Frothing and steaming milk like a professional barista is a daunting task—but there are only a few basic steps between you and the perfect microfoam. The perfect foam is both velvety and smooth and tastes sweet and rich.
Professional baristas are masters at brewing pouring and elevating coffee, but first, they need the right materials. A steam wand, a frothing pitcher, a properly calibrated thermometer, and cold milk are all that are needed to properly steam milk. Introducing air into milk and heating it improves both its taste and texture.
The first step of steaming milk for a latte is to start with the appropriate amount in the frothing pitcher—typically about 2/3 of your desired amount of milk, as it will expand during aeration. Put your thermometer in the pitcher and begin steaming. Place the tip of the steam wand just below the milk’s surface, turn it on, then tilt and lower the pitcher until the wand is at the surface of the milk—this exposes small holes on the tip of your wand in order to aerate the milk.
Aerate until you reach the desired amount of microfoam, then submerge the wand again until the milk reaches the desired temperature—140 degrees Fahrenheit for whole milk, and 130 for non-dairy options—and turn off the steam wand. The final step is to groom the frothed milk by gently tapping the pitcher onto the counter and swirling it to remove any large bubbles. The foam should be velvety and glossy with stiff peaks.
For cappuccinos, the process begins with only 1/3 of the desired amount of milk. Put the milk and thermometer in the frothing pitcher and place the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk. Turn on the steam wand, tilt and lower your pitcher so the wand is at the surface of the milk for aeration. Aerate until the milk has doubled in volume then resubmerge the steam wand in the milk to continue steaming.
Turn off the steam wand when the milk reaches the desired temperature. Once the steaming process is over, groom the foam by gently tapping it on the counter and swirl to remove any large bubbles. Cappuccino foam should be dense and velvety with stiff peaks. This foam typically has to be scooped into the cup due to its density.