Milk Texturing – getting it right

Milk Texturing

As far as milk selection and texturing goes – full cream milk is generally easier to texture and will smooth out the flavours – muting them somewhat (more so than skim milk). It will also generally taste a little sweeter. Skim milk is a bit harder to texture properly and will lend itself to a sharper and more defined flavour profile. With practice, both can be textured expertly – along with soy, almond, etc, etc. It all comes down to practice and paying attention and learning each time you are texturing.

The texturing process is one that requires patience and practice and practiced and a bit more practice… Skim milk requires less aeration during texturing versus full cream milk. Once you overheat the milk, the texture changes and the milk will not be quite as sweet tasting as it could have been due to proteins separating from fats. Please choose the freshest milk possible. Look to the back of the milk shelf in the supermarket usually to find the longest expiry date – it makes a difference.

If you have a thermometer – use it – pros still use them – and we are not pros…. Heat to between 60°C and 65°C – but much beyond 70°C and you will have gone too far. Beware that the milk’s temperature can run on a little once you stop the steam – perfected through trial and error – and much more so in thicker milks such as soy. If you only heat the milk to about the 55°C mark, the coffee will not taste hot enough for the majority of people. Another great method that helps a lot in keeping your coffee staying hotter for longer is to preheat the cup beforehand (using boiling water from your machine before you start the brewing process. This makes reaching the top milk temperature less critical – as the coffee will lose less heat to the cup as the cup is already warm.

Before starting to texture, purge the steam wand properly by giving it a good blast away from the milk jug – getting rid of any water or gunk inside the wand. Then immerse the steam wand completely into the milk and turn on your steam. You need to get the milk ‘rolling’ with the steam flow coming out of the wand. If your steam tip has only a single hole, then tilt your jug on a decent angle so and run the steam wand close to the wall of the jug so that the steam flow goes down the side of the jug and around it, creating a vortex.

milk vortex

A swirling vortex is created in the milk during texturing.

If your steam wand has 2 or more holes, hold the jug level and allow the steam to create a rolling turbulence in the milk.

steam wand tip

A single holed tip steam wand.

A side point of interest – most domestic machines will have a single hole tip and fairly limited steaming power. You need to patient to get a decent vortex going before introducing any air into the milk. I have had the benefit of running 1, 2, 3 and 4 hole tips on domestic (single hole) and commercial machines (the others). After adjusting, our current commercial machine can heat 200mls of milk in approximately 5 seconds – ridiculous and unworkable. I have experimented with pressures and tips so much it borders on O.C.D… After years of trial and error, I’ve found a 2 hole tip with the steam pressure adjusted to heat 200mls of milk in approximately 15 seconds yields perfectly textured milk – regardless of the type of milk – skim, full cream, soy, almond. This is perfect for home use, but may be a little too slow for a busy commercial café.

Anyhow, back to it – Once you get your vortex or get the milk rolling (depending on the number of holes in the tip), carefully and slowly introduce air into the milk by very slightly lifting the steam nozzle out of the milk to create a very slight sucking sound – not a gulping slurping sound (as the gulping slurping sounds will usually render the rest of your texturing a waste of time as they are hard to recover from). Do this (the gentle slight air introduction) for anything from 3 to 5 seconds, then sink the tip just below the surface and try to maintain the swirling vortex/rolling in the milk to fold in the air you just added. Sometimes the vortex may take a few moments to establish (either at the start or if you lose it during texturing and need to re-establish it – be patient, as it’s your only option for being successful.

By the way, even with professional machines that put out enough steam to strip paint – you only ever fill your milk jug to the base of the spout protrusion – i.e. a fraction under half full at the most. This aids in the uniformity of milk flow around the jug, allows room for the milk to expand & allows the jug to be tipped on a large angle for carefully introducing the textured milk close to the surface of the extracted coffee for latte art techniques. If you have a more powerful machine with greater steam you should already know what you are doing and your technique will be different to this – contact me if you are struggling.

Now, once you have given this a go, start modifying the techniques above to suit yourself and your machine. This advice is a great general start point – but will most likely need modification as you progress in your skill level.

As far as latte art goes – hmmm… give your freshly extracted coffee shot a swirl around the cup to loosen and mix the crema with the rest of the shot – then tilt your cup, hold the jug high to start with (about 100mm above the cup) to introduce the milk stream with a slightly greater impact. Move the jug around while you are doing this to disturb and mix the crema with the milk. Now (as your cup is approximately half full or just over) lower the jug spout down into the tilted cup on the low side, as close as possible to the surface of the coffee extraction. Now, move the jug to the far side of your cup (away from you / the high side of the tilted cup) and speed up the milk flow slightly (this will pull more of the aerated portion of the milk into the flow and begin to make the coffee/milk mixture roll over in the cup – a bit like a tumbling motion). You will see your milk stream start to ‘draw’ on and through the brown creamy top of the coffee as it rolls passed the end of the jug spout, incorporating the milk in amongst it. With a very steady, quick, controlled and fluent hand swivelling movement (not a shaky, nervous, unco movement) introduce and fold the milk into the coffee surface as it flows past the pouring spout of the jug (the coffee liquid should continue to ‘roll’ in the cup, moving past your milk stream as you introduce the milk into the cup) – at the same time, moving the jug pouring position slowly back through the cup towards you (as shown below).

Rosetta pour

Finish by continuing the pour as you draw the last bit of the milk straight back through the centre of your cup (i.e. moving the milk jug back across the cup in the opposite direction, away from you whilst still pouring) – the result is depicted in the last of the 6 images above.

If you followed this correctly – and with correctly textured milk – you will have created a beautiful Rosetta. My money is on you making a huge mess, slopping half out the front of your cup with a better pattern on your kitchen floor than in the cup…. Practice, practice – do a search on you tube for Rosetta pours to see how some of the pros do it (there was a good instructional video that you’ll find by searching under ‘monkey see Rosetta pour’). If you still can’t manage it, just give up – kidding – keep trying, as every coffee is another chance to jag something.…. 🙂

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