In this lesson:
What is micro-foam?
To produce the type of latte art that you see in better cafes you need to create a fine micro-foam. The goal is to keep the bubbles in the milk very small and to have the foam and milk mix together as one creamy, velvety smooth, thick liquid.
A nice fine micro-foam will make for a beautiful presentation and will add definition to any your latte art.
Homogenized milk is the easiest to work with when learning to create a micro-foam. Once you get more comfortable it is possible to work with 2% and eventually skim milk, which is the hardest because you have a very short time during which you can introduce air due to the low fat content.
|Don't re-use or re-steam your already steamed milk for another beverage. You won't be able to get a good milk consistency.|
Choosing a steaming pitcher:
For latte art it is important to pick the right pitcher. Your pitcher will need to have a fine spout to help with drawing art, some pitchers feature a rolled over lip rather than a spout and will not work for latter art. To help create good milk mixing a pitcher with walls that tilt slightly inwards is a good choice.
The Two Phases of Steaming
There are two main stages to the milk steaming process and understanding these is key to producing a good micro-foam.
The first step is called stretching the milk. During this phase you are using the steaming wand to introduce fine air bubbles into the milk.
The second step is called rolling the milk. During this phase you are using the steaming wand to roll the milk around the edge of the steaming pitcher in a fast whirlpool like motion which mixes the air into the milk to create a smooth mixture incorporating the milk and foam rather than allowing the foam to sit on top.
The Steaming Process:
Video of How to Steam Milk
Step by Step guide to Steaming
Make sure the steam switch is turned on.
Take your clean and cold pitcher and add enough milk to it for your drink, if you are making a single small drink you might have to steam a slightly larger volume than required to give you enough time complete the steaming process before the milk reaches its final temperature.
Before inserting the steaming wand into the pitcher open the steam knob to clear out any water in the wand. When the wand starts to issue steam turn off the knob.
Insert the steam wand so that it is facing straight down into your pitcher and is submerged in the milk. If you are using the new Rev 3 Silvia it is crucial to make sure the wand is perpendicular to the milk surface and not tilted.
Gently turn the steam knob to the fully position and drop your pitcher slightly until just the very tip of the steam wand nozzle is under the surface.
The wand should make a very slight sucking and bubbling or chirping sound as the air mixes with the milk. If it is making a rolling bubbling sound and forming visible bubbles then you have pulled the wand out of the milk to far. Dip the wand a bit deeper into the milk until you just get a quieter sound and much finer bubble.
Once you start to feel the warmth of the milk on your hand through the pitcher the milk will no longer accept air well and it is time to stop stretching the milk and move into the rolling phase. If you are using a thermometer this will be at 40°c or 100°f
Continue rolling the milk until the side of the pitcher is just too hot for you to hold with your hand, hold it by the handle for about another two seconds and then shut off the steam. Make sure to shut off the steam fully before lifting the wand out of the milk or you might accidentally introduce some large bubbles into the foam.
Make sure to vent some steam through your wand to clear out any milk sucked up in it that might harden, and then wipe down the outside of the wand with a damp cloth to remove any milk residue.
Tap the pitcher on the counter, this will break up any small bubbles on the surface of your milk. If you still have some visible bubbles you can tap the pitcher on the counter a couple more times if needed, but doing so thickens the foam which is undesirable. A good microfoam should have no visible bubbles and won't require more than a single tap.
Rescuing a Bubbly Steam Job
If you have botched your steam job a bit you can do a bit to help rectify it, but it will never be a good steam job as once you get those bubbles in there they are hard to get out, but it might not be as bad as throwing out the whole pitcher if you're just pouring a cup for yourself. If you need to, then tap the pitcher on the counter a couple of times and then swirl the pitcher vigorously for 15 seconds or so to mimic the rolling motion of the milk steaming and help improve the milk texture. Tap the pitcher on the counter again and then repeat the swirl and then pour your drink.
3-hole steam tips vs the standard 1-hole:
The new Revision 3 of the Silvia comes standard with a 3 hole steam tip, while the previous models came with a single hole tip.
For revision 1 & 2 Silvias some companies, like 1st-Line offer a 3-hole steam wand tip designed for customers who had difficulty steaming/frothing with the one hole tip. While this sounds like a great idea and obviously works for some people, the majority of the reports we have heard indicate that the 3-hole tip does not improve the steaming performance of the Silvia, and many claim it was in fact detrimental.