A good cappuccino, a caffè macchiato and many other delicious drinks prepared in the coffee shop start with a top quality espresso coffee and foamed milk; soft but dense, delicate but full-bodied. Preparing it well depends mostly on the skill and experience of the barman. So here are some tips on how to foam the milk, both traditional cow’s milk and the vegan alternative, to get the perfect foam!
How to foam milk: tips for getting the perfect cream
To get the perfect foamed milk, first of all you need a stainless steel milk jug with a wide spout. As far as the ingredients are concerned the best choice is full-fat milk because it contains more fat which helps the foaming process. This is a delicate operation which requires decisive gestures without any hesitations: the air mixed into the milk must be just the right amount and never too much, and this is why the hand movements should be minimal. It is important that you are very careful with the position of the steaming arm in the milk so that it produces a «vortex» with the steam.
Here are some practical tips to follow:
- Once in position, switch the steaming arm onto maximum and stay still. During the first 3-4 seconds, air is pumped into the milk and the volume will increase by about one third. In this phase you will hear the sound of the air being pumped into the milk jug. To obtain more liquid foamed milk, you just need to pump the air into the milk for around 1-2 seconds, immersing the steaming arm just under the surface of the milk; in order to achieve a more dense consistency, you simply need to increase the length of time the steaming arm is immersed in the milk, lowering the milk jug gradually as the volume increases so that the steamer remains positioned near the surface.
- You will notice that as the milk swirls it creates a “vortex” effect which will burst the bubbles created in the previous phase.
- Remain still: at this point, the milk will not increase in volume any more and you won’t hear the sound of the air being pumped into it, but it will continue its swirling motion.
- Monitor the increase in milk temperature carefully, once it has reached around 55°C, turn off the steaming arm. Remember that the milk will start to smell bad if you heat it too much, due to the caramelization of the sugars in it and the fact that it is going rancid, so pay close attention to this step.
- Quickly remove the steaming arm from the milk and with a clean, damp cloth (used exclusively for this operation) clean the surface of the steaming arm; to clean the internal tube of milk residues, switch on the steaming arm for around one second. This same process can be used to foam non-dairy milk.
How to foam vegan varieties of milk: soya, rice, almond
As we have already mentioned, the greater the quantity of fat in the milk, the easier it will be to foam it: so in the case of cow’s milk, full-fat is better than half-fat or low-fat, but what should you do with non-dairy varieties of milk , ideal for those follow a vegan diet or have lactose intolerance? In this case, in fact, the percentage of fat is lower but these drinks can also be used for foaming … Be careful though: not all types of non-dairy milk are suitable for use with coffee.
Despite its low fat content, soya milk (obtained from fermentation of soya) is the best non-dairy variety of milk to use for preparing cappuccino and caffè macchiato, because it allows you to obtain a consistency of foam similar to that of cow’s milk. The only flaw: the foam tends to separate more easily from the rest of the mix.
Rice milk, almond milk and oat milk
Rice milk is not particularly suitable for foaming, because it has a less dense consistency compared to soya and contains a lower fat content; that said, it is very nice if used cold, in caffè macchiato or in frappès and milkshakes.
Almond milk has an unusual taste, that not everyone appreciates with espresso; apart from the flavor though, its consistency is very suitable for foaming, giving great results in terms of density and homogeneity.
Oat milk, on the other hand is more suitable for combining with coffee flavors and has a higher fat content, this is why it is easier to foam and get a pleasant and dense cream. All of these three drinks, in the end, allow you to serve a light drink, whose calorie content is considerably lower than the traditional cappuccino prepared with cow’s milk .
Whether it is soya milk, cow’s milk or oat milk, foaming it is a precision process requiring dexterity and practice in order to get the best results. Once you have a little experience, you will want to prepare cappuccino and caffè macchiato all the time: and who knows, maybe you will decide to do a course in latte art, have you ever thought about that?