Saturday, June 16, 2007

My current obsession

GPO lucky door prize winner!!
GPO lucky door prize - cheese making DVD!

No, my current obsession isn't cheese making.

I just wanted to show off the lucky door prize I won at the GPO wine & cheese tasting event I went to the other week. I've never won anything before, so it was kind of cool. The wine & cheese tasting was part of the Sydney Italian Festival, a month-long event which ran over May/June this year.

It was fun - great northern Italian wine & cheeses to be had and all, but I want to go straight onto my current obsession:


Well, not coffee per se, but pouring a proper latte, froth and all.

Ever since my brother gave us a coffee machine as a wedding gift (too cool), I've been trying to pour the elusive perfect cup. The machine is pretty much a fully automated one, so it shouldn't be that hard right? But it's the milk frothing/steaming combo that gets me. The machine has a steam valve thingy which you stick into a jar of cold milk, and that is where my problem lies.

My goal is for the milk to have a lovely smooth, velvety texture. A random search on the internet reveals that I am not alone in this quest. I've been diligently watching a whole slew of "how-to" videos on You Tube, and jealously checking out some cool latte art at Rate My Rosetta

However the results I get vary from having the milk at the bottom and lots of bubbles on top, so when you pour you get runny milk and then a big blob of milk foam; or just a big blob of milk foam which, for some bizarre reason pours as a clump into the awaiting espresso. Actually, in hindsight that may be because I overdid the frothing, I think.

So now, every time I order a coffee when I'm out, I watch how the barista does it. I can only think of two things that may affect the outcome - the steam pressure and type of milk. The steam pressure on those professional coffee machines looks kick ass compared to our humble little home one, and whenever I buy a coffee it's usually with whole milk, whereas we only have low fat milk at home.

I cannot vary the steam pressure at home, but I can certainly try it with whole milk and see how it goes.

Of course the other alternative is to actually go to one of the many barista classes held around the city to find out. But that seems like a pricey way to learn. I think I'll keep to ogling professional baristas from a distance and practicing at home, for now.


At June 17, 2007 7:05 am, Blogger kitty said...

Hi there!
my boyfriend mark has the same coffee obession. Here's his theory - the perfect cappuccino is 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 foam.

His milk steamer isn't so great, either. The trick is to use a hand-held milk frother, something like this:

good luck! :-)

At July 13, 2007 9:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just go to the Rocks on 22/07. Take your camcorder or digicam and don't merely rely on your memory. You will learn much, grasshopper. \(^_^)/

Better if you start out trying for the perfect espresso. Make that well and then you can fuss around with milk drinks. A foul espresso will taste so nice as a milk drink. However, nothing can fix a bad espresso. Good machine, good burr grinder (shaves the beans, not smashing and slashing - and I"m sure you're a shaver not a smasher and slasher!) and some experimental technique will yield exceptional results.

Also, check out They're not wankers - just well serious about coffee - individuals and professionals alike. Say hi to Cremaholic... looks like that person is in a similar place in the coffee adventure as you.

Lotsa luck. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Cheers - Me!

% Recall? ;)

At July 22, 2007 5:20 pm, Blogger Chick Pea said...

Hey Kitty, thanks for the tip. That aerolatte thing looks really cute!

CP - Yes I heard about the Aroma Festival being held this weekend, but I've been umm, busy doing my taxes so I had to give it a skip ;) How was it?

And btw, no I don't recall, care to leave another hint? ;)

At July 22, 2007 10:48 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At July 22, 2007 10:50 pm, Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

i'm no barista but i did have someone teach me how to froth milk using the saeco machine at work. the trick to making good froth is apparently all about heating the milk to a certain temp, then aerating it, then consolidating the froth. you're supposed to listen to the sound the steam makes and adjust accordingly (varying the depth at which you have inserted the nozzle into the milk).

the blob was probably good froth. did you bang the jug on the counter when you were finished to get rid of the air bubbles? i've seen people use a spoon to hold back the froth in the initial pour. the second pour is when you do the latte art.

apparently low fat milk makes frothing very easy but it doesn't hold as long because there are no fat cells to hold it up.


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