Milk frothing

This article (and the related one, because it follows about latte art) seems relatively long at first glance. It might be, at the same time the goal of this article is to really leave no questions unanswered. After reading these instructions, it creates everyone.

The complete tutorial is divided into two parts:

  1. An article on foaming (this one) and
  2. one to actually pour the latte art.

Advanced users who only want to learn latte art can skip the points they know, or read the article Latte Art for Advanced Users, which directly deals with typical misunderstandings of latte art with a different didactics.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The goal of the whole thing

To make a cappuccino you need milk foam. Milk frothing is always found to be particularly difficult by beginners. Poking around in the milk, bubbling and splashing, and in the end the milk foam is coarse-pored and collapses quickly.

Actually, however, the whole thing is relatively simple (and inauthentic too), it does not require great skill, but you just have to know How to do it, after that it won’t take long to master the technique.

To the beginners: In this article you will read things that for some people are exactly the opposite of what they have "learned" so far has. One should not be irritated by this. The easiest thing to do is to forget everything you know from elsewhere, especially from the restaurant trade – at least outside Italy – or from advertising for Saeco fully automatic machines with latte macchiato at the touch of a button. This article is not about the real Italian cappuccino as imagined by Starbucks or Tchibo, but about the real Italian cappuccino as drunk in Italy.

Before the description starts here, it is useful to note first of all the goal of the whole foaming process. It is clear that this is milk foam, but the texture/quality of the same is the crucial difference. Let’s clear up the first beginner’s mistake.

Notice: What one not wants to have is the sog. Building foam. Beginners report again and again that their milk foam is "already very good, it is so firm that I can form it with a spoon"." However, it is exactly this consistency that is "despised" in professional circles.

The milk foam should rather creamy The consistency of the cream should be similar to that of not quite whipped cream, i.e. a thick, viscous consistency. Why this? Well, first of all, creamy milk foam in a cappucino tastes much better than building foam, which makes you think more of the crown on a beer. And secondly, the creamy consistency has another big advantage, because:

Notice: Cocoa powder does not belong on a real cappuccino!

Yes right: None! In all the train station cafes and Starbucks branches with their vanilla-flavored latte-cino to go (size: tall) coffee drinks, you’re led to believe otherwise, but that’s how it is. No cocoa powder? But how do I make this clear to my guests? No problems, so if you have nice creamy milk foam, you can use it to "draw" patterns by selectively pouring the milk, the so-called "latte art". The most popular figure is the leaf or little tree. Here is a picture of a professional work (the dark spots on the top however are cocoa powder):

Latte Art (Source:

This should clarify this point. Only the question remains: How do you get there?? Well, you certainly won’t be able to draw a tree like the one pictured above right away. But an approach goes fast and is quite simple. By the way, the rating as "simple" is honestly meant, because the author himself is not what you could classify as "motor gifted".

Basics: How now?

As a beginner, you always think you have to have as much foam as possible, you "poke" around in the milk with the steam lance, it splashes and bubbles, but you don’t have really nice milk foam in the end. No wonder, because most of the time you have no idea what you are supposed to do there. Here it is: milk foam consists of milk and air, d.h. you have to give milk 1. air underneath and this then 2. as good as possible distribute in the milk. This is not done by poking around, but in a very orderly way in two phases: the so called. "Drag" and the "roll". During the Draw phase draws air under the surface of the milk, while the Roll phase no more, but the milk only "swirled" so that the air is distributed and the foam is as fine as possible. How to do it concretely? First you need the right Equipment:

  • Espresso machine with steam lance (explicitly without "frothing aid", otherwise the whole thing is difficult, see also the machine specific tips at the end of the article!)
  • Cups in the correct size (ca. 180 ml or a bit more) and the right shape (no completely vertical side walls, the rounder the profile the better)
  • A good Foaming jug with pronounced spout and 0.2 to 0.7 liters capacity (depending on the machine and its steam power). For machines with a small steam boiler, the small jugs work better because they do not have enough "endurance" for a 0.6 liter pot have. Conversely, for larger machines, a small jug can cause problems because the steam pressure will "carry" the milk out of the jug. Regardless, the larger the pot, the easier it is to froth; the smaller the pot, the easier it is to pour latte art.
  • Milk: cold, and the higher the fat content, the creamier the foam will generally be, i.e. at least 3.5%, better above 3.8%. There are actually differences between different brands, who does not believe this, can times "bear brand"-Trying out milk where the foam becomes the most fine-pored. (Barenmarke is meanwhile a product of Hochwald Nahrungsmittel-Werke GmbH (Thalfang; Hunsruck). Supposedly, GM feed is used here; so to try it out, this milk is ok, but in general it is recommended to prefer local suppliers. Just look in the supermarket on the packaging, fresh milk comes almost always from the surrounding area.)

However, it is not the fat content but the protein content that is responsible for the stability of the milk foam. This is worth knowing, since egg whites start to form at approx. 40°C coagulates, which makes the formation of the solid "building foam" possible explains at too high temperatures. This becomes relevant with milk protein approximately between 65 and 70°C.

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