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Froth milk like a pro part 2: The milk clock.

by Dom Majdandzic 21 Feb 2016

So what's this clock all about?

Training baristas for more than 15 years I’ve found that giving someone a reference point or landmark to where I wanted them to hold the milk jug or steam wand was the best way for them to do it consistently.

1. Landmarks

Here are the landmarks to keep in mind.
  • The spout or pourer of the jug is 12 o’clock
  • The handle of the jug is 6 0’clock
  • The right side of the jug is 3 o’clock
The position of the steam wand should always be 1:30, halfway between 12 and 3. The steam wand also requires a gap between the milk jug wall and the wand. This is critical in forcing the milk to spin in that all important whirlpool motion.

The milk clock position

2. Watch. Listen. Respond.

To froth milk follow these simple steps.
  • Purge the excess condensation in the steam wand before placing it into the milk.
  • Place the steam wand into the milk clock position (as above). Ensure your steam wand is at 1:30 and 1cm from side of jug.
  • Turn the steam on and introduce air.
  • It should make a consistent scratchy “Tsst” sound. About 1/2 to 1cm below the surface of the milk is a good depth for milk texturing.
  • Naturally this noise should dissipate after about 3-4 seconds, which may be longer if your machine has very low pressure.
  • If not enough air is entering the milk, then slightly pull the jug down about 1/2cm and try to keep it in the milk clock position.
  • If the ‘Tsst’ noise is still around at 5 seconds in and you are comfortable with the foam level, you can raise the level of the milk jug to stop the foam increasing. Once again gentle adjustments of 1/2 cm are plenty.
  • Hold the jug in place, make sure the milk is whirlpooling, and turn off the steam when your milk has reached the desired temperature (see below).
  • To remove any bubbles from the milk, tap the pitcher onto the bench and then give it a slight swirl.

What’s the best milk temperature?

Most people like a hot cup of coffee. Purists and judges like it between 55 and 60 degrees celsius so they can identify all origin nuances, but most people will enjoy it between 60 - 70 degrees celsius. Do not hold your hand to the side of the jug the whole time. Gently tap the jug with your hand, this way your hand won't burn and you can make a better judgement of temperature. Otherwise, you will 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 in your head then turn off the steam. This should heat your milk to 60 - 70 degrees celsius. If you’re a purist, warm the milk until your hand is hot, then turn off the steam. This should heat your milk to 55 - 60 degrees celsius. A good way to get it exactly right is to use a thermometer. There’s no shame in using a thermometer if it’s going to deliver you perfect milk every time. That's all there is, maintain your landmarks, watch the milk, listen to what's going on, don't hastily make an adjustment, and be confident when you do. I hope that helps you keep it special. Dom

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