My milk guide

Alright, so I’ve had requests to post a more detailed description of the technique Arthur Wynne taught me this past weekend. I can’t take any credit for it, but I’ll try to describe it here below. No pics or video yet since I just work weekends and have been super busy all week with school.

So here’s the deal with the milk. It’s pretty subtle, and I’m pretty sure that people like Chris are already doing this technique… I think I just never learnt it properly in my self taught travels. For the information of my readers, I am using a 3 group La Marzocco GB5 with the standard 4 hole steam tip, and a 32 oz straight walled stainless steel pitcher.

The step-by-step approach:

1. Get everything ready (probably any pitcher will do… my preference these days has shifted to a 32 oz standard spouted), have your shots pouring, etc. You know, the usual routine.

2. Insert steam wand about 2-3 (maybe as much as 5 depending on pitcher geometry/steam wand) cm from the edge of the pitcher at about the 11 o’clock or 1 o’clock position depending on whether you are left or right handed or the configuration of your machine. I, for example, am left handed, using a steam wand mounted on the left hand side of the machine, so I put mine at the 1 o’clock position.

3. Bring the steam up to full power right away. This is the most important part: you must keep the tip super close to the surface. I was surprised (after steaming probably tens of thousands of pitchers in my career) to see how shallow the tip was kept. You want your tip to be at a slight angle, we’re talking if the milk surface was flat, the pitcher should probably be angled towards you 5-15° with respect to the milk. Surf the milk gently. Again, I was surprised about how much surfing was done, as I had been doing much less before. Essentially, you want the milk to vigorously whirlpool with little or no movement from the barista. It’s like there’s a whirlpool sweet spot at that point in the pitcher.

4. When the milk gets warm, raise the pitcher slightly so you’re not surfing, but your wand is still very very shallow in the milk. Keep that whirlpool alive.

5. Steam to desired temperature, stop the steam, purge and wipe that wand, bang out your pitcher and swirl. I’m a fan of steaming to 130°F for my own drinks and letting it cruise on up, but for the cafe I do a 140°F steam which usually ends up just above 155°F.

6. Pour sweet latte art.

7. Drink.

The awesome thing about this milk is it will stay more stable over longer periods of time, it will be beautifully glossy, it allows for multi pour art with more consistency and you can let the pitcher sit for a bit and the milk will thicken up over time and still be pourable! (Works for low fat and soy too!)

I hope I haven’t over hyped this technique. I really think it’s being done everywhere that’s pouring sweet latte art… let me know what you think and I’ll try to take pictures on the weekend of what I’ve been doing… or of the results.


2 Responses to “My milk guide”

  1. 1 Jason Haeger April 11, 2007 at 1:17 am

    This is the way I learned through trial and error, starting on a modest Gaggia Coffee.

    I have never been able to get great results with any other technique.

    I didn’t realize that it was “superior” to other techniques I’ve seen, but never been able to duplicate. Perhaps an anomaly?

  2. 2 Jon Howse May 5, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Wow! the 11/1 o’clock thing is so important! I had no Idea. I was always messing around 8 or 9, but yeah, the difference is incredible! my latte art improved instantly as a result of the better, more consistant milk.

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