January 12, 2007

Steamed Milk with a Pitcher and a Thermometer


A lot of people have been writing in about how to froth and steam milk for their cappuccinos and lattes. A couple of essential tools that can really help you get going are a frothing pitcher and a thermometer. You want to get the milk to the right temperature maximizing its ability to hold air, without cooking the milk and ruining it. Typically there is a nice range of 140F to about 160F between which the milk will be hot enough to keep your drink at a nice temperature overall, while also giving you that aeration that you want. I like the upper end of this range in the low 150's for a good sweetspot.

Steaming milk requires that you get the milk into a nice pitcher that will allow you to get your steaming wand well into the milk. Turn on your steam nozzle and keep the tip submerged below the milk's surface. The milk will develop a nice finely aerated feel and look as it heats and grows in the pitcher. Use a dial thermometer to help you determine when to stop.

If your machine comes with an attachment that has an air tube that stick up and sucks air in while it steams, you are going to get frothy milk to make a cappuccino using the same technique mentioned above. If this is what you want, then you are good to go. If not, check the manual to see if the tip can be removed to get a bare metal spout that will give you less aeration and more of a latte type steamed milk.

Remember always wipe up and clean off the steam spout soon after use before the milk dries on in a perma-crud crust that is hard to get off. A wet towel can do this right after you are done steaming.

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Posted by Scott Martin at January 12, 2007 8:54 AM
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