Milk Workflow

All premium espresso machines can deliver powerful steam, so with a little guidance, you will soon be making milky coffees to rival your local café.

The latté is the most popular espresso based milky coffee, followed closely by the flat white and the old school cappuccino. The latté is the tricky one so I have included a workflow for a latté below.

Part 1 - Steam your milk

  1. Give the steam wand a quick squirt to remove residual water and get to dry steam.  

  2. Place the wand tip just below the milk surface and angle the wand so that you get a whirlpool during steaming. 

  3. Start steaming your milk.  

    • From cold until lukewarm the tip should be near the surface to allow a small amount of air to be sucked into the milk.

    • From lukewarm to "uncomfortable to touch” the tip should be below the surface to stop any new air from being sucked into the milk. Keep the milk swirling to break down the air bubbles into very small bubbles (micro-foam).

    • Just before "uncomfortable to touch” stop steaming. 

  4. Remove the steam wand, wipe the tip clean, then give the wand a quick squirt. 

Part 2 - Pour a heart

  1. Swirl your milk in the jug and tap town to remove any large bubbles. 

  2. Swirl the espresso in the cup to spread the surface crema.

  3. Angle your cup at 45°

  4. Pour from up high into the deepest part of the cup to push the milk beneath the surface crema. 

  5. Towards the end of the pour, drop the jug down low and allow the micro-foam to flow across the surface. The final step is to lift the jug up high again and cut through the center.

To practice the above without wasting milk I recommend adding a few drops of dish washing detergent to water. Steam this and you will get a good simulation of milk. Just don’t drink it unless you like soapy notes ;)

Getting great tasting milky coffees is easy but creating latté art is a different story. Latté art takes practice. It's tricky, but when you get the hang of it and pour your first heart you will be rapt. 

For more milk tips take a look at the handy video below.

Milk FAQs

I know the questions that come to mind for new home baristas, and if I get asked a question 3 times I write an FAQ. This has become a great way for me to share handy tips online. Scroll below to learn more.

+ What milky coffees can I make at home?

Espresso machines aren't only for black coffee lovers. They are for lovers of milky coffees as well. The range of delicious milky drinks that you can make with an Italian espresso machine include:

  • Flat white
  • Latté
  • Cappuccino
  • Macchiato
  • Piccolo latté
  • Mocha
  • ...and hot chocolate

+ How do I steam milk for different drinks?

The 3 most popular milky coffees that you can make with an espresso machine are the flat white, latté and cappuccino. These all start with an espresso base, then finish off with steamed milk on top. Here's a guide:

  • Flat white - espresso shot with steamed milk on top - thin layer of small bubbles (microfoam) (<5mm) data-preserve-html-node="true"
  • Latté - espresso shot with steamed milk on top - medium layer of small bubbles (microfoam) (5-10mm)
  • Cappuccino - espresso shot with steamed milk on top - thick layer of small bubbles (microfoam) (10-20mm)

+ Is a milk jug theromometer helpful?

There's no need for a thermometer in your milk jug. All you need is a little training so you can feel the temperature changes and respond.

With a liitle practice you will feel the point where you need to change from air injection to air circulation and you will feel the point where you need to stop.

+ What do I need to know about steam boiler pressure?

Steam pressure for a typical home espresso machine is near 1 Bar. This is more than enough steam pressure for a premium home barista experience.

If you have a high end dual boiler machine you may be able to increase steam pressure to near 2 Bar. This pressure is impressive, but unnessesary for home. 1 Bar is all that you need to create silky smooth lattés to rival those of any café.

+ What is the best steam wand tip?

Italian coffee machines are compatible with a range of steam wand tips. These offer variation in number of holes, size of holes and angle of holes. A 2 hole tip is the most common.

My advice is to keep the tip that your machine comes with as the manufacturer is likely to have balanced the need for steaming power along with the need for continuous steaming.

With great technique you will be able to get silky smooth lattés with any steam tip. Of course, if you are keen to try out other steam wand tips you can. It is easy to change tips as most use the same thread type. So steam away ...and have fun.

+ Can I make an extra hot latté?

The request for an extra hot latté is the fear of all baristas as there is no way to get this without overheating the milk. Overheating damages proteins and sugars in the milk, and results in significant changes to milk taste and sweetness. When steaming you should steam until the milk jug is just at the point of uncomfortable to touch.

The secret to a hot latté is to pre-warm your cups by storing them on top of your Italian coffee machine, or by pouring water from your hot water wand. Warming cups is important. This is why warming cups is Step 1 of my Espresso Workflow

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