Monday, April 4, 2016
I have been waiting for a slow day at clerkmanifesto to present my views on milk frothing.
Why, you ask, a slow day? Why wasn't milk frothing instruction a priority?
Had I known you were so curious about milk frothing I would have moved it up the priority chain. To be honest I have been assuming all who read clerkmanifesto already have a full understanding of the milk frothing process. I merely thought I'd put out the authoritative statement in case some well meaning barista started wondering why occasional customers, after receiving a cappuccino from them, seemed to be casting a look of bitter disappointment towards them, and so, shaken, decided to search milk frothing on the Internet and were willing to scroll down to page 7,249 in the google search results, which they would be willing to do, if they truly cared. And there they would find this.
I have had two cappuccino like drinks out in the past couple of weeks. One was at a cute American French bistro sort of restaurant, The Harriet Brasserie, that had good food and the proper espresso making equipment. The waitress who made my drink should have known how to do it but didn't. The drink was hot enough to burn. The milk was not creamy, but had ventured into a hard foam. The second drink I had out was at a cafe in a part of town know as the north loop. The cafe seemed to have no name and was marked merely by a small picture of a coffee cup. I had a good feeling about it. I watched the man make my drink. After steaming the milk he poured a small volume out into a sink. The remaining amount was the exact quantity required by the small glass cup. A beautiful feathered decorative pattern adorned the surface of my cortado. The drink was warm, not remotely hot, the milk, of excellent quality, was utterly creamy and smooth, its volume carrying the crema of the espresso into itself in a lush embrace. There was no bitterness, rather a light sweetness of the natural sugars coming through the milk. Smooth hints of chocolate, woodiness, and a touch of flowers rose through the silky milk. It was a lovely drink.
Oh, right. I sort of drifted off there. You wanted to know how to froth milk. Or you didn't particularly, but you started reading this and haven't stopped yet.
So here is how you froth milk:
The steam wand goes in just under the surface of the milk. Ideally the milk should not bubble, rather the surface should bulge and ripple. The volume of the milk will not seem to increase right away but then will quickly do so. Of all things, heat is a reliable indicator. You can feel the heat of the milk through your, ideally, metal pitcher. Your milk will be done when it is somewhere between warm and hot. There is a lot of leeway here. Frothing milk to a decent standard is easy and not fussy. If the milk is not very warm and not much bigger than when you started, keep going. If the milk is uncomfortably hot to hold it's all over. You will have a pitcher full of a very pretty, high, white foam that is sadly not suitable for consuming. Throw it away and start again. You'll get it. And for such a simple thing people will look upon you with admiration, and, maybe, they will even tip you a dollar.