Making the perfect cappuccino and latte coffee
Heating the milk using steam
Inducing air into the milk; as required for latte and cappuccino
Combining the steamed and foamed milk for the consistent, creamy texture required
One of the biggest errors in coffee shops and restaurants up and down the country is to over-heat and scald milk. Unfortunately, there’s an English expectation that your hot beverages should still be “piping hot” after sitting down and dawdling over a newspaper for half an hour.
If coffee should be brewed around 92°C and milk steamed to around 70°C for the best flavour, you can immediately see that a perfectly made cappuccino or latte is not going to be strikingly hot. So the next time you see a barista steaming away the milk for a good few minutes of it hissing and spitting, be prepared to find that it’s not up to scratch.
The second error is to induce too much air into the milk, so rather than getting a silky or creamy texture, you get a foaming stack of gravity defying, milky bubbles. Introducing tiny air bubbles into the milk and gently stretching and texturing it creates the finest results.
If you have an espresso machine with a steam arm, then you have the potential to steam, foam and texture some milk (always following the manufacturer’s guidelines).
For cappuccino, you need to induce more air into the milk before texturing as more foam is required. For latte, only foam for a few seconds before texturing as you need some air introduced, but not too much foam.
Use fresh, cold milk.
Using a milk foaming jug, fill with milk from around a third of the jug to a maximum half.
Prepare the milk before the espresso.
Position the steam arm tip just below the surface of the milk.
Step 4 – Foaming
Turn the steam on fully – if you get short sharp “tsst” noises then you’re doing it right. Too far below the surface and it will be too quiet and no air will be introduced to the milk and too high above the surface and it will be frothily hissy and you’ll get big bubbles of air in the milk.
The milk and foam will expand so you will need to lower the jug gradually to keep the steam tip just below the surface.
If using a thermometer, the milk should be around 40-45°C before texturing begins.
Step 5 – Texturing
Here you’re looking to work the foamed milk into the rest of the heated milk for texture and consistency. Lower the steam tip into the milk, angle the jug slightly and bring the steam tip towards the side of the jug to swirl the milk.
Depending on the quality of the steam arm, you’re looking for a final milk temperature of around 70°C so turn off the steam before then (the temperature will continue to rise a little). Just remember not to overheat the milk as it will kill both texture and flavour!
Remove any excessive air bubbles by banging the jug on a suitable work surface.
Maintain the consistency of the textured milk by swirling the jug, as it will begin to separate after the heating processes.
Prepare the espresso coffee into an appropriate cup (using around a 6-8oz cup, if possible).
Create the drink. For a cappuccino, you’re looking to pour about a third of foamed milk before pouring through with textured, steamed milk. For a latte, the emphasis is on pouring textured, steamed milk with just a hint of foam.
Remember to keep the steam arm spotlessly clean along with the rest of your espresso coffee making equipment.