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Nutrition + HydrationKnow-how 012

Latte art: how to make perfect milk foam

Steamed milk is an important part of a good latte. It takes a lot of practice to create pretty patterns and it all begins with the right foam. But what does that mean? Read on to find out how to make the perfect milk foam.

Cappuccino and latte macchiato lovers might know this situation: No sooner have you finished frothing the milk than the foam collapses. Why does this happen? Did you use the wrong milk? Did it not get hot enough? We're getting to the bottom of the issue.

What exactly happens when you froth milk?

The process of frothing lets air into the milk. This air is enclosed by protein molecules, which keep it from being released. These air bubbles are what foam is made of. The more protein compounds are created and the smaller the air bubbles are, the more stable the foam is.

The right milk

When you buy milk, make sure to check the fat content. Skimmed milk will make good foam with a firm consistency. If you’re looking for creamy foam, go for unskimmed milk. Fat content isn’t the only influencing factor; it’s also crucial how fresh the milk is. UHT milk is the best choice if you’d like the foam to be consistent and stable. Fresh, unprocessed milk turns into foam that will disappear in shorter time. If you don’t want to go without fresh milk, make sure it’s very fresh, has just been opened and is stored in a cold and dark room.

The protein content

There’s a basic rule: the more protein, the firmer the foam. Yet, it’s impossible to tell the protein content of milk. What we know for sure is that the perfect foam is more likely to come from cow milk that’s produced in the winter season, as this is when cows drink less and the protein content in milk is higher.

The temperature

It also matters if you heat the milk when frothing it or not. The protein compounds break up if you heat them up to over 60°. This means, you should never heat your milk up to more than this temperature. Skimmed milk captures most air when it’s cold while unskimmed milk creates the best foam at low to medium temperatures.

Foam’s arch enemy

Make sure there’s no washing-up liquid or grease on your frothing jug. Get this basic right and you’re on the right path to the perfect milk foam.

The milk frother

It's up to you which frother to choose. Baristas usually go for a milk foam nozzle, which is integrated in many espresso machines. However, other milk frothers also perform well. What’s important is that you don’t dip the nozzle or the stirring tool too deep into the milk, but rather work on the surface and only go deeper to stir the milk occasionally. It should take about one minute for the milk to reach its final consistency.

Once you’ve got the foam tight, don't forget to prepare your perfect latte. Make the espresso first and pour the froth and milk into the cup as soon as you’ve finished frothing.

Once you’ve succeeded in making the perfect milk froth, you can learn how to create latte art like a real barista.

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