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How do I steam my milk? Tips and Techniques

This blog will provide basic tips and tricks for steaming your milk for milk based espresso drinks. I will go through the tips and guidelines I use for training my customers that give a great starting point.


Station set-up

Make sure you have enough milk jugs of each size clean and ready to go, damp lint free wiping cloth to wipe the steam wand after every steam.

Ensure you have plenty of each type of milk you use refrigerated to the correct temperature and please check your dates on the milk.

Check the coffee machine is on and the pressure is where it needs to be to produce the steam and test your steam wand by purging (turning on then off to force steam out).

Check you have working milk thermometers to check on the temperature of the milk while you are steaming it.

Start with the end in mind.

When we are steaming milk we first need to select the correct milk frothing jug size.This will be dictated by the drink or drinks you need to prepare.

Milk jug selection is very important, you don’t want to always use a large jug for only single drinks and have a lot of wasted milk left over.


Milk Frothing Technique Steps:

  1. Fill selected jug to 1/2 or just under, fill with chilled fresh milk (I use the bottom of the spout groove as a guide to where to fill to). Place milk thermometer in where you can get a good view of the temperature reading.
  2. Prepare the coffee shot. Once you are happy the coffee shot is pouring well start the milk frothing in order to have both finishing as close together as possible.
  3. Purge steam wand by turning on and off to get to steam through.
  4. Bury the nozzle of the steam wand into the cold milk then activate the steam.
  5. Stage 1 Stretching 4˚C – 30˚C: As quickly as you can bring the nozzle of the steam arm towards the surface of the milk to begin the stretching of the milk. This is the sucking noise stage that introduces the air into the milk and causes it to stretch, which is where you will get the foam portion of your milk. We stretch to 30˚C as a guide point.
  6. Stage 2 Texturing 30˚C – 60˚C:Here we stop the sucking noise by burying the nozzle further into the stretched milk so there is no more sound and let the milk spin around the jug bouncing of the sides of the jug while it keeps heating. This helps produce that lovely texture to our milk. We do this until 60˚C or 65˚C then we shut off the steam wand.  IMPORTANT we aim for a finishing temperature of 70˚C but we must shut off the steam wand before this as the milk will continue to heat for a few seconds after the steam has stopped. We don’t want to scold the milk.
  7. Stage 3 Purging and Wiping the Steam Wand: Remove the jug and immediately wipe the milk from the steam wand with the damp cloth and also point the wand into the machine while you have the cloth in hand and then purge the steam wand to remove any milk residue from the wand.
  8. Stage 4 Surfing/spinning: Here we are aiming to combine all the textured milk into a lovely, shiny and pourable state by rotating the jug in our hand and causing the milk to spin and fold into itself. When you have a nice gloss and the milk is moving freely you can start pouring into your prepared coffee beverage. This step requires practice to get the technique just right. When you have a lot of foam you will notice the milk usually blobs in the middle and this spinning/surfing action is what helps break it down into a smooth consistency.


Additional Milk Steaming Tips.

With steaming of milk I like to get the right amount of foam into my milk while steaming, not at the pouring stage where I may need to hold foam back, or find I don’t have enough. By introducing more air during the stretching I can get more volume which is great for Cappuccino, while the opposite works for Flat Whites.

One of the tips for getting more volume is to do Stage 2 stretching stage to 40˚C instead of 30˚C. This is the maximum temperature I will go to for this stage as it is still important to bury the nozzle for the next texturing stage. If you carry on with the stretching beyond 40˚C you can end up with stiff egg white consistency milk that just sits on the drink and won’t mix into your milk when surfing/spinning in the jug.

We can turn this on its head also for less foam/volume if we are doing Flat Whites by only doing the stretching stage up to 20˚C and then burying the nozzle until the end temperature is reached, thus not allowing as much air therefore volume into the milk.


So there you have it some basic guidelines I like to use for teaching how to stretch milk for espresso based drinks.


All the best


Wade Hutchinson

Coffee and Equipment

Servicing Central Otago, Queenstown, Wanaka, Timaru, Oamaru, South Canterbury, Te Anau, West Coast

Category: Blog


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