Still can't steam milk properly - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#11: Post by HB »

nixter wrote:One thing I don't understand is how I'm supposed to make the milk swirl in the jug when the 4 holes in the tip point away from each other?
Assuming you have enough steam velocity, do an end-over-end, otherwise a vertical spin as described in New Andreja owner with microfoam problem:
HB wrote:If you're having trouble with texturing, try creating a vortex like this:

Sorry about the quality of this diagram...

The pitcher is tilted to the left and towards you; the force of the steam wand is directed downwards and slightly towards the front and right. You should be able to get a nice "offset" vertical spin with a 20 ounce pitcher and 9 ounces of milk. With a 12 ounce pitcher, you must pay attention to avoid splattering. When done correctly, you will see the effects of the liquid rebounding off the bottom of the pitcher on the opposite side. It is not an end-over-end roil; Anita doesn't quite have enough steam for that.
Dan Kehn

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#12: Post by cannonfodder »

Raided my video vault. Maybe one of these will help.

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Dave Stephens


#13: Post by PaulM »

HB, et al, couldn't have put it better. I have found the info here invaluable in terms of getting really good microfoam. I use good ole organic whole milk (really cold) and a really cold pitcher. I'd keep my pitcher in the fridge at all times but I don't want to run the risk of it taking on a food flavour so I throw it in first thing in the morning when I get up. I generally steam enough milk for two capps and find a 20 oz jug just not quite big enough as oftentimes, the foam pours over the edge. A 32/33 oz is best I find.

Don't plug the holes w/ toothpicks. You should be able to get good results just fine w/ the stock tip but the trick is all in "surfing" the surface of the milk w/ the tip. If you can get the milk to swirl around in the jug, you're set (see diagram from other poster).

If you do happen to get soapy bubbles, give your pitcher a good bang or two on the counter and swirl it around (on the counter) for about 10-20 secs. Since following the suggested tips from here, I've had incredible results.

Good luck!

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nixter (original poster)

#14: Post by nixter (original poster) »

Well I tried again this morning and I had "some" success. I put the pitcher and milk in the freezer for about 10 minutes beforehand. I also plugged 2 holes leaving the other 2 facing in one direction open. I think the combo of these 2 things gave me more time to surf and create microfoam. I swirled and bonked afterwards and the pour went ok. A little too liquidy at first but then some decent foam. I still had a little bit of hard stuff on top though. Definitely leaps ahead of what I've been doing. More practice.

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#15: Post by cafeIKE »

nixter wrote:I still had a little bit of hard stuff on top though. Definitely leaps ahead of what I've been doing. More practice.
Hard stuff, as in cheese, means it's getting too hot. If the milk has any cheesey aroma, it's definitely too hot.

I'd recommend pulling out the plugs, purchasing a gallon of milk and practising 'til you get it right.

One of the big mistakes people make with both learning to make espresso and steam milk, is being too cheap. You're gonna waste a gallon of milk, one way or another, so do it all in one go. It's much easier to learn if you do one after the other than trying to remember what you did last time, a couple days ago.

Sound is a good indicator. Dunk the tip about 1.5cm, open the valve and lower the jug until it sounds like frying bacon. Keep that sound until you've about doubled the volume, then plunge the tip and get the milk turning over. Some like to use their hands to gauge, but a thermometer is always the same.

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nixter (original poster)

#16: Post by nixter (original poster) »

Success! made some great microfoam just now. A combination of putting the milk and jug in the freezer for a bit and plugging 2 of the four holes has helped greatly. Some have said to remove the plugs but I just don't see how you're supposed to get the milk to spin or swirl when the four holes are facing away from each other. Doesn't make sense to me. I actually made a bit too much foam as I had no room to swirl/bonk at the end! I'll use a little less milk next time. Pretty happy with the progress though. I need better latte cups though as the pour height is too high on my current ones causing too much movement on initial contact.

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#17: Post by lberg »

Congrats! :wink: Which two holes did you plug? And how are they oriented, as discussed in this thread?

With "my" 4-hole tip, if I position the wand like in Beezer's video, then I can get a pretty nice whirlpool. Placement of the wand and even angle of the pitcher, for me, can affect how fast the whirlpool is. One time I just couldn't get the whirlpool going no matter where I put the tip, and then I tried tilting the pitcher just a little to the right and the whirlpool started almost instantly... :)


#18: Post by seattlesetters »

I got a rare opportunity to steam milk on a 2-group Synesso Cyncra this weekend. Talk about fast! It would make 160-degree microfoam of 12oz of milk in 6.5 seconds! All had to be done by feel, because the thermometers weren't fast enough to keep up!

Anyway, the pro taught me how to do it on that beast, and now, after steaming 20-25 pitchers on the Cyncra, my Alexia is easy! The key is never getting the tip in too deep, and creating and keeping the whirlpool effect for both adding air and for heating the milk once enough air has been added. Tilting the pitcher and keeping the tip near the wall are what makes for success.

Now, I say, "Give me steaming power!"


#19: Post by Starryeyedgryph »

Although you can steam only 6 oz of milk at once I would recommend that you try larger quantities until you have perfected your techniques. Until you get consistent results you should be using a minimum of 12 oz.
The way that I steam my milk to get really good froth is to dip only the very tip in around the edge of the container. As the milk begins to foam I slowly pull my pitcher down until I've expanded the milk to have as much foam as I'd like and then I slowly sink the tip into the pitcher till the milk has reached about 120 degrees on my thermometer. Depending on the speed that your thermometer registers the heat of your milk, the temperature should continue to increase after you have pulled the wand out. Anything over 160 degrees is going to scald the milk. After this if there are any larger bubbles still on top you can swirl your milk and tap it down on the counter in order to help mix and pop the bigger bubbles.

At the coffee shop that I work at we were talking about the technique of steaming milk and listening to the sounds that it makes and what sounds that we should be hearing. You can think of it as driving a stick shift and listening to the engine when it tells you that it has reached the rpm's needed in order to shift. The milk is going to be the same way and there are certain sounds you will hear, such as a screeching that will tell you that you have the wand in the wrong place, such as sinking it in too deep into cold milk. The key is slowing sinking in the wand and slowly pulling it up as you are steaming. Also, you shouldn't have to plug up the holes.
The more fat in the milk the easier it will create the frothy mixture you are looking for, but after practice you should be able to create the same effect with skim milk or any other milk substitute you are using.
Hope you are figuring this all out. And maybe I'm still too much of a novice to know what they are talking about with the whirlpool and wave action thing, but I get lots of compliments on my steamed milk.

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nixter (original poster)

#20: Post by nixter (original poster) »

Maybe you don't have to plug the holes when using a larger pitcher and more milk but with a smaller amount of milk and the power of the Oscar steam, plugging the holes makes sense I think.