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Few coffee drinkers fully appreciate the fact that frothed milk is what makes a
cappuccino or latte. Without the milk and foam, it is just plain espresso. Like
anything worth learning, it takes a bit of practice, even the most capable
baristas have a hard time at first. Let us take a look at the frothing process.
Most experts agree that it is best to begin with a stainless steel pitcher, some
cold milk and an espresso machine with a steaming wand. Past that, there are as
many differing ideas about the frothing process as there are blends of espresso.
Stainless steel is preferred for its easy maneuverability, but any non-plastic
container will work as long as it will not melt or crack with heat. The kind of
milk you start with depends on the texture of foam you want to achieve. The
higher the fat content, the more dense and more difficult to froth the milk with
be. Skim milk produces light, airy foam, and is probably the easiest for
beginners to practice with.
To determine how much milk is needed, fill the cups you plan to drink from with
half the milk the drink requires. For example, a cappuccino is half espresso and
half steamed milk, so you would fill the cup one-fourth full will cold milk
because steaming will cause the milk to roughly double in volume. Pour the milk
in the pitcher.
It is important that the tip of the steam wand is consistently held just below
the surface of the milk. If it is too held too deep, the milk with scorch or
boil before it froths. If it is not deep enough, it will blow the milk out of
the pitcher and make a mess. Keep the palm of your free hand flush with the
bottom of the pitcher. This will help you monitor the temperature of the milk
without interrupting the process.
Slide the pitcher away from the machine as to keep the tip of the wand just
under the surface as the milk expands. At this point, if the milk is about the
same temperature as the palm of you hand, plunge the wand deeper into the milk
to warm it up. If the pitcher feels too hot, turn off the steam and tap the
pitcher against the work surface. This lets large bubbles to escape and helps
cool the milk. It is important to never let the milk boil.
Using a long-handled spoon to carefully hold the froth back, add the milk to the
drink. Be careful to pour in one continuous stream. A spoon may be used to add
the desired amount of froth on top of the drink, but if the frothing is done
well, the result is a fine micro foam that can be poured directly from the
pitcher. Cinnamon, nutmeg or grated chocolate is a nice addition to any drink.