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How to divide steamed milk to pour two identical coffees

by Luka 13 Dec 2021
This question was asked by Sandra, a home barista who was struggling to get consistent milk foam on her second cup. Sandra was steaming milk for two coffee’s at the same time and was continually frustrated that the second cup was not as silky and creamy as the first. Have you struggled with this as well? It’s a common problem, so you are not alone! The first thing we did to answer Sandra’s question was to make a video so you can see the way we solve this problem. In the video below, you will see how we divide (or split) milk to get even, balanced coffees every time. And under the video, we’ve also written down a few more tips.

Video: How to divide steamed milk for two coffees

Tip 1: Technique of steaming

The first tip relates to how we actually steam the milk, and we need to ask, “Are we steaming the milk correctly?”

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As a general rule, start by filling your milk jug to no more than half full. Most espresso machine milk foaming jugs have a tapered spout, and the base of the spout is a great landmark to use for the appropriate amount of milk.

The milk clock

Also, steamer wand placement is super important. See image immediately above. Imagine the top of the milk jug is a clock face, the spout is 12 and the handle is 6. The far right hand side of the wall would be 3 o’clock. The best placement for the steam tip is 1 - 1:30 and 1cm from the wall of the steam jug.

The sound you should hear

The tip of the steam wand should be no further than 5mm beneath the surface of the milk. Introduce air until you hear 2 - 3 seconds of tsssch-tsssch-tsssch, which is the sound of air and milk creating froth. If the sound does not subside, you may have to press down on the milk wand to get the aeration to cease. At this point periodically check the side of the milk jug with the palm of your hand and keep an ear out for the pitch of the sound to change.

The temperature you should feel

Do not hold your hand to the side of the jug the whole time, instead gently tap the jug with your hand. This way your hand won’t burn and you can make a better judgement of temperature. If you keep your hand on the jug the whole time you’ll end up switching off the milk steaming process too early because your hand will be too hot. The key to make sure the milk is hot enough, is when your hand starts to get really hot, count to 3 then turn off the steam. This should heat your milk to 68 – 70 degrees celsius.

Tip 2: To wait or not to wait?

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There’s a myth which states that after steaming you should wait for the milk to thicken. It is suggested that doing this will improve quality. But I have found this to be misleading and makes the milk harder to work with. So don’t wait. To remove unwanted air I find a simple tap on the bench with the milk jug will remove any bubbles.

Tip 3: Divide the milk

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Dividing the milk between two jugs (see video) will keep the milk in a runny, paint-like state for longer. Working with milk whilst it is like thick runny paint allows us to integrate the milk and coffee better and improves our latte art. It also enables us to pour two coffees that are identical, both in design and foam level.

Tip 4: Pouring style

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Whether you find it more natural to pour low and keep the spout of the milk jug close to the cup, or employ a low high low approach (as some do), pouring with a constant fluid motion is the key. Always try and maintain a good amount of coffee colour on the surface of the cup, not milky and white. This not only enhances the flavour of the first sip, but also makes the coffee look more attractive. For more guidance on pouring style please see our videos we did with Jibbi Little here and here.

Tip 5: Speed and flow

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This pertains more to the speed of our actions after the milk is steamed, rather than the speed of pouring the actual milk into the cup. The point is that the steamed milk will deteriorate and become increasingly harder to use when you take longer to split, pour, recombine, split and pour for the second cup. So Try and work with focus and move with purpose. But don’t go too fast and rush it! This can result in spills and messy looking coffees. If you take care of the milk and do not leave it for too long, it will present beautifully. Hope this video and tips help you pour consistently beautiful and delicious coffees at home. And lastly, we’d love to see your handy work so feel free to share them with us on Facebook. Dom

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