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Confessions of an Espresso Novice: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

Posted: 10/28/04
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It’s a mystery that will continue to be examined through the ages: What do the Beatles and espresso have in common?

Apparently David Bogie found some correlation between the two because every heading in his microfroth manifesto, "An In Depth Look at Frothing Milk", contains a Beatles lyric and/or song title that somehow eerily describes the proceeding section. After Googling the concept for a while and pondering the mystical parallels between these two seemingly unrelated notions, I was struck with a moment of clarity. When you play the White Album backward, John Lennon is reciting the golden rule over and over again.

Or maybe Mr. Bogie just had a Beatles album in his CD player when he wrote the article.

Either way, Bogie’s tome had me motivated, and not only to spend hours on the internet. I was convinced that microfroth was my rapidly approaching destiny. So I went out and bought all the supplies he listed as necessary, and even those he deemed only "strongly recommended" and "highly desirable", hoping that these purchases would help me bypass the majority of the "practice, practice, practice" regimen that Bogie mentioned. After cleaning out my fridge to accommodate the unbelievable amount of milk I had purchased, I set to work.espresso novice

Keeping in mind everything I’d learned about the denaturing process and emulsification (Who am I kidding? I still don’t really know what those terms mean.), I got to the heart of it: let a small amount of air in right at the beginning to stretch the milk and create volume, and dip the frothing tip below the surface of the milk to let the powerful swirling action of the steam take over and whip my milk into a microfoamed frenzy.

In theory this was great, but per usual, the theory was far from my practiced reality. And though I believed I was doing everything I was instructed, I still produced "bubble rubble", as Mr. Bogie calls it. The second time, I concentrated more on making sure I was staying well within the realms of acceptable temperature, and still, I failed. I worked through an entire gallon of milk and at the end, I had succeeded in decreasing the size of the bubbles, but the result was still gloppy and not the "velvet chiffon" I’d expected to see. So I took a break. I went into my bedroom, put on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and tried to channel the microfoaming powers that be.

When I returned, not much had changed. Midway through my second gallon, I started noticing a different problem: it now appeared that I was merely steaming the milk because it was still shiny and looked like milk. However, this confused me because the volume of the liquid had definitely increased. I went back to my milk frothing guide and skimmed it for something - anything - that I had forgotten to do, and stumbled across a little section that pictured what microfoam looks like when food coloring is added to it. At this point my arm was getting tired from holding the frothing pitcher for three consecutive hours, but I sucked it up and decided to try again and compare my results with the images before me. I didn’t have any food coloring, so I used my Monin Raspberry syrup and waited for the possible carnage to unfold.

I stared at it in disbelief.

I ran back to my computer to look at the pictures and then back out to the kitchen to look at my pink creation. Then I took the glass into my room and placed it next to the computer screen, my eyes darting rapidly back and forth like I was watching an Olympic ping-pong tournament.

Unbeknownst to me, I had created microfroth.

Then I realized that I didn’t know what precise movements I made or what exacting measures I had taken that had brought me to this point, so I started again. But this time, I knew what to look for, and although I didn’t get it right just then, I replicated my earlier success repeatedly in several of the following attempts. So, Bogie was right - it is all about practice.

And with practice, my friends, I feel as though I am the Walrus. Goo goo g’joob.



Read All Installments - Confessions of an Espresso Novice
A. Part I: In the Beginning
B. Part II: Finding the Grind
C. Part III: Striking Gold
D. Part IV: Emily Post & Inspector Gadget 
E. Part V: Work it! The milk, that is.
F. Part VI: The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill. (You are here.)
G. Part VII: Give Me A Cup Cake Prison.

H. Part VIII: To The Espresso Machine I Loved Before.