steaming milk continued - why swirl the milk?

The work of the espresso machine is complete now and pouring latte art will be the focus of the next few steaming milk posts.  This is harder to explain in a blog than how to create microfoam even though I think the largest part of the battle is producing the microfoam.  For the most part I think the pouring of latte art is best learned in the presence of an expert who can watch you do it.  I wish I had an ingenious tip that made it easy for you to instantly pour great latte art, but I am pretty confident that no such tip exists and if it does I have not discovered it.  I will outline the basic strategy, but there is not a unique way to do it and again only practice will lead to this skill.

The other thing I would emphasize is that if you are looking to make a great cappuccino or other milk drink it all starts with great espresso so do not forget that in your pursuit of art.  After that to make a great cap you need great microfoam.  If you get that far and fail to ever produce worthy art you should not be too worried because if you have great espresso and great milk you can produce a cup that tastes as good as the prettiest cap you have ever seen!

Here is the first strategy to try.  You have pulled a stunning shot of espresso with lots of crema into a 5 to 6 ounce cup.  You have created comparably stunning microfoam and you are ready to go.  

Take the milk and tap it on the counter if there are a few small bubbles and spin the milk as if it were a glass of wine.  The purpose of this is to get rid of bubbles and to make sure that the milk is as homogeneous as possible (too bad you can’t buy homogeonized steamed milk – ha, ha) – not too thick on top and not too thin on the bottom.   If your pour always comes out to thick, you need to reduce the time you spend stretching the milk and increase the second phase – the texturing.  If your milk comes out too thin, you need to do the opposite.  The amount of time on each phase will very much depend on the machine.  I’ve used L.M. machines where you seem to stretch for only a few seconds and home machines where the stretching takes almost the entire time and the texturing only the last little bit.  Now you are ready to pour.  You do not want to spend much time after you turn off the steam and before you pour so this stage should go quickly.  

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