Six Common Milk Frothing Mistakes

by Marc Buckman August 19, 2016


How To Improve Your Lattes and Cappuccinos

Lets take a look at six common frothing mistakes. What you may be doing wrong... and how to fix it.

1. NOT PURGING THE STEAM WAND

Every steaming wand has some water in and you don’t want it in your milk so before steaming, open the valve and purge that residual water into your drip tray or another container. After steaming, we always turn off the steam with the tip still in milk. As the wand quickly cools a bit of milk gets sucked up into the wand. So get rid of it by removing the pitcher and purging again. Doing this helps keep everything clean and smelling nice! And of course always wipe down your wand after steaming so milk does not get baked on.

2. HOLDING THE STEAM TIP TOO LOW

If you’re hearing something like this it’s because your steam tip is to low in the pitcher. It sounds terrible, and with your tip that low, there’s no way to develop a nice rolling current in the milk to break up the air and mix it into a creamy microfoam. When not adding air, you want the tip just below the surface of the milk.

3. HOLDING THE STEAM TIP TOO HIGH

You’ll hear and see this one and potentially be splattered with flying milk. You’ll make bubbles appropriate for bathing but nothing useable for a sweat creamy latte. You want the tip just below the surface of the milk. If you’re adding air, bring the tip up just a little bit so you hear an occasional rip. When you’ve added enough air bring the tip down again just below the surface and get the milk rolling.

 4. NO ROLL IN PITCHER

You’re moving the steam tip everywhere and never giving the milk a chance to roll. Settle down, keep it steady and with a little practice and patience, you’ll find the right position - sometimes called the “W” spot to get a good roll going. That roll helps to break up any large bubbles and gives a nice even mix.

5. MAKING THE MILK TOO HOT

More is better right? Well, when it comes to milk and heat...not so much. If your pitcher is so hot you can’t hold your palm to the bottom - then you’ve gone to far! Milk starts to scald at 165 degrees so keep it a little cooler. We like 140 degrees for small drinks up to 155 for big ones. If using a thermometer be aware there’s some lag. Your milk could easily be 5 to 10 degrees hotter than the thermometer indicates.

6. THE AIR INTAKE IS BLOCKED ON THE AUTO-FROTHING (PANNARELLO-STYLE) WAND

These wands do the work for you by automatically injecting the right amount of air. So every auto frothing wand has an air hole. If that hole is obstructed or totally blocked little or no air gets in so you’ll get little or no froth. So keep your wand clean and check the intake hole if you’re having issues.

Marc Buckman
Marc Buckman

Marc is Whole Latte Love's resident videographer and expert on everything coffee. He built our YouTube channel from the ground up in 2009, demystifying the world of coffee for upwards of 100k subscribers by producing over 1000 in-depth videos. Marc enjoys hiking, scuba diving, and saving the lives of his coworkers when the kitchen runs out of coffee by sharing some of his own.