How long should it take to develop the skill for creating consistent microfoam and latte art. I have been making espresso and latte drinks at home on my Simonelli Oscar for about 9 months now and I am still struggling with consistency.

My machine in not hard plumbed and I'm wondering if that has something to do with developing sufficient pressure to texture the milk. When I order a latte at a good coffee shop, I notice that the barista steams the milk in a few seconds, maybe 8 - 10 and the whirlpool begins pretty quickly, even while they stretch the milk. On my machine, it takes about 8 - 10 seconds to develop decent foam and get it up to 95-100 degrees, and then another 10 seconds to texture up to 140ish degrees, but I don't feel like I am getting good incorporation of the microfoam into the steamed milk underneath. I usually have to do a fairly amount of manual swirling afterward and when I back off on the stretching a bit, the milk is too thin.

So my really long question is, does my technique need further refinement or am I limited by the properties, primarily pressure, of my machine? Can I expect better results when I graduate to a production level machine?

Also, what is the best milk to use for latte art? I have been playing around with different types of milk from skim to whole and also soy and have had varying degrees of success in make good consistent microfoam. Whole milk steams the best while skim is the toughest. Soy can foam relatively well depending on the brand.

Thanx.

Joe

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Whole lends the best texture most easily.  The others will do it fine, but it's just more tricky.


As far as the main question, the steam capabilities on the Oscar sucks.  Pressure is simply insufficient for quick steaming and tight microfoam.  Apples and oranges compared to a decent commercial machine.  The plumbing into to house isn't the issue.  Pressure is the drawback.  That said, if you haven't had any good training in milk steaming, your technique may also be partly to blame.  However, the best baristas are still limited by their equipment and their coffees.

Hope that helps 

Are you freezing the pitcher? And are you getting the milk as cold as possible without freezing? 

The colder the better. It may give you another second or two in the texturing process and that makes a big difference. And whole milk is the best for texturing. But maybe up the fat content and try half and half or heavy cream. Worst case scenario is it tastes ridiculously good.

Joe, it sounds as though your equipment is doing just fine. Most home espresso machines take much longer than that to steam. Why not try using a little less milk. It will steam faster, you will have a hard time controlling the stretching, but when you master that control you should be able to use it to get the texture you need.

Also, depending on the steam tip and the pitcher, you should try a few different angles: with the tip in the centre and at right angle to the milk surface, off to on side and the wand tipped toward you at a 20 degree angle, again with the wand at 20 deg but with the tip against the side of the pitcher closest to you, and finally, try tipping the pitcher to one side and keep the wand straight down.

Good luck,

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