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Topic: The microfoam thread (18 msgs / 541 lines)
1) From: John Abbott
I get great foam using soy milk, but it won't microfoam like skim milk di=
But it foams well enough that I can stand it up in the center of the cup.=
And I've joined the Americano for breakfast crowd. Way smooth on an empty
John - drinking up all this Hueheutenango that was test roasted

2) From: John Abbott
A whip cream like head on the froth.

3) From: John Abbott
No, you're membership is safe - you just can't hold office :O)
Following is a description taken from an article about microfoam, written by
David Bogey, that I found on another site. I can email you the link if you'd
like to see the rest of the article. It has pictures as well, which I think
are useful. I don't really drink cappucino, preferring my espresso with just
a touch of sugar (does this disqualify me for CSA membership?), so I haven't
really worked at achieving the "perfect foam" myself. One of these days I
may take some time to see if I can do it.
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4) From: Irene and Lubos Palounek
"The microfoam thread, wherein we will discuss the various types of
milk/foam combos, wrist/wand  techniques, and maybe even the number/angle of
holes in the wand........to be followed, of course, by the latte art thread.
I love this list! :-)"
Thank you, Angelo, for the suggestion.
"I have not had any luck getting microfoam either!" wrote Scott.
Well, maybe I feel even worse, because we, I and Miss Téa, were able to
produce nice microfoam twice or three times. But I cannot reproduce it on
The two successful attempts were with cold 4% milk, two hole tip,
straight-wall pitcher, the tip just under the surface of the milk until
100ºF and at the bottom until 150ºF. But even that combination produces good
microfoam only when ... I wish I knew.  Perhaps there is some little Troll
living in Miss Téa -- perhaps the Maxwell's demon's brother? How to make him
Miss Téa came with two-hole tip.  I also got a four-hole tip. I have several
sizes of SS pitchers, keep them in the refrigerator, and use 4% milk, as the
lower fat content milk produces for me too hard, stiff foam.
Any suggestions?
Have a nice Sunday, Lubos.
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5) From: Jeffrey A. Bertoia
I think you are correct, I have found that the lower the fat content the 
easier it froths but also, as you
mention, the stiffer the foam is.
With a machine that has a large boiler I have found frothing to be easy 
and straight forward (at least
compared to the way underpowered machines).
The La Cimbali comes with a three hole frothing head and I've had enough 
success that I can't tell
you whether your 2 or 4 hole head would be better.  But based on my 
experience with underpowered
machines I would _guess_ that faster is better and if the Tea can drive 
the 4 hole head that's probably
the one to use.
I think that you have things mostly right.  It takes cold milk, never 
leave it out on the counter.  The
fresher the milk the better also.  I notice that when it gets close to 
the expiration date it becomes
more difficult.
Although I no longer chill my pitchers that does seem to make it 
marginally easier too.
I also don't generally use a thermometer anymore.  I find it easy to 
approximate the temperature
by touching the side of the pitcher.  So in the following keep in mind 
that the temperatures are by
'touch'.  I begin by foaming right at the surface, this is so close that 
if you've had too much caffiene
and your had shakes you make a mess. :-)  I then move the point of 
contact such that it travels over
the entire surface slowly backing it off as the foam grows.  When the 
desired amount of foam is
achieved (about 100 - 110 degrees) push the wand down to the bottom and 
continue frothing until
the proper temperature is achieved (140 - 160). You can tell also by the 
change in pitch.  As the
temperature approaches and passes 150 the sound turns very throaty.
If you look in the pitcher and you have microfoam you've got it.
If the bubble size is right but the foam is too stiff on pouring try the 
1 - pour sooner - Any standing time on the pitcher will allow the foam 
to stiffen.
      After 2 - 3 minutes it can get to the consistancy of beaten egg 
whites.  Even
       after 30 seconds or so the difference is noticable.
2 - Heat less - I've found that the hotter the milk gets the more the 
froth stiffens.
 From the thread last week where you mentioned that you prefrothed the 
milk because
you were having difficulty coordinating it all I would bet that it's the 
standing time thats
getting you.
Try setting up the espresso and starting it. Pouring the milk and 
frothing it after the
pour.  Then assembling the drink immediately.  I'll bet that you produce 
great froth 9
times out of 10!
  who's not ashamed that he drinks cappa's in the morning,  americanos 
at noon and
   espressos in the evening.
Irene and Lubos Palounek wrote:
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6) From: Scott Jensen
I read on Coffeegeek a review where the author was having trouble with
micro, on a Livia (?).  Anyway the machine had a 4 hole tip, which was to
much power and heated up the milk too fast.  They reduced it too a 3 hole
tip and it was like magic- great foam.  I just looked at the techno and it
has a 5 hole tip.
Don't ask me if this really means anything, It's just easier on the ego to
blame it on the holes instead of my poor technique! :)
Maybe you should try the 4 hole tip and see if there is any difference.
It's possible the 2 hole tip is not powerful enough.
Good luck!
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7) From: James Gundlach
On Sunday, September 15, 2002, at 08:53 AM, Jeffrey A. Bertoia wrote:
That is odd, I will have espresso in the morning and cappa's in the 
early evening.  I haven't tried americanos yet but only get noon coffee 
on the weekends, usually espresso.
Also, I find that milk from about 1 gallon in 8 simply will not foam.
Jim Gundlach
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8) From: Irene and Lubos Palounek
Jeff, Scott, and James,
many thanks for your insight. I have used both our 2-holes and 4-holes tips,
and seem to get better (more silky, less stiff) results with the two-holes
tip.  Where can you buy the three-holes La Cimbali tip?  I think that the
thread on all of the tips is the same, correct?
So far, I have used two gallons of the milk for the "foaming learning"
sessions, and our "regular" milk for more "foaming" as time goes by. Need to
practice more, I guess.
I keep the empty pitchers in the freezer, if there is space, or in the
refrigerator, or simply in the kitchen cabinet -- and it seems not to make
much, if any, difference in the foam.
I am surprised that Jim "found that milk from about 1 gallon in 8 simply
will not foam." So far, any milk we ever bought foamed when I tried it, even
with our old espresso machine -- sometime producing very stiff foam -- but
always some foam. What does "simply will not foam" really mean?
Cheers, Lubos
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9) From: EskWIRED
Can somebody describe perfect foamed milk for me?  what do you guys shoot
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10) From: Jeffrey A. Bertoia
Irene and Lubos Palounek wrote:
I am sure that you can buy it at any La Cimbali dealer.  I bought my 
machine locally so I do not
have a web link.  If you need the info email me off-list.
That I don't know.  Maybe Chris Schaeffer can comment I know that he was 
rebuilding an LC jr
and that he has access to other commercial grade machines.
Like anything else with this obs.....  I mean hobby. :-)
That surprised me also.  Jim, care to comment.  My experience is similar 
to Lubos.
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11) From: Jeffrey A. Bertoia
EskWIRED wrote:
I think that you mentioned being a chef or at least cooking.  I guess I 
would describe it as whipped
cream just a little bit after you start whipping it.  When the cream 
begins to expand and has maybe
doubled in volume but has not stiffened up yet.
The milk and froth should flow together out of the pitcher.  The air 
bubbles in the froth should be tiny
and the froth should pour.  If it's right you don't need a spoon to get 
the equal ratio of milk and froth
for a cappa.  When you pour it just happens.
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12) From: Irene and Lubos Palounek
"Can somebody describe perfect foamed milk for me?"
Heavily borrowing from literature and others:
Ultra-fine microbubles are the only desirable foam consistency. It gives you
velvet-like or silk-like mouth feel that enhances coffee flavor.
Big bubble foam is ugly and the large bubbles prevent coffee flavor to
interact with the taste buds in you mouth. The stiff foams isolates the
sensors in your mouth from the great coffee flavor and texture.
There are no visible bubbles in the properly steamed milk. You get a steamer
full of thick micro-foamed milk. The top of the steamed milk is very smooth
and reflective, has a mirror-like finish,  looks like glass or chrome or
something in between, and the milk is pourable.
As the milk is poured into your espresso, it blends evenly with the
coffee -- does not float on the top.
It seems that, with properly steamed milk, it is not too difficult to
produce "some" latte art. I never managed to produce a "pretty" latte art.
Swirl the steamed milk to combine it properly. Start pouring into the center
of the cappuccino cup with espresso. Start gently shaking the pitcher from
left to right and backing the poured milk towards you to produce zigzag
pattern that later becomes the branches of the design. Reverse the direction
and pour through the center of the branches to make the "trunk" of the tree.
I guess that different techniques should produce different designs.
Look at the cover of the "Espresso Coffee" book by David Schomer, ISBN
0-89716-615-9 to see what others, not I, can produce. I managed to make
something similar to the picture athttp://members.fortunecity.com/coffeesnobs/latte_arts.htmsite.">http://members.fortunecity.com/coffeesnobs/roselatte.htmYou might be interested in thehttp://members.fortunecity.com/coffeesnobs/latte_arts.htmsite.
Cheers, Lubos
It seems to me that you need a certain volume of milk to produce the proper
foamed milk texture.  It seems impossible to make the proper steamed milk in
too small pitchers.
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13) From: Irene and Lubos Palounek
"Can somebody describe perfect foamed milk for me? "
"...I would describe it as whipped cream just a little bit after you start
whipping it" answered Jeff.  I fully agree, I think Jeff answered it better
than I and in just few words!"  May I vote for moving Jeff's CSA level two
notches up (one notch for excellent explanation, another notch for the
I think that the consistency is the same as we prefer for the "partially
whipped cream" for Irish Whiskey. Try it, you will like it!
Definitely NOT something that looks like whipped cream or whipped egg whites
and that floats on the top of the liquid. The surface must be level (well,
perhaps some of the microfoam is a fraction of a millimeter or 1/128 of an
inch above the surface of the coffee, but definitely not a blob of foam. The
foam must mix with the liquid to give you the velvety, silky mouth feel and
to enhance the taste. Otherwise, the improperly made foam just isolates your
taste buds from the coffee. Very few places in the USA (in fact in the world
we know) serve you properly made cappuccino. 
Have fun and enjoy you coffee, Lubos
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14) From: James Gundlach
On Sunday, September 15, 2002, at 10:00 AM, Irene and Lubos Palounek 
When I get one of these jugs of milk, the foaming process that works 
with everything else just produces a mixture of bubbles on top of the 
milk that soon go away.  And it is clearly the milk in that jug that is 
the problem.  I take the same technique and apply it to milk from 
another jug and it works, try another batch of milk from the non-foaming 
jug and it does not.  I don't know what is going on, it does not smell 
or taste any different.  I suspect quality control at the dairy.  Maybe 
I should try another store.
Jim Gundlach
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15) From: Jeffrey A. Bertoia
Irene and Lubos Palounek wrote:
The tell tale is the spoon in the pitcher.  If the barista needs a spoon it
won't be right!
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16) From: Jim Schulman
Hi Lubos,
It may be worth experimenting with different containers (they don't have t=
be frothing pitchers) and different milk quantities. 
I used to like a potbellied teapot, and now, to go with the stainless Tea,=
use a potbellied 8 ounce pitcher with 4 ounces of milk. Everybody I've eve=
talked to, thinks this is a horrible idea, but it works for me.
I actually "fortify" my milk with unsweetened condensed milk, about 20% fo=
cappas, and 50% for macs. If the problem is overly stiff foam with normal 
milk, this may be the ticket. BTW: this is not yet another U.S. way of 
messing up espresso; the milk in Europe is usually a little higher in milk=
solids, since people prefer Jersey cows (or equivalently creamy breeds). I=
there's a Jersey cow dairy in your neck of the woods, even better.
On 15 Sep 2002 at 7:47, Irene and Lubos Palounek wrote:
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17) From: Mark

18) From: Irene and Lubos Palounek
"...one of these days I may take some time to see if I can do it..."
Please try it, Mark; perhaps you will discover the secret to do it
consistently.  The few times I succeeded were worth it; the properly foamed
milk really has great mouth feel and enhances the coffee.
We like similar consistency of whipping cream for Irish Coffee. Has anybody
tried Irish Coffee with microfoamed milk? In fact, has anybody tried to
microfoam whipping cream?  (I am on my third gallon of milk dedicated for my
microfoaming trials. I cannot afford gallons of whipping cream.)
"When properly made, things get reflective. The bubbles in the chiffon are
virtually microscopic, so fine the surface has sheen, a reflective gleam,
and this means it's supreme, a real boost to your self-esteem. Microfoam is
a glossy and gooey foodstuff. Like most foams, it is an innovation; in this
case, a new substance that only barely resembles either of the primary
components that are simply milk and air."
That is good description, worth repeating here. BTW, John, are YOU
successful in properly foaming milk every time you try -- how high is your
self-esteem? I think you never described any trouble making foamed milk --
but never shared your secret.
Again, thanks again to all who suggested things to try.  Yes, I have tried
different containers, including our two Ibriks -- for me, that is not the
secret. The few successful times were with the "normal" straight-sided SS
pitcher with a spout.
Cheers, Lubos
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