Espresso and Milk for Beginners
Coffee and milk is a classic combination – just look at any café menu. With your own espresso gear, you don't need to go out to fuel up. Prepare your espresso first, then grab a pitcher and the milk of your choice and let's blow off some steam.
How to steam milk
- Add cold milk to a cold – or at least not hot – steaming pitcher. Use only as much milk as you need, in a pitcher that's no more than twice the volume of your beverage, or you may find pouring harder than it ought to be. What's the right amount? Subtract the volume of your shots (about 2 ounces) from the volume of the drink you're dreaming up (6, 8, or 12 ounces, perhaps?) and start with a little less than that much. The milk will expand as you heat and aerate.
- Purge the steam wand to dislodge residue and condensed water.
- Submerge the wand's tip in the milk and activate full steam pressure.
- Immediately – but slowly – withdraw the wand until its tip is near the surface and the milk begins to "chirp". If aeration gets loud and produces large bubbles, you're probably introducing too much air. Conversely, milk that "screams" with a high-pitched howl isn't getting enough air.
- After about 5 seconds of aeration, or as soon as the pitcher is slightly warm to the touch, submerge the steam wand again. Tilt the pitcher in such a way that the steam creates a vortex, distributing the air you just introduced throughout the milk.
- Once the walls of the pitcher are hot to the touch, turn off the steam and set aside your freshly foamed milk.
- Wipe the steam wand with a damp cloth and purge to clean.
Now, that tastily textured milk is a timebomb. Swirl your pitcher to keep the milk and foam from separating, then pour it into your espresso to complete your treat. For a 3-ounce macchiato, use a 2:1 ratio of espresso to milk; for a 6-ounce cappuccino, 1:2; and for an 8-or-more-ounce latte, 1:3+. If you like any extras – syrups, chocolate, or others – add them to the shots before pouring milk
Once you're cranking out consistently delicious espresso, you may want to dress up your drinks. Latte art is a fun and artistic extension of specialty espresso preparation. Well-textured milk is enjoyable to drink and, in a way, pouring a creative design applies a seal of quality to your beverage. When you're ready, there are plenty of resources out there to get you started. But we'll get back to that later.