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Barista, baseline: 14 steps of milk foaming.

Milking is probably the most difficult skill a new barista or intern is trying to master. Yes, more complex tasks such as recipe creation can occur later, but for the novice in the coffee industry, foaming and texturing can be a big challenge. Not only is it technically difficult, you have to work with sophisticated equipment. There is a lot to learn: adjusting comfortable pressure, overcoming fear of being burnt, recognizing properly textured milk by appearance.

However, don’t worry, because I’m here to help you master the foaming of milk. I have trained over 100 baristas. Let me introduce you to the unmistakable process of foaming perfect milk, which can be divided into 14 steps.

Beautiful latex art, perfectly foamed milk. Photo by Paul Mordheweyk

Step 1: Choose your milk and measure it.

Milk must be selected before foaming begins. However, you should be aware that different types of milk respond differently to heat. I hope your coffee shop did not spare money for quality milk, which will foam well and will fit for latte art. Keep in mind that some types of alternative milk are difficult to work with. Just make sure you use the type of milk your visitor ordered.

Then pour the correct amount of milk into the (clean) pitcher that will match the drink.

Pour in the right amount of milk. Photo: Methodical Coffee

Step 2: Wipe off the dimmer.

Never forget the importance of cleanliness! Lower the steam and wipe off the cleaner with a clean, damp cloth designed for the cleaner only. This way you will get rid of any condensate that has been inside and which may affect the milk in the pitcher.

Steamer should be removed both before and after milking. Photo: Methodical Coffee

Step 3: Steamer angle.

Position the steamer at an angle of about 20-30 degrees to you. Also, make sure it is  right in front of you and you will not work at an inconvenient angle.

Step 4: Location of the pitcher.

The pitcher should be held parallel to the rack, lifting it up to the height of the stacker. Make sure only the tip – no more – is dipped in milk. Then tilt the pitcher to the side.

Raise the pitcher to the level of the steamer. Photo by Angga Adi

Step 5: Start foaming.

The key to milk foaming and aeration is pressure, so make sure the pressure level is right. To do this, make two full steam valve rotations or lower the lever twice.

Step 6: Watch the temperature.

Hold the pitcher to the side to feel it heat up.

Step 7: Control aeration and texturing.

Perfectly foamed milk will be well aerated (stretched) and textured. Aeration (stretching) is a process during which milk is saturated with air. This increases the volume of milk in the pitcher. Texturing is the process in which you create a milk vortex inside a pitcher. Your goal is to have both processes go well, although at the beginning you will only see aeration.

Watch for aeration and texturing. Photo by Angga Adi

Step 8: Adjust the pitcher’s position.

When the pitcher heats up to 37 ° C / 99 ° F (about your body temperature), it’s time to move from aeration to texturing. Raise the pitcher approximately 1 cm to allow the steamer to sink deeper into the milk. This will create the swirl you need.

If you cannot understand the temperature of the milk, you can attach a thermometer to your pitcher. Over time, you will begin to feel when the temperature reaches 37 ° C / 99 ° F.

Step 9: Pay attention to the temperature.

The milk will continue to heat up. At this time, it is best not to hold the pitcher anymore, but to touch it slightly on the side. You can check the temperature and avoid burns.

Step 10: Stop foaming.

When the pitcher is hot enough (the temperature should be approximately 55-60 ° C / 130-140 ° F), immediately switch off the steam supply. You do not want your milk to heat above 65-70 ° C / 150-160 ° F.

Some visitors may order extra hot milk. However, keep in mind that exceeding this temperature will adversely affect the quality, texture and consistency of the finished coffee, both in appearance and taste. Do this only at the request of the visitor.

Step 11: Drop the pitcher

Put the pitcher on a rack – don’t try to do the next few steps with one hand. Because of this, baristas are often overlooked and forced to spend time cleaning.

Step 12: Wipe off the dimmer

Using a special napkin, wipe the steamer while holding it to the rubber guard. Be careful: it gets very hot.

Always keep your espresso machine clean and ready for use. Photo by David Walstra, Third Space ZA

Step 13: Scroll.

Now you can go back to the pitcher. Knock on the rack and scroll to get rid of the big bubbles. The milk should be smooth and shine like fresh paint.

Perfectly textured milk: silky, glossy and smooth. Photo by Dany Affolter

Step 14: Infuse.

And then you can finally pour in the milk and finish the drink. But it’s easier said than done! Fortunately, we will devote an entire article to infusion techniques, so stay tuned.

Infusion of perfectly textured milk. Photo by Angga Adi

When you start making dairy drinks, you may think that you will never be able to achieve the perfect silky texture or get the right temperature. But remember: the master’s case is afraid. Repeat these 14 steps each time and you will find that you are beginning to master this difficult skill.

And even then, having overcome this stage, you will be ready to begin a fascinating journey into the world of late-art.

Author: Sean Opias.

Translation: Anna Polstiankina.