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Microfoam obsession
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Discussions > Espresso > General > Microfoam...  
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CMCM
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Joined: 27 Jul 2005
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Location: California
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia
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Posted Sun Sep 3, 2006, 4:02pm
Subject: Microfoam obsession
 

OK, I'll admit it.  I'm currently obsessed with getting the "perfect" microfoam.  I've read all the articles, but I just can't seem to get that thick perfect stuff from my Silvia.  I had a fabulous cappuccino at Peet's the other day, and asked the barista for a demo.  She just basically stuck the steam wand down in the milk and let it zoom.  She wasn't really watching temp that much except at the end,  taking it to 150.  She didn't even really have the pitcher tipped at all.  She used whole milk, but beyond that, I still can't manage to get that ultimate texture--I get close, but not exact.  Frustrating!

I was surfing around on the 1st Line site and noticed a 3-hole tip for Silvia.  Any comments on that?  Since I've been at this  for over a year now, I'm not sure the 3-hole tip would add much....it sort of sounded like it was for total beginners.

The other thing is this:  Does Silvia's steamer even have the capability of producing the fabulous microfoam that a big commercial machine can do?
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ThatCoffeeGuy
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ThatCoffeeGuy
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Posted Sun Sep 3, 2006, 8:21pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

Well, I only work on a commercial machine, and I will tell you this, it's nice.  I steam up 20 oz. of milk in about 15 seconds tops.  Don't know what a Silvia's time would be.  Also, knowing about nothing on the Silvia (seen a few, never really looked at one) how many holes does a normal Silvia have?  I have heard that to pull off good microfoam you need at least 4 holes (don't remember where, but I read it somewhere when I was first researching how to latte art) and my machine has a five hole tip.  I have found for me, that in order to make good foam I can only stretch for the first tiny little bit, I introduce air for about 4 seconds, after that, all the air that I introduce is due to the vortex that forms (and is on accident).  I find that the swirrling is much more important than the stretching (this could be just because I have found the ideal stretching time with my machine, though).  Don't be afraid of banging and swirrling too.  I have to bang and swirl most of the time to get the best results.  Just practice practice practice.  I have been trying to do latte art for about 5 months, but I just started getting to the point where you could recognize them as rosettas in about the last month or so.  Eventually you will just have that day when you pull off a damn good rosetta and you will never have to go back to the... "Yeah... that kinda has a leaf there, see... well then look closer" kind of rosetta.  Keep at it, you'll get it.

Perhaps someone with a Silvia (there are only about 1,000,000 people on this site with one) will jump in with a little bit more detailed info for you.

HTH

 
Bryan Wray

"I just hope that people realize that coffee is not just a caffeine delivery service, it can be a culinary art." -Christopher Owens
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Jasonian
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Jasonian
Joined: 8 Aug 2005
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Location: Lubbock, TX
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Posted Mon Sep 4, 2006, 12:16am
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

It's less about looks and more about sound.

If I can manage to get some art-worthy froth with my little Gaggia machine at home, you sure as hell can get great foam with with the Silvia.

You want to hear a very subtle "tcht.. tcht" sound.. more like a muffled newspaper tearing sound.  

Here's a tip.  If you can see the bubbles, they're too big.. sink the wand slightly more.  

On a small single-boiler home machine, swirling is less important than getting the right sound, in terms of getting results in the quality of your foam.

Please try to remember, however, that how the froth tastes is much  more important than how pretty the art may or may not look.

I've poured some great art with some pretty crappy foam, and screwed up majorly on the art with some fabulous foam that tasted beautiful.  

It's not quite so easy to demonstrate proper frothing on a commercial machine and then try to mimic the practice on a home machine.  The two methods are worlds apart.  

It's just a balancing act that takes time to master.  It's often better to under-stretch the milk than to over-stretch it if quality froth is what you're after.

 
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ppopp
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ppopp
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Posted Mon Sep 4, 2006, 12:30pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

I'm not so sure you want more holes in your steam tip on a small machine.  If you look at "after market" steam tips made for home machines, many have only one or two holes.  And the machine I use (a Solis SL70) is one of, if not the best, low-end machines for steaming milk, and it only has one hole.  It makes great microfoam all day long.  Fewer (or smaller) holes give the steam exiting the tip more velocity, as compared to a tip with more or bigger holes.

Having said that, if you browse threads on this site from people having trouble creating microfoam on their new machines, and wondering if a different tip will help, you'll often find they conclude after some time that all they needed was lots of practice.  Every machine/steam tip combination is different, but almost all are capable of great microfoam once you learn the subtleties of the particular machine. Try different things (pitcher size, position of the tip in the pitcher, etc.) and sooner or later it will click.

 
Peter

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cannonfodder
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cannonfodder
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Posted Wed Sep 6, 2006, 8:07pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

Here is a video clip I did for another thread on Home-Barista. I froth some milk on my Isomac in a McDonalds hot cup. Once you get the hang of it, you can froth in just about any container.

Click Here (video.google.com)

steaming on a home machine is very different from a commercial so you can not really rely on the techniques you see. My Isomac and my two group Faema behave very differently due to the massive difference in both steam volume and velocity.

 
Dave Stephens
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ThatCoffeeGuy
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ThatCoffeeGuy
Joined: 16 Jun 2006
Posts: 880
Location: Kalamazoo, MI
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Espresso: NS at shop, nothing at home
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Drip: Chemex
Roaster: Behmor 1600, FR-8, Popper,...
Posted Wed Sep 6, 2006, 8:50pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

Good work on that McD's foaming.  Do you find that the digital thermometer works?  It seemed like it was lagging quite a bit.  From what I could hear (yeah, I tell milk temperature by sound...) through my computer speakers, which obviously are going to make it sound different than if I was right there, it sounded like you may have coasted past about 160, even though your thermometer said 145.  Once you do a couple runs is it easy to know how far it is going to coast after you shut it down?  Just curious.  I have a barista at my shop who was looking to get one.  I'm a big fan of the hand techinque.  You know... "Ow, that hurts"=145 so shut 'er down.  Anywho... just curious about that thermometer.
 Yeah, I have to admit, I have never worked on anything but a commercial machine.  Also, I actually payed attention today to how long it takes to steam milk.  I steamed up 20 oz of milk on full power (I don't normally steam on full power though, it's just not necessary) in our huge 50 something ounce pitcher that we use if like 5 large lattes come through on the same order (I haven't used it for like 4 months) so that it wouldn't spill all over, and it took me 8 seconds.  Pretty nifty if you are actually busy enough that you need 20 oz of milk in 8 seconds, but that very, very rarely has ever been a need.  I have been spoiled in the regard of only working on commercial machines.  Well, somewhat spoiled.  I think there are all kinds of different difficulities working on a huge machine.  For example, all of the things that could go wrong while steaming milk on a home machine happen in about 10 seconds on a commercial, so you have to be very observant.  Then again, that's why us baristi are nutso about everything we do relating to coffee.

Jasonian Said:

It's less about looks and more about sound... You want to hear a very subtle "tcht.. tcht" sound.. more like a muffled newspaper tearing sound.  

Posted September 4, 2006 link

This is very true, and I should have mentioned it.  How does that one saying go?  A blind man can make foam milk, a deaf cannot. (Jason, btw, "tcht" is about the best way I have seen that sound described so far).

I would also disregard my comment about more holes.  I really don't use home machines, so for someone who does to say that you don't really want more holes, I would definitely take Peter's advice over mine.  He has experience on smaller machines and I do not.

Happy foaming!

 
Bryan Wray

"I just hope that people realize that coffee is not just a caffeine delivery service, it can be a culinary art." -Christopher Owens
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mcKoffee
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mcKoffee
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Posted Wed Sep 6, 2006, 10:11pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

Had a Silvia 3&1/2 years. Yes she is capable of good microfoam. Even from the stock one-hole tip. I tried the 3-hole from 1st-Line and didn't like it. Seemed the 3-holes were of greater total steam output dumping steam pressure too fast. OTH EspressoParts.com makes a 4-hole tip for Silvia whose total steam output equals the stock single. You may find it easier to create a good vortex. I did at first, but later after more practice found I could use the single tip just as easily.

 
miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness
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CraigA
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Posted Wed Sep 6, 2006, 10:18pm
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

I was going to mention this earlier but didn't.. Yes a cheater steam tip with angled holes to create the swirl/vortex easier, but if the cross-sectional area of the combined holes is greater than the stock one holer., there's too much of a pressure drop/differential in the same time frame.

 
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mcKoffee
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mcKoffee
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Posted Thu Sep 7, 2006, 6:26am
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

CMCM Said:

The other thing is this:  Does Silvia's steamer even have the capability of producing the fabulous microfoam that a big commercial machine can do?

Posted September 3, 2006 link

The other thing is to get best steam power from Missy you want to start steaming just before the steam ready light goes out, especially if doing larger amount of milk for a latte or a couple of caps. This will keep the heater on the entire steaming rather than boiler temp dropping then kicking back on.

NOTE: be sure and remember to refill boiler after every steaming!!!

 
miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness
www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com
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CMCM
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Jul 2005
Posts: 226
Location: California
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia
Grinder: Baratza Vario (retired the...
Posted Thu Sep 7, 2006, 10:32am
Subject: Re: Microfoam obsession
 

What do you mean "remember to refill boiler after every steaming"???

Here's what I do:

  1.  After 20-30 min. of heat-up time, I run some water thru the group head to heat it up.
  2.  Grind coffee, fill filter, brew coffee.
  3.  Steamer switch on to heat.  Light goes out, turn steam knob to get all water/condensation out.
  4.  Steam milk, wipe down wand, run steam thru into empty pitcher to get milk out of wand.
  5.  Steam switch off.

Is this the point where you run some water thru the wand to refill boiler?  What I've been doing is later on, turning on the brew switch to run some water to clean off screen and brew heat, then quick backflush with blind filter, then run some more water thru the group head.  Then turn everything off if I'm done.

Should anything be adjusted in the procedure here?
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