I hope you have been enjoying my review series so far. For those who are new to the game, you can read my review on the Pullman Barista Tamper and my bottemless portafilter. This week, I thought I would discuss milk jugs. When I started to make coffee at home, I quickly realised the importance of being able to accurately and consistently heat and texture milk. Initially, I used a thermometer to gauge temperature, however, I also used my flat palm on the base of the jug to get a sense for how hot the milk was supposed to get. I read a lot of info online about how hot to get the milk, and how easy it is to burn and lose the natural sweetness in the milk. Eventually, I learned how hot 50, 60 and 65 degrees felt just by touch and ditched the thermometer. Obviously, a thermometer will be more accurate than using my hand, but it’s surprising how close you can get to your desired temperature with just your hand when you train yourself. To save a bit of money, I used a trick that my good friend Jac taught me. Instead of using milk (and wasting liters of it!), I practiced texturing water with one drop of liquid detergent in my milk jug. This sounds silly, but it actually works. You can practice aerating the water, and the texture of the bubbles closely resembles textured milk. If you start with cold water from the fridge, you get roughly the same amount of time steaming your water as you would with fresh milk, and when you are done, you can safely tip it down the drain and start again. I spent a lot of time practicing texturing the soapy water and it saved me heaps of money in wasted milk. If you find this tip useful, please drop me a comment below.
I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with milk jugs of different shapes and sizes lately. I have a 600mL jug that came with my machine, however, when making only one or two coffees, this jug is just too big to texture the small volume of milk. To try to get a smaller jug, I searched online for a 400mL jug. It has a different shape to my 600mL jug, and hence, the milk reacts differently when it is swirling in the jug. Recently, I found a smaller version of the 600mL jug that I have used almost exclusively. So currently, my favourite jug is the 300mL InCasa that can be found at a lot of enthusiast coffee houses. I purchased mine while I was in Melbourne on holiday, but you can find them online too. Shown in the photo below from left to right is the 400mL jug, the 300mL InCasa and the 600mL InCasa.
Finally, I thought I’d give you some of my tips for texturing milk. Firstly, these tips will vary depending on the type of machine you have, how powerful the steam wand is and how many holes are in the end of the steam wand. My machine has only a single hole in the centre of the head of the steam wand, so if your machine is similar, give this a try when texturing milk.
1) Start with cold milk and a really cold jug – I keep my jugs in the freezer until I need them. This will give you the maximum amount of texturing time before your milk gets too hot.
2) Start with a thermometer until you get used to the temperature. If you are texturing soy, use a thermometer as it goes foul after about 50 degrees.
3) Pour in your milk – I like to pour my milk only so it covers the bottom of the spout of the jug. If you pour in too much milk, it can easily come out while swirling the milk, making a nice mess to clean up afterwards.
4) Point the steam wand towards the edge of the jug and slightly submerge it – when you open up the wand, you want the milk to start to circle in the jug. This can take a while to find the sweet spot, but just keep practicing with different angles.
5) When the milk has started to spin, slowly lower the jug until you introduce more and more air. You will start to hear sucking/slurping sounds as the air gets shot into the milk. If you add too much at once, it will be really hard to turn those big air bubbles into fine little micro-bubbles that characterizes well textured milk. The more air you add, the more ‘fluffy’ the milk will become. If you add a little bit of air, you will have a flat white. A bit more air and you have a latte, and if you keep adding air, you will have a cappuccino ready to pour.
6) Make sure you taste the milk that you make initially. Some milk can look great in the jug, but it’s only after you have tasted it that you realise you burned the milk (this can often happen if you have a thermometer that has a lag period). Get used to using the gear you have and consider buying some accessories that will help in developing your skills. Unfortunately, texturing milk takes a while to learn, but when you have developed your skills, you can enjoy your coffees with light, creamy milk. It really makes the world of difference. Badly textured milk is also a pet hate of mine when I get a coffee from a cafe. Cafe owners – teach your baristas how to texture milk!
7) Keep swirling the milk by hand in the jug until you pour it. This keeps the texture of the milk consistent – if you let it sit, you will find that the fats in the milk have a tendency to settle on top of the liquid content in the milk. Pour it as soon as possible.
If you have any questions, please feel free to sound off below. I will probably try to do a video of this at some stage. Hopefully I can get around to doing a video on how to texture and pour milk with some basic latte art too.