Whether you are looking to up your barista game or always wondered how your favourite coffee shop creates the beautiful rosetta in your morning flat white - then Celeste Wong, Allan Reeder ambassador and barista has you covered. Follow The Girl in the Cafe's simple steps to perfect your milk and master your latte art.
1/ START WITH COLD MILK
If you’re using a little left over milk, make sure you dilute it with fresh cold milk to bring the temperature down, and so you’re not using all second-hand heated milk. It’s totally fine to use a small amount of milk from the last batch, providing it hasn’t been over heated (over about 65degrees). Though it does mean that you need to look at your milk wastage. You can concentrate on steaming the exact amount after you’ve mastered your milk texture!
Illustration drawn by Joanne Roberts @jorobots
Position your steam wand well under the milk surface when you turn on the steam. This will prevent any unnecessary weak milk bubbles on top – which only makes it harder to get smooth milk and draw with.
3/ AIM TO SWIRL THE MILK, SLOWLY
It’s really tempting to turn the steam on to capacity to heat it faster, but I’d suggest starting out with the steam wand about ¾ of the way in the milk. That way you’ll have more control and it’ll give you more time to get your wand into a position where the milk can “spin” smoothly and consistently. Make sure you turn the wand pressure up high, not necessarily all the way to the highest pressure when you are learning as it will heat the milk too fast. But many people just turn the steam wand marginally and you will get very low heat and pressure. So you need to be brave and turn it up!
4/ CREATE A WHIRL POOL EFFECT
Place the steam wand closer to the side of the jug (but NEVER touching) will allow the steam jets at the end of the wand to ricochet off the side of the jug to create that swirl. This will allow the fatty acids to bond as they heat. My 'whirl pool' is usually anti-clockwise, but either way is fine.
5/ “STRETCH” THE MILK.
To create thicker foam slowly lower the jug so that the tip of the wand gets closer to the surface of milk (but never breaking the surface). Then submerge the wand again if its thickening too much. Some people do this too vigorously (up and down repeatedly and fast) but that inserts air too quickly. The motion needs to be smooth and fluid – almost undetectable to the naked eye.
Ideally you should steam the milk to around 65-67 degrees Celsius. Although some people like it hotter and colder. But this is usually a good drinkable temperature to optimise the sugars and the texture.
Some people like to use a temperature gauge to begin with, which can help.
A general ‘rule’ I use when I’m training people is to place your left hand (or whichever hand is free) and place it firmly around the outside of the jug and count “1,2,3"“ and if your “4” is an "Ouch” then that is usually around 65 degrees! Not very scientific but I have tested it for myself and have been doing this forever, so my judgments are consistently accurate! Try it!
It’s important to experiment. Hold your jug near the centre of the cup (with espresso) and practice pushing the tip of the milk jug down, so that the ‘butt’ of the jug moves upwards - as if it’s but is in the air.
You will begin to see how the ‘wet’ milk is heavier and stays at the bottom, and the frothy milk will cascade over the top. Practice just watching what happens when you do one pour movement from jug to cup, both slow and fast, without wriggly movements.
For the full article and to check out even more of Celeste's amazing pouring tips - read her full blog here. Or why not catch The Girl in the Cafe and other world class barista showcase their pouring skills before having a go yourself on the Latte Art Live stage at the festival.