suggest sticking to brewing first and then steaming.

On my SBDU Silvia, I used to steam 4oz. of milk every day, and I steamed first. Now on the rare occasions that I steam milk on that machine, I pull first, as I no longer have the routine of switching down pat - and pouring hot milk into lukewarm espresso will taste better than pouring lukewarm milk into hot espresso.

Good luck!

ETA: ChrisCoffee just released a video demonstrating pulling, than steaming, on the Alexia:
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada


#3: Post by SandraF »

For what it's worth, I have a dual boiler & pull my espresso first, then steam milk. I drink cappuccinos exclusively so steaming 4 oz milk takes maybe 10 seconds. I have the milk in the pitcher & ready to go before I pull my shot of espresso.

I'm busy monitoring my shot, so don't want to steam simultaneously.

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#4: Post by HB »

It takes a single boiler time to stabilize to brew temperature, so I vote brew first, steam second. If you steam first, the boiler needs to cool a lot and restabilize. On the other hand, if you're drowning the espresso in a bucket of milk, it really doesn't matter if the brew temperature is off a few degrees. :lol:
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#5: Post by walr00s replying to HB »

On the Alexia, and I assume any e61 SBDU, it really does make a pretty big difference. My makeshift amateur measurements show that even when the boiler has returned to the set temperature (often takes 10+ minutes), the water coming out of the group is ~15 degrees hotter than my usual brew water.

Jonskiles (original poster)

#6: Post by Jonskiles (original poster) »

Thanks. I appreciate the information.


#7: Post by smithflys23 »

When I had my Gaggia Classic, I always brewed first then steamed the milk. I found it more difficult to cool the machine down after steaming.