How To Steam Milk; Tips + Troubleshooting

If you’re new to steaming milk, I suggest you use water because you won’t waste milk while you’re learning how to do it. Start by spinning the water, and listen to the difference in the sounds. There’s the “sksksk” sound and then there’s the rough, pig squealing sound, which is not the sound that you want to have. Whether you’re stretching for a Cappuccino, a Flat White or a Latte, the sound should be the same.

Once you’ve practiced spinning the water, you can add a little bit of milk just so you can see the effects of stretching. Using a little bit of milk in the water, this is great for getting your milk technique perfect without wasting too much milk. Not only will we see that the milk has stretched here but it also helps with getting the right temperature. It’s important not to scold your milk, which happens around 80* degrees. If you go any higher, that will badly affect the flavour of your coffee. Ideally, the milk temperature should be about 65* to 70* degrees. Go out and buy a milk thermometer. They’re about $14 and they’re going to save you a lot of burnt milk.

Nisbets Milk Thermometer – $16.39

When you get use to steaming, you won’t need to use the milk thermometer anymore, and you’ll be able to hear the frequency when the milk is at the right temperature. Those of you who play an instrument will have an advantage because it is a certain tone you’ll hear. Alternatively, you can use your hand. This is tricky because different people have tougher skin and that can affect the amount of heat that they can tolerate. If you do use your hand as a guide, make sure it’s on the opposite side to the steam wand so that you get an accurate measurement of the temperature. The only thing that you should change is the time you stretch for, don’t stretch harsher just because you want a Cappuccino.

 

Troubleshooting

  • If your milk is squealing like a pig, you haven’t stretched it enough.
  • If your milk is too bubbly or foamy, you’re dropping the nozzle of the steam wand too far out of the milk.
  • If you’re trying to make a Cappuccino but are getting more of a flat white, you’re not stretching it for long enough.
  • If you’re finding that a blob pours out into the coffee as you’re pouring it, you’re letting the milk sit too long and you need to make sure that there’s always that silky texture there.
  • If you feel like you’re doing everything right but there’s still a layer of aerated foam, chances are you’re using warm milk or there might be an issue with your steaming wand, in which case you’re going to need a steam wand hack which I’ll deliver in a future post.
Ryadan Jeavons

by Ryadan Jeavons

Ryd is a passionate coffee educator who started his career in 2000 as a barista. Having seen the coffee industry develop over the years and how much there is to learn about coffee still, his personal mission has become a role as the conduit between the industry and the consumer. He is passionate about educating the public on all the wonderful things we are learning about this golden liquid drink.

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