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Frothing Milk 101 - How to Steam a Perfect Cup of Milk
Frothing is probably the most underappreciated part of coffeehouse culture. After all, without the foam, your cappuccino or latte is just plain espresso. It takes a little practice for even the best baristas to get the knack. Let us take a little dive into the art of frothing.
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.
Use the cup you plan to drink from to measure how much milk to steam. Keep in mind that the milk will approximately double in volume as it froths, so fill the cup with half the milk the drink calls for. A cappuccino is half steamed milk and half espresso, so to make a cappuccino you would fill the cup a fourth of the cup with cold milk. Pour the milk into the pitcher.
It is important that the tip of the steam wand not be held too deep in the pitcher, or the milk will get hot but not froth. If it is not deep enough, it will blow the milk out of the pitcher and make a mess. It needs to stay just below the surface. The palm of your free hand should be on the bottom of the pitcher, allowing you to observe the temperature of the milk without stopping the process.
Slide the pitcher away from the machine as the milk expands, so that the tip of the wand remains just under the surface. After you have frothed the desired amount of foam, the pitcher should be warmer than the palm of you hand. If it is not, sinking the wand deeper into the milk will warm it up. If it is too hot, turn off the steam and tap the pitcher against the counter to release any large air bubbles and swirl it around to help cool it off a bit.
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.
About the Author: Cory Willins writes for The Coffee Site including articles about gourmet coffee baskets and more.