Create the Perfect Foam - Steaming Milk for Cappucinos

For true coffee lovers, foam on their cappuccino is more important than icing on a cake. It is more than a little something extra; it is a vital part of the experience. Even the most talented baristas flub their first attempts at froth. What is the best way to produce the perfect cap for a cappuccino?

The experts have just as many opinions on frothing as they do on espresso blends, but everyone pretty much agrees that the best place to start is with stainless steel pitcher, some milk and an espresso machine with a steaming wand.

The kind of milk you start with depends on the kind of foam you want to result. The more fat in the milk, the heavier and harder to froth it is. Skim milk is light and airy, whereas half and half is thicker and rich. Any container can be used, as long as it is not plastic or susceptible to melting or cracking with heat. Stainless steel is preferred because it is easy to handle.

Frothing will cause the milk to expand to roughly twice its normal volume. To determine how much milk to use, fill the cup you plan to drink from with half the amount of milk the drink requires. For instance, a latte is two parts steamed milk to one part espresso, so fill a third of the cup with cold milk, then pour the milk into the stainless steel pitcher.

It is important that the tip of the steam wand is consistently held just below the surface of the milk. If it is too held too deep, the milk with scorch or boil before it froths. If it is not deep enough, it will blow the milk out of the pitcher and make a mess. Keep the palm of your free hand flush with the bottom of the pitcher. This will help you monitor the temperature of the milk without interrupting the process.

Slide the pitcher away from the machine as the milk expands, so that the tip of the wand remains just under the surface. After you have frothed the desired amount of foam, the pitcher should be warmer than the palm of you hand. If it is not, sinking the wand deeper into the milk will warm it up. If it is too hot, turn off the steam and tap the pitcher against the counter to release any large air bubbles and swirl it around to help cool it off a bit.

Add the milk to the waiting espresso. You can use a long handled spoon to hold back the froth as you pour, and add the froth last, or pour it directly from the pitcher. For best results, use a pitcher with a sharply-pointed, beak-like spout. Top off your creation with cinnamon, nutmeg or garnish of your choice and enjoy.

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About The Author, Cory Willins
For more articles by Cory Willins, go to The Coffee Site for Gourmets where you can find information on gourmet flavors of coffee, coffee makers and more.