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Steaming Milk for Latte Art

Steaming Milk for Latte Art

Hello one and all! It’s been awhile since I posted anything on this blog. We’ve been really busy with events and our lives recently. As you all know, I own a La Pavoni Stradavari that I use for my home setup. Along the way, you WILL encounter issues using the machine and that’s where the Facebook group, with its fantastic and brilliant community, comes in. The people there are oh so friendly and are always more than willing to help and share tips regarding the Pavoni. Though however, this guide is not exclusive to La Pavoni users. The fundamentals and techniques can also be applied to whatever espresso machine you are using.

It seems that there are a lot of people that are interested in Latte Art but have difficulty steaming/frothing the milk. I’ve written a full guide on how to make a cup of latte on this blog, but the specific issue that people are facing seems to be with steaming the milk. When it comes to Latte Art, one of the most CRUCIAL  things is steaming the milk properly. It really makes or breaks your pour. In this guide, I will be sharing with you tips and tricks that I have learnt over the years of trial and error.

Essentially, there are 3 important factors:

  1. Amount of milk
  2. Getting the Whirpool
  3. Stretching/Steaming the Milk

Let’s get started!

1. Amount of Milk

Fill milk to just under the indent of the spout.

First and foremost, a latte art pitcher/jug is most recommended. In order to make an 8oz Beverage like a Latte, I will be using a 12oz pitcher. Fill the milk to just under the indent of the spout and you should have the perfect amount of milk. Too little and the milk heats up too fast; you will not have time to stretch the milk. Too much milk and it will be difficult to pour + it will overflow while steaming.

Oh yes, and not forgetting type of milk. It will be one hundred times easier if Fresh Pasteurized Full Fat Milk was being used. I’ve tried with Low Fat Milk and Almond Milk, it’s not impossible, just a lot more difficult to get consistent, quality microfoam. The milk that we use is Barista Milk from F&N. What makes it special is that it has higher Fat% and Protein% making it creamier, richer, and more flavourful. In my country, F&N only sells the Barista Milk to business for now. Otherwise, I would normally use Meiji Full Fat Milk.

 

2. Getting the Whirlpool

 

 

First of, dip the wand about a cm in the milk. Not too deep or it won’t be able to swirl the milk. Not too shallow or else you might start pre-maturely foaming the milk without getting the whirlpool yet. Positioning is key when you are trying to get a whirlpool in the jug. Take a look at both photos above. What you have to do is position the steam wand in between the center of the jug, and the wall of the jug. Then, tilt the jug slightly so that it helps the steam push the milk around the jug easier. You really have to practise a lot with regards to finding the perfect position of getting the whirlpool. But remember, in between the center and the wall, and slight tilt. Turn on the steam and start swirling.

I was having trouble getting good microfoam for a period of time cause I kept positioning the wand extremely close to the wall. Somehow, it affected the quality of microfoam. I was getting slightly bigger bubbly foam than microfoam. Placing it to near to the center will create big bubbles in the foam.

Here’s the science:

As you stretch the milk, the top layer expand and gets foamed up. Air is naturally less dense than liquid and hence stays at the top. The whirlpool will “suck” the foam from the top and fully incorporate it with the main body of milk. When the milk is properly incorporated with foam, it will flow out smoothly and help with pouring latte art.

 

3. Stretching the Milk

Now that you’ve got your whirlpool, it’s time to stretch the milk! But hurry, the clock’s ticking fast – your milk will get too hot if you delay any further! With both hands, slowly lower the jug while keeping the whirlpool going until you you hear a high-pitched paper tearing sound. It almost sounds like the hi hat sound when you beat box. Get that sound going for about 4-6 seconds. However, use that only as a rough gauge.

There are 2 amazing tools that everyone is equipped with to assist with stretching the milk. Use your EYES and EARS to see and hear the whole process.

Eyes:
Look for the gradual increase in volume. I would say about a cm increase in volume is perfect for latte art. Slightly more and it would be foam that’s perfect for a cappuccino.

Ears:
Listen for that high-pitched paper tearing sound. You know you would have produced foam if there isn’t a high-pitched SCREECHING sound. The screeching sound comes from the steam hitting the walls of the jug. When you get enough foam, the foam should act as an insulator to muffle that screeching sound coming from the bottom.

Once you’ve got enough foam, quickly bring the jug back up such that the wand is slightly under the milk, just like when you were getting the whirlpool going. Use the other hand to feel for temperature. A good rule of thumb for getting the right temperature is: once the milk gets too hot to touch, the milk is ready. Off the steam once desired temperature is achieved. There has been some debate that a slightly cooler (not so hot) milk pours easier. I’ve been playing around and find minimal difference when pouring. But that’s just up to your preference, for now.

… And you’re done!

The final product should look something like this. As you can see, the milk rose from under the spout, to a little higher. Visually, the milk should look like wet latex paint. Don’t wait for too long though, don’t let your espresso and milk sit for too long otherwise you will not be able to pour latte art.

If you’re not getting it, don’t be disheartened. Practise practise practise! I myself am a home-trained barista. Took my several years to be consistent with getting microfoam and I don’t even get it right EVERYTIME! What helps me the most other than practising is to watch videos on both YouTube and Instagram. Keep at it until you are able to get it! Hopefully this guide will be able to help a few people who are struggling to attain good microfoam for latte art. Until then, see ya!

Here’s a video of me going through the whole process. You can see how I steam the milk from here.

 

Stay tuned for the next part: Pouring Latte Art!

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Mobile Coffee Catering Singapore

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How to make Latte with a La Pavoni

Greetings one and all! Today’s post will be about making a cuppa Latte with a La Pavoni. The La Pavoni is a hand lever espresso machine – almost all the elements are controlled by the user. When I say all the elements, I refer to things like temperature, pre-infusion timings, extraction pressure, and many more. This article will guide you through each step of how to make latte with a La Pavoni!

The machine that I use at home is a La Pavoni Stradavari. Even though I have owned this machine for close to 2 years and pulled countless of shots, there is still so much more to learn about making coffee with this baby. Because of the fact that I still face trouble with this machine after so much experience, I am sure that new La Pavoni owners will have so much more trouble getting the hang of this.

Equipment Needed:

Of course you gotta have your La Pavoni machine.

I pair my La Pavoni with a Lelit PL53 burr grinder. The grinder is very much as important as the machine you use. For espresso, grind size and consistency is crucial to getting a great shot.

I use a naked portafilter with a double basket.

This right here is my 12 oz Rattleware teflon milk pitcher. Not necessary if you do not intend to make Latte Art. You could use any other container to froth the milk in.

 

Alright, now that we got everything down, let’s move on to making the coffee.

Step 1: Fill the La Pavoni with water

Using the glass sight as a gauge, fill water to how much you desire. For making one cup of coffee, I would recommend to fill just under half of sight glass. Filling lesser water means the machine will heat up faster, which is good if you’re in a rush.

Step 2: Weigh the beans

For the double basket, I’d like to use 17 grams of coffee. Use the freshest beans that you can get your hands on, off-the-shelf beans just can’t quite make the cut. I got my Brazilian Single Origins from a local roaster who also happens to be the people we are working closely with to get our beans from for our coffee catering business. Check them out https://www.facebook.com/Jewelcoffee/

Step 3: Grind the beans

After weighing the beans, toss it into your grinder and begin grinding. If you are just starting out, the rule of thumb is to aim for the grind size to be similar to table salt. You can adjust the grind size later on after diagnosing the shot.

Step 4: Distribution

Once all the grinds are out from your grinder, the next step is to distribute the grinds evenly. The keyword here is evenly. The method that I like to use is to first give the portafilter a light tap on the counter top to ensure all the grinds stay within the basket. Next, use your index finger and swipe left to right gently, horizontally. Then, use your index finger again to swipe the grinds up and down vertically. The end result should be a flat bed of coffee with little to no humps across the surface.

Step 5: Tamping

The next step is to tamp the grinds. Every other article on the web will tell you to tamp with 30lbs of pressure but I digress. Here’s the way I tamp: using my hands, I grab the handle and place my thumb and index finger at the 2 sides of the tamp to use as guides for a level tamp. I press down just hard enough for me to feel resistance through my arm. I give a little tap on the sides of the portafilter with my tamp to make sure the grinds from the walls of the portafilter get in the bed. Then I tamp with the same amount of pressure and give the tamp a light spin to even out the grinds. I do not know how much pressure I used to tamp, but the whole point about making espresso is understanding the variables and controlling them. Use an adequate amount of strength that you can replicate over and over again when it comes to tamping. If the shot is too slow or fast, adjust the grind size and not your tamp strength.

You should end up with something like this.

Step 6: Pulling the shot

I read somewhere that it is better to raise the lever halfway before inserting the portafilter. Something about raising the lever when the portafilter is in may break the seal of the tamped grinds you put so much effort into. Once the lever is raised halfway, insert the portafilter.

Wait for the pressure to rise to 0.9bars before you pull up the lever fully.

This part here is real important. The whole process from lifting up the lever fully to the last drop of espresso should take about 25 to 35 seconds. Once the pressure is at 0.9bars, lift the lever up fully and pre-infuse for 8 seconds. What I do after the initial 8 seconds is to do something called the Fellini method – Push down, lift it back up, and then push down all the way. The Fellini Method lets more water into the grouphead which is crucial if you’re aiming for a specific yield.

By the end of the extraction, which should be between 25-35 seconds, you should have something like this. Look at the crema! The yield I got from this was about 31 grams of espresso from 17 grams of coffee.

Step 7: Steaming the Milk

Fill your milk pitcher to just under the indent of the spout, you could prepare the milk in advance before extraction. I will use this as a gauge later on to see how much foam I frothed.

Steaming the milk is something that requires a ton of practice. I will be making a guide solely on how to make good latte art which will also focus on how to steam the milk properly. My La Pavoni is modded with a single-hole tip. The basics of steaming the milk with the La Pavoni is to first flush the steam wand by opening the valve. Close the valve, dip the wand into the milk such that the hole is under the milk. Fully open the valve and try to get a whirlpool going on the in the jug. Once the valve is fully open, bring the jug down carefully till the hole reaches the surface of milk. Keeping the whirlpool, you should hear a sound similar to paper tearing. Keep a look out for how much foam you want. A good indication for me is that the milk will rise about half a cm. Steam the milk till the jug is hot enough that you can’t touch it. The milk should look like wet white paint. Use a wet cloth to wipe down the steam wand before the milk dries and sticks to the wand. Finally, give the wand a flush.

Step 8: Pour and enjoy!

The last and final step is to pour and enjoy your latte! Stay tuned to the blog as I will be making a guide on how to make Latte Art!

 

For those who have trouble understanding this article, here’s a video I made POV style of how I make a Latte with the La Pavoni:

 

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Mobile Coffee Catering Singapore