Using a thermometer to gauge milk texture - or ditch it? - Page 2

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

#11: Post by Bluenoser »

Get a thermoWorks DOT or equiv. Will always be within a degree. Set alarm for 130. Not only is it a great milk therm but super for your roasts. Your issue is not temp it is in the texturing technique. See if u can bring someone over to use your equipment and give u some tips. Use dishwater soap and water for practice. It takes waaayyy more practice and experimentation than u think. Once your texture is better u can decide if u want to use the thermometer. But it will make your milk consistently sweeter. Although im too lazy to use it every time.
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#12: Post by bostonbuzz »

It's a bit odd to be trained to use a thermometer for texturing. You should have learned to introduce air until the pitcher is hand temperature (the first sign of any hot sensation on the outside of the pitcher) and then to only swirl the milk after that. If you screwed up and let in too little or too much air by the time the pitcher is hand temperature then it's too late. No need for a thermometer for that step. This is the critical part and it's all about how much air you let in and how quickly.

The final temp you should use a thermometer to learn to calibrate your hand for the final temp of the drink. It's somewhere around the point where you can't hold your hand against the pitcher anymore. That's the only use for the thermometer. Periodically check the temp you end at to stay calibrated.

Edit: if you are just making drinks for yourself you have zero need for a thermometer. If your drink is too hot or cold you will know when you put it in your tmouth. Next time think "a bit hotter next time." Above about calibrating is really just for pros who aren't drinking things themselves.
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#13: Post by Pressino »

I agree with Bluenoser that, so far as Latte Art is concerned, achieving the proper milk texture is more important than achieving some "ideal" milk temperature. The OP's photos (both of them, even the one supposedly at the targeted temperature) show a bubbly surface texture that would not be conducive to what most folks today deem fine Latte Art.

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#14: Post by mckolit »

Don't forget that once you get temp and texture all dialed in, a tap on the table will help pop some big bubbles in your milk and your espresso. I always tapped the milk but would still get bubbles in the latte art. Then I saw some baristas also tapping the coffee to get rid of the big bubbles in the crema if there were some.

I haven't used a thermometer for a while, I need to find it and see how far off I am from the recommended temp. I always used to aim for the cooler end of the recommended temps though.

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#15: Post by mrgnomer »

I haven't used a thermometer in a long time as well. I also find texturing is in where you place the tip and how you stretch the milk. Final temperature is more about taste preference. I pull the espresso first and even though the cup is heated everything cools down a bit before the pour. Milk textured to just about too hot to hold the pitcher makes for a nice final drink temperature.
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#16: Post by RistrettoCapp »

mandarling wrote:So I've done the whole barista class thing to up my home espresso game, and the first thing taught in latte art was: never be too good to use a thermometer. Not only does it help with learning how to texture milk, but aids in getting consistent results. I fully adhered to this rule long after class was over.

The problem is, I was so focused on getting the exact temperature right that I found myself obsessed with the numbers and the math instead of reading my milk and knowing when to stop intuitively. Today I got so frustrated I decided to ditch the thermometer for once and lo and behold, saw a significant difference. The smaller blob was with thermometer, the larger heart-like blarb was without, with me focusing on watching the aeration.


My fun question is this: anyone swears by the thermometer no matter what? All the tutorials and videos I see don't have the thermometer. No doubt practice is what it takes, just curious.
The temperature of the milk is an important aspect of the finished drink, but has little to do with latte art. You can do latte art with lukewarm milk if enough air is added and distributed properly... NOT that this is the right way to do latte art!

To produce a fine drink you need to learn to both texture the milk properly, and increase it to a sufficient enough temperature without "cooking the milk". The baristas we've trained start by using a thermometer to get a "feel" for milk temperature.
An alternative way to learn milk texturing, specifically the art of introducing the proper amount of air.... Is to use soapy water!!

It sounds crazy, but try a drop of dish soap in a milk pitcher with water, the same amount you would use for milk.. it'll scream like a scalded cat, but you will learn very quickly how to introduce the right amount of air, and at the right time, to create microbubbles.


#17: Post by DaveB »

Nunas wrote:Exactly! I, too, thought using my hand to gauge the temperature was the way to go...until I took an introductory barista course. The instructor asked how many of us used thermometers; the answer was virtually none. He then challenged us to each heat a pitcher of milk to 60 C, just using our hands. The results were all over the map, not just small differences, but big ones. I've been using a thermometer ever since. I've no doubt that once can train oneself to become somewhat accurate without the use of a thermometer, but, why? I've no trouble whatsoever keeping one eye on the thermometer and the other on the milk (small joke...I've only got one good eye :lol: )
I'm confident that most folks could easily train themselves to consistently get within a few degrees by touch. When I first tested with an instant-read thermometer, it felt too-hot-to-touch right around 135°F. So I added a few seconds which brought it to between 140° and 143°. Then I tested every day for a couple weeks and it was always between 140° and 145°, usually right around 143°F. I'm certain others could do the same; it's not rocket science. :-)
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#18: Post by RistrettoCapp »

Whether you are just learning or want to improve your milk steaming and texturing skills, this is one of the better of videos I have seen that touches on the important aspects.
James is a well-respected coffee geek and world barista champion, and really breaks down the minutiae of steaming milk.


#19: Post by espresso_noob23 »

Has anyone thought to use the thermometer and keep their hand at the bottom of the jug to calibrate your hand to the temp that corresponds to 140-145f?

Since everyone has a different pain tolerance and I assume the thickness of the metal in the jug also matters it may be a good idea to use a thermometer until you "feel" what 140-145f is on your particular milk jug and then ditch the thermometer all together and focus on the froth and milk texture.

P.s, I'm very new to the espresso game, but just a thought I had that I'm going to try out.

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#20: Post by mrgnomer »

Yes, someone did say thermostats are used in barista training to get you used to what stretched milk temperature should feel like. I think it was also pointed out that once your hand knows the temperature it's pretty accurate.
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