Jori Korhonen //
// 23.6.2021

5 Steps How to Steam Milk

Perfectly steamed milk is something everyone is aiming for, right?! But how is milk steamed so that you get the perfect microfoam in your steamed milk? Let's go through 5 easy steps how to steam milk!

Step 1: Before steaming

Before steaming you need to check a few points; 

  1. your milk needs to be cold
  2. your pitcher needs to be rinsed from previously steamed milk

Your milk needs to be cold because then you will have more time for the steaming and it will make foam creating easier as milk creates silkier foam in under 37 °C. After 37 °C, the foam will get some small bubbles that will be really hard to get rid of after steaming. Steaming milk again will have the same effect - the milk isn't able to handle the 2nd steaming and the foam will lose its structure.

Another thing to check before turning the steam wand on - the position of your pitcher and steam wand. We want to create as big as possible whirlpool in the pitcher (we will get back to this in step 3) and position of the wand will have a huge role in this. Make sure that the wand's tip is in the middle of the pitcher vertically and in the side of the pitcher horizontally (doesn't matter left or right). This will make your milk create a whirlpool and all you need to do during the steaming is to move the pitcher up and down.

milk steaming wand position
Correct position will make your milk create a whirlpool!

Step 2: Create foam / aerate

As I mentioned earlier, we want create the foam in the beginning of the process and that's why the first step after you have put on the steam wand, is to lower your pitcher and create foam to the milk. As the tip of the steam wand comes to the surface of the milk, it will start to foam the milk. Then it just comes to the fact that how long will you stay in the surface - the longer you will be closer to the surface of the milk the more foam you will create. To create caffé latte style milk you will have to be in the surface just a second or two but to create cappuccino style milk it requires 2-5sec.

Step 3: Create whirlpool

Once you have created enough foam, you want to go back underneath the surface of the milk and just heat the milk for the rest of the process. In this stage of process you want to create a whirlpool to the pitcher - that will make the milk smooth and silky as the big bubbles are sucked in to the whirlpool. Check Step 1 how to create the whirlpool in the pitcher.

milk steaming whirlpool
Whirlpool -> microfoam

Step 4: The correct temperature

Then the last step before we shut off the steam wand - correct temperature for steamed milk. The correct temperature for steamed milk would be 55-65 °CPay attention to the temperature as that's the first and biggest thing the customers will notice. Everyone hates too cold or hot steamed milk. For me 55-65 degrees is so hot that the pitcher "burns" (it doesn't actually burn my hand but I don't want to touch the pitcher any longer that necessary) my hand when steaming so I shut off the steam wand right after the pitcher starts to burn my hand.

Why 55-65 °CBelow 55 degrees the milk is pretty lukewarm, especially the customer doesn't drink it right away. After 65 degrees the milk's proteins will start to denature which milk have an affect on the milk's structure and the milk start tasting a bit "burned". 

Step 5: Mix the milk and pour asap

Once the steam wand has been shut off, you need to act fast. If you are too slow before starting the pour, the foam and milk will separate and you will just have foam on top. We want to keep the milk and foam together for best results. If you need to wait a few seconds before you can start pouring, keep the milk moving by rotating the pitcher - this will help you avoid the separation.

barista microfoam milk
Keep the milk moving after steaming.

And one more thing! It doesn't have anything to do with the quality of your microfoam but remember to always wipe the steam wand clean after steaming! Otherwise the milk will burn to the wand and it will get this not so good looking brown layer which is really disgusting. 

barista cleaning steam wand
Don't forget to wipe the steam wand!

With these few tips you will be able to create that silky smooth microfoam and then you are ready for latte art. Check out my previous blogs about latte art if you want to know more.

barista latte art
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