If you own an espresso machine then one of the most important skills to learn is how to correctly steam milk. The local barista makes it look ridiculously easy, but you have probably found the reality a bit more challenging. Velvety microfoam is the dream, but it can be a dream that feels unattainable at times. If you don’t own an espresso machine, you can still steam milk. Check out this review of the best milk frothers.
In this article we will outline how to steam milk correctly.
Step One – Fill Pitcher
The first and simplest step in steaming milk is pouring the correct amount of milk into the pitcher. There are a number of sizes of milk pitchers and for a single latte you should be using a small to medium pitcher. The correct amount of milk to put into the pitcher is until the milk level reaches just below the indentation where the spout begins.
Step Two – Placement of Pitcher
Once your milk is poured and your espresso machine has heated up, it is time to place your pitcher. This step is vital and many poor steaming efforts can be traced to this. If your steam wand is movable it is good to place it at an angle that is most comfortable in relation to where you are standing. From there you place your pitcher so that the wand sits in the spout. The head of the wand should be just dipped into the milk.
Step Three – Aerating
Now it is time to turn on the steam wand. To start with you want to aerate the milk. To do this you place the head of the wand dipped slightly into the milk. Try and situate the head of the wand so it is around one third of the way into the diameter of the pitcher. The goal is to create a vortex which allows the air to enter the milk without creating large bubbles. If done correctly this stage should create an almost kissing sound.
Step Four – Texturing
Once you have aerated the milk it is time to texture. This is the process of heating and integrating the milk. To do this simply lift the pitcher slightly so that the head of the steam wand is completely submerged. Ideally, the vortex continues while you do this step. Now you simply continue this step until the milk is sufficiently heated. This can be done either through the use of a thermometer or by placing your palm on the bottom of the pitcher until it is too hot to touch.
Step Five – Correcting
Now that your milk is sufficiently heated you can turn off the steam wand. Most probably you still have at least some visible bubbles at this point. There are two corrective measures you can take to help remedy this. The first is to hit the bottom of the pitcher against the benchtop. While this is loud, it is surprisingly effective. You can do this multiple times to get rid of the larger bubbles. The second is by swirling the pitcher which again gets rid of bubbles. Your milk may not now be perfect but these corrective steps can at least improve it.
Step Six – Pouring
Your milk is now done and ready to pour. So pull your espresso shot and pour. Once your milk skills have improved you can even start to play with latte art.
So these are the building blocks of correctly steamed milk. But remember as with any skill, practice makes perfect. So don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts are somewhat cringeworthy. You will get better over time.