The Secret To A Great Froth is in Steaming the Milk
Ever wonder why some lattes and cappuccinos taste better than others even when they are made from the exact same ingredients? It’s highly probable that the taste variation is in the froth or foam that sits on top of the coffee.
A good froth has a velvet-smooth texture because it is created with the tiniest of bubbles, referred to as microfoam. These tiny bubbles are so small you have to look close to see them. The collection of large bubbles you often see on your morning drink are the reason your froth is dry, flat and tasteless.
There is little you can do about the froth if you’re purchasing from a coffee house, except perhaps suggest that someone show the baristas how to create great froth. However, with very little effort, you can create steamed milk with smooth froth at home.
Here’s How To Make Really Good Steamed Milk
To enjoy a great latte (coffee, steamed milk, and a little froth) or cappuccino (coffee, little milk, and lots of froth) the temperature of the steamed milk is very important. The lactose (sugar) in milk tastes the best at 135–160 °F (57-71°C). So it is important that you use a thermometer to get it right.
Note: Different temperatures of steamed milk will give different flavors to a Latte or Cappuccino. It is therefore very important that we achieve a temperature that, in general, gives the flavor we like best.
Also note that when using an espresso machine, you will want to turn the steam off about 5 to 10 degrees before reaching the desired temperature. This is because the reading on the thermometer lags behind and will continue to rise for a few seconds after turning off the steam.
If you are thinking about purchasing an espresso machine for home use, be sure to do your research first. Read or go online to check user reviews on several models before you make your choice. The majority of machines will produce a decent latte coffee and can steam milk well enough but a good quality espresso machine will be able to create great froth with its in-built steam wand.
While a good machine will go a long way towards creating your desired drink, there is more to it than merely turning the steam wand on, heating the milk to the desired temperature and spooning the froth onto your drink.
How To Use The Steam Wand
Rather than just inserting the steam wand into the milk, you need to keep the froth hole at the surface of the milk. If you look closely at your steam wand, you will see a small hole at one side. This is known as the froth hole. By keeping this hole at the surface of the milk, you’re allowing the milk to be drawn into the wand, creating a denser, smoother froth. Furthermore, if you hold the pitcher at a slight angle so the steam wand is resting at the side of the pitcher this will enable the milk to swirl around the pitcher thereby creating great froth.
- Many baristas believe that during steaming the froth should always be at the top of the milk; this is not true.
- During this step, you want the milk and froth to intermingle.
- As the steamed milk expands into froth, you will need to gradually adjust the level of your pitcher so the froth hole stays at the correct level.
- The more you work the milk, the more froth you will create.
- Only when poured into your cup do you want to see the froth sitting on top.
So to recap how to make a great froth, here are the steps.
- Start with cold fresh milk and a clean, cold pitcher.
- Only use as much milk as you need – never try to re-steam milk.
- Use a thermometer to achieve the right temperature (135–160 °F or 57-71°C).
- Keep the froth hole at the surface of the milk.
- Work the milk until you get the right amount of froth. Generally, you want the milk volume to expand by 1/3 for lattes and 1/2 for cappuccinos
- Fill your cup with the desired amount of milk then spoon on the froth.
Tips For Getting High-Quality Froth
Here are a few more tips to help in getting great froth:
- Start with cold fresh milk.
- Pretty well all types types of milk can be frothed, including almond, rice and soy.
- The fat content in milk directly impacts the results. Non-fat milk foams the best whereas whole milk, due to its thicker consistency, is much harder to coax good foam from.
- Mind you having said that, there is nothing quite like the delicious taste of a latte or cappuccino made with whole milk.
Note: When you switch off the steam wand and just before you pour, tap the side of the pitcher several times. Then give it a couple of quick spins, before letting it rest for a moment to help pop some of the larger bubbles and create a smoother texture.
Making a Tasty Froth By Hand
If you don’t own an espresso coffee machine you can still make a decent froth by hand.
- Begin by warming the milk on the stove or in the microwave to reach the desired temperature.
- Pour the warmed milk into a warmed coffee cup.
- Insert a small hand whisk into the cup.
- Place the palms of your hands on each side of the whisk handle and quickly ‘rub’ your hands back and forth to whisk the warmed milk until you have the desired amount of froth.
You can also purchase stand-alone frothing machines and even battery operated whiskers if you prefer.
Getting the proper froth takes practice so keep on experimenting, and don’t get discouraged. You are already enjoying each cup with or without perfect froth, so you have lots of time to get it right.