11 essential steps to texturing and steaming milk for hot drinks


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Milk is a major component of most espresso drinks. Milks vary depending on whole, skim, 2 percent, soy and rice milk. It is the proteins in the milk that make great foam; the fat adds viscosity and sweetness. Practice with a variety of milks. Follow these easy steps to create perfectly textured milk:
  1. Choose correct steam pitcher size for drink ordered, place steaming thermometer on side of pitcher.
  2. Add measured fresh cold milk to pitcher. Pour in only what you need. Set aside.
  3. Wipe steam wand, tip and purge to remove any water build up. Use a clean, wet towel.
  4. Insert the steam wand tip into milk just below surface using the spout to position the wand.
  5. Open steam valve fully and begin to steam. Slowly lower pitcher keeping the wand tip just below milk surface. You’ll hear a distinctive “hissing” sound. Avoid pulling the wand out so far that it sputters, or moving the pitcher up and down while steaming.
  6. For caffè latte and mocha, maintain tip just below milk surface creating a swirling motion until thermometer reads 100 degrees F then allow tip to submerge to heat the remainder of milk to 140 degrees F. This will give the milk a creamy, velvety texture.
    • For cappuccino, "stretch" milk until it almost doubles in size, by keeping the wand just under the surface, slowly lowering pitcher as you steam.
  7. Watch thermometer and milk surface while steaming to avoid big bubbles. Carefully touch pitcher to monitor the heat.
  8. At 140 degrees F, close steam valve, remove pitcher. Milk thermometer will rise another 10-15 degrees. Final serving temperature should be 150-160 degrees F.
  9. Wipe and purge steam wand and tip with a designated steam wand towel that is clean and wet.
  10. Settle and swirl milk in steam pitcher to decrease the number and size of bubbles.
  11. Prepare the drink and serve. Rinse milk pitcher to be ready for next order.
Perfect milk texture has a glistening surface; tastes and smells sweet; and has rich, ultra dense bubbles. The barista uses all his or her senses when steaming milk. Listen for pitch for temperature control, watch for large bubbles and placement of steam tip, pat the side of pitcher with hand to assure milk is correct temperature. Begin pouring espresso shots before you steam milk for optimum drink preparation. Free Pour is when a barista pours textured milk directly from the steaming pitcher without the use of a spoon or spatula. This technique is most preferred by professionals. Espresso Ergonomics: the barista gently, but quickly, opens and closes the steam valve when steaming to avoid stripping gaskets and excessive wear and tear on wrists. Milk will double in volume if steaming for cappuccino, and increase 1/3 if steaming for a caffè latte. Milk is NEVER steamed or frothed more than once! Fresh milk is NEVER added to previously steamed or frothed milk. Measuring correctly should prevent too much leftover milk, if any. If steamed milk is left, throw it away! Stainless steel pitchers, with small pointed spouts, are best for latte art, and milk will foam better if the pitcher is chilled first. Milk should be stored in refrigerator and not on countertop. Always rotate milk for freshness standards. DO’S
  • Wipe and purge steam wand clean after every use.
  • Rinse the milk pitcher after every use.
  • Discard milk that is heated above 170° F.
  • Discard old heated milk that falls below 140° F (it’s in the danger zone 41°-140°).
  • Milk will foam better in a chilled pitcher.
  • NEVER leave the pitcher unattended while steaming.
  • Incorrect steaming techniques results in a very loud noise which may disturb the customers.
  • Never over tighten steam valves as this will strip gaskets and injure wrists.
  • Cold milk should not be added to heated milk.
  • Milk cannot be reheated or re-steamed, EVER!
  • Final reading should NEVER be above 170° F or the milk will have a burned taste!
  • Steamed milk should never be stored in the refrigerator.
This article is an excerpt from Boyd Coffee Company’s Italia D’Oro® Espresso Training Guide and Barista Skills manual, available for purchase online.


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