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Video on my (poor?) milk technique

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Posted (edited)

I'm getting quite frustrated with my inability to create a microfoam, so I'm putting this out there to see if anyone has got any ideas.  The video is typical of most attempts although a bit clumsy in places as I was working around a phone stand.  What you see is the result of many hours of youtube research, reading, experimenting, etc.  I use temperature as a guide and given there's no thermometer, here is what I was trying to do:

  1. Start the steam with the tip submerged slightly off centre in the direction of 9 o'clock
  2. Lower the jug to get that 'tearing' sound and keep it there until the jug reaches a similar temperature to my hand, then
  3. Raise the jug to submerge the tip a bit more, enough to stop the tearing sound and continue swirling the milk
  4. Keep going until I can only hold my finger on the side of the jug for about a second

The result when I pour the milk is the same every time.  I get a thin layer of foam sitting on the milk.  The foam is fine enough for latte art but it's not incorporated.  It's the mouthfeel I care about not the decoration on top.

Anyway, all feedback appreciated.  I'm not expecting a sliver bullet but it would be nice to get the foam incorporate on a more consistent basis.

Thanks in advance.

 

Edited by Tupple
fixed video link

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ECM Mechanika V Slim, La Pavoni Europiccola, Aeropress, Handpresso
Niche Zero, Hario Mini Slim Plus,

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To get decent microfoam, you need to get the right amount of air into the milk.  Try doubling the amount of milk in your jug - this will give you more time to aerate it before it gets up to optimum temp. Microfoaming small amounts of milk is much harder with machines whose steam function isn't that powerful.

As for techniques, you want to get the air into the milk at the outset of the foaming. When you start steaming, lower the jug until you hear a vipping sound - the steam tip will be at or near the surface of the milk. Too much and you will blow bubbles, so practise to get it right. Also, the steam wand doesn't need to be a such a steep angle as shown in your video. Once foamed, leave the milk for a minute or so, then bang the jug down on the worktop and swirl to incorporate the foam and milk. Perfect microfoamed milk has a satiny sheen - if it appears matte, it's overfoamed. 

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Londinium-R - EKS43 running SSP Silver Knight burrs

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Looks like you got the tip too deep at the start to me. I have mine barely breaking the surface for a bit, then submerge to give a swirling under the water. Then when jug is just too hot to touch I stop, knock jug on rubber mat and shake it up/swirl it a bit. By that I mean move jug in a small circular motion, so the milk mixes with foam and whole thing is a paint like consistency.

Not sure whether that's good for latte art, I'm not into that, but it's a great consistency for latte.

What machine have you got? There's probably people doing demos of steaming milk for your machine on Youtube if it's a popular one.

I watched videos from this woman for milk foaming. Not sure this is the exact one but I found her stuff helpful:

 


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How much milk is in the jug? And what size. 

I started with a sage duo temp pro and that took about 50s to steam, then moved to a hx machine and it steams in like 15s so steep learning curve.

Theres a few yt guides on milk, your position looks good but pull the tip out a tad, those big bubbles with then get sucked to the tip and pushed into the milk too, iirc the ripping stsge needs to be done from fridge cold to about 40c then finish milk around 60c

You will get there, perhaps practice with water just so you can move the tip. 

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You can practice using cold water with a drop of washing up liquid. If the foam is sitting on top of the milk you need to remember to lower the wand to get a swirl going which does not create for but incorporates it nicely


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Putting too much air in.

Then you’re getting a spin not a roll. So the milk isn’t incorporating properly and smashing the large bubbles into tiny microfoam 


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Thanks everyone for those really helpful pointers.  For reference, I'm using my Mechanic V Slim and a small Rattleware pitcher.  In that vid, I think I was using about 160ml of Yeo valley whole milk. 

I've tried to isolate the variables and focused on two of the suggestions above to begin with; tip position and milk volume.  I've gone up to 200ml in the pitcher and positioned the tip higher.  The extra milk does buy a bit more time, which is really helpful (thanks @The Systemic Kid).  I think I can see that I am putting too much air in though as per @TomHughes comment.  It's probably compounded by increased time.  Anyway, the result was A LOT of foam.  No big bubbles though so I think it's heading in the right direction.

I'm going to shorten the time I'm adding air next but I always want to look at roll versus swirl.  @TomHughes, I've had the feeling that the swirl might be one of my problems/misunderstandings.  What can I do to get a more reliable roll?

Thanks!


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ECM Mechanika V Slim, La Pavoni Europiccola, Aeropress, Handpresso
Niche Zero, Hario Mini Slim Plus,

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Have your steam tip at a gentle angle. Start with the steam tip towards the centre of your jug and then bring it towards the side but not touching. You could try altering the angle of the jug too slightly  but don't try everything at once. Introduce one new variable at a time. 


Londinium-R - EKS43 running SSP Silver Knight burrs

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It's important that air is introduced as quickly as possible at the start of steaming. The rest of the process is incorporating it into the milk in the form of micro bubbles.


Londinium-R - EKS43 running SSP Silver Knight burrs

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This barista shows how to achieve perfect steamed milk

 

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Londinium-R - EKS43 running SSP Silver Knight burrs

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I have seen a lot worse.

There is more than one way to skin a cat but the basic technique I teach -

  • Purge
  • Tip right at the bottom of the jug
  • Open wand fully
  • Immediately lower the jug and bring the tip of the wand to top of the milk to incorporate air
  • Air going in to the milk will sound a like tearing of paper
  • Depending on milk quantity for a latte you aim for 2-3 seconds of tearing paper for a cappuccino 4-6.
  • After you are done incorporating air raise the jug up and use the spout as a guide to create a vortex and have the milk fold back in on itself to distribute the air evenly
  • The tip should be well below the surface and you should not hear any tearing paper nor should the milk be screaming in pain like you hear in a lot of places
  • Shortly before you reach the desired temperature on your thermometer, close the steam wand and place the jug on the counter
  • Immediately wipe and purge the wand
  • Tap the jug on the counter to dissipate any larger bubbles and swirl, pour as soon as possible.
  • Nice mircofoam milk looks a bit like wet white paint to me

Cold milk and cold jugs make it easier to steam in my experience. I also like to use whole milk as I find that the most forgiving. Anything can be steamed correctly with practice though.

Biggest tip though is just to practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute. You'll nail it.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, BlackCatCoffee said:

I have seen a lot worse.

There is more than one way to skin a cat but the basic technique I teach -

  • Purge
  • Tip right at the bottom of the jug
  • Open wand fully
  • Immediately lower the jug and bring the tip of the wand to top of the milk to incorporate air
  • Air going in to the milk will sound a like tearing of paper
  • Depending on milk quantity for a latte you aim for 2-3 seconds of tearing paper for a cappuccino 4-6.
  • After you are done incorporating air raise the jug up and use the spout as a guide to create a vortex and have the milk fold back in on itself to distribute the air evenly
  • Shortly before you reach the desired temperature on your thermometer, close the steam wand and place the jug on the counter
  • Immediately wipe and purge the wand
  • Tap the jug on the counter to dissipate any larger bubbles and swirl, pour as soon as possible.
  • Nice mircofoam milk looks a bit like wet white paint to me

Cold milk and cold jugs make it easier to steam in my experience. I also like to use whole milk as I find that the most forgiving. Anything can be steamed correctly with practice though.

Biggest tip though is just to practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute. You'll nail it.

This. 
The problem with steaming (and watching videos on how to do it) is whilst the basic technique that gets you most of the way there is the same the finer details are specific to the other variables. 

namely. 
Milk - whole milk foams very differently to skimmed, I use jersey milk and it needs to be taken to around 65 deg to be fully stable, whereas skimmed is around 50-55 for me. 
The machine steam power. Obvious but it affects everything from how long you entrain milk to where you position your wand in the jug. 

The jug, size and shape, I have a 350ml motta that I love to steam with as I use around 150ml of milk and it's fat base is gold for microfoam for this amount. 

Tip holes and size!
Riddle me this, I have a la pavoni and 4 different tips. 
The 3 hole tip is balls, gave up on that one. 
The 1 hole tips are 1.1mm 1.3mm and 1.5mm, these all steam differently! 0.2mm! 

I would watch endless videos of pro baristas on Lineas and others producing awesome microfoam in 10 seconds and it made no difference, it was only when I spent ages playing with the machine I owned that I learned what to do. 
 

Edited by TomHughes
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La Pavoni Europiccola - Mignon Manuale - La Pavoni Zip - Gaggia Classic - Nanopresso - Osmio Zero

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I was going to say just put the tip in deeper after it gets to about 20c. Looks like you're putting too much air in at the start or never really stop.

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Thanks everyone for the observations/pointers.  I've got the washing up liquid out and I'm practising.  It will take some time to do things in a systematic way but I'll come back to this thread when I've managed to get somewhere.  @TomHughes, I agree that getting to know my machine a bit better is a big factor.  I also watched countless YouTube videos of people blasting a pitcher of milk with a Linea Mini, which while pretty amazing, didn't really teach me anything.

In the mean time, just in case here's my contribution of videos that I have found useful:

This is how I test for texture.  I found it helpful to see the results:

 

This guy echo's many of the things said above but is one of the few that emphasises roll versus swirl:

 

Thanks again!


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ECM Mechanika V Slim, La Pavoni Europiccola, Aeropress, Handpresso
Niche Zero, Hario Mini Slim Plus,

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