Steaming small amount of milk

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

#1: Post by blutch »

I like cortados. I have several sizes of pitchers, but even when I steam in my smallest one, 300ml, I have to waste milk because I'm only ever making one drink. If I poor less in the pitcher, then it doesn't sound right or steam right because it's too close to the bottom. I really hate pouring out that milk. Can I let it cool and pour it back into the carton for reuse?



#2: Post by wojtowip »

Have you tried using a 5oz pitcher like this:

I've had decent results with one.

From my understanding and watching James Huffman video, steaming alters the protein bond in milk, so pouring back and reheating might not give you the best results each time.

Wasting any food is a bummer, but you could also drink the left overs.
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#3: Post by jasiano »

Same for me. I have a 12oz pitcher, I pour only 4oz or so and still have leftover.
I usually just drink the leftover milk... like a palate cleanser before I have the coffee :)

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#4: Post by Quirquincho »

I use a 5oz pitcher, like the one shared above, with good results. I usually use it to froth 2-2.5oz of milk.

My main suggestion would be to not open the steam valve fully, if your machine lets you do that. It was very easy in my Gaggia Classic. When I use it with the NS Oscar, which produces powerful steam, I have to be careful to open the steam gradually and not overheat the milk, which can happen quickly. As with anything, it gets easier with practice.

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#5: Post by yakster »


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#6: Post by vze26m98 » replying to yakster »

Thanks for the links, Chris!

blutch (original poster)

#7: Post by blutch (original poster) »

Thanks for the links! Two questions - where does one get a 3oz pitcher? My machine came with a 4-hole tip, but I can't for the life of me find it. Is it worth buying one? My machine has very powerful steam. I have already lowered the temp to 240f, but I often over stretch the milk and it separates microfoam from milk. I try to incorporate by pouring from one pitcher to another once or twice. I usually only stretch the milk for about 5 seconds. It seems to me that 4 holes would make it even shorter time moving in the wrong direction. Please correct me on that if I'm thinking wrong.


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#8: Post by Peppersass »

Steaming small amounts of milk in a small pitcher can be challenging with a machine that has powerful steam. Reducing the steam temperature/pressure may not reduce the power enough and may result in watery steam.

I modified my GS/3 with a Specht Designs steam lever so I can reduce the steam power. It works, but the ramp between off and max is short. There's just a small area where there's enough stretching but the milk won't fly out of the pitcher. Even at that lever setting, I found the milk can over-stretch.

Then I remembered some advice from Jim Schulman (another_jim) posted here many years ago: when using a machine with powerful steam, don't do the usual two-part stretch-mix protocol (partly sink tip, stretch, sink tip all the way, mix.) Instead, just sink the tip until it's covered and steam until the correct temperature is reached. The idea is that even when the tip is entirely submerged, powerful steam will churn the surface of the milk enough to draw in some air.

I do a modified version of that, where I partly sink the tip for an instant to get a burst of air into the milk, then immediately sink the tip the rest of the way and mix until the bottom of the pitcher begins to get too hot to hold. Small adjustments of the tip depth can be used to fine tune the amount of stretching. This usually produces near-perfect microfoam.

[Note: I use skim milk exclusively, which requires a slightly different technique than 2% or whole milk.]

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#9: Post by yakster »

Search for 3 oz brew bell, they used to be very popular to pull shots into when I started, now not so much. Also keep in mind that using one is going to take advanced steam techniques with a pitcher that small. Mike McGinness, has his own coffee shop--Compass Coffee--and has lots of practice.

As for the number of holes, I don't have any first-hand knowledge but I know you get stronger steam by plugging holes with toothpicks so it makes sense that if you went from 2 holes to 4 holes that you'd have split the steam so it wouldn't blast away as strong as just the 2 holes. Think of those old garden hose sprayers that spray harder when you tighten up the spray pattern to a single jet stream.

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#10: Post by Almico »

blutch wrote: I really hate pouring out that milk.
Get over it. It's $0.02 worth of milk. How much are you saving over buying a cafe cortado?

Milk texture is key for a good cortado. The smallest pitcher I've been able to use is 8oz.

Solution: Steam more milk, drink two cortados.