How to Brew

Microfoam: What It Is & How To Perfect It

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Picture this: You’ve scored a comfy chair at a window seat in the coffee shop of your choice. Sitting with your steaming hot latte, extra shot of espresso added, you ponder what makes this moment so perfectly amazing?

Is it the creamy union of coffee and milk steamed to perfection?

The light and the airy layer of foam at the top of your cup?

and more importantly, how can you recreate this moment of perfection in the comfort of your own home?

We believe the secret is in the microfoam. We’ll tell you what this amazing invention is and a few tips on how to make it at home.

Microfoam – What is it?

Can you tell the difference between a good cup of coffee and a great cup of coffee? The secret is in the milk. The foam. The microfoam. First thing’s first, what actually is Microfoam? It’s a layer of finely steamed milk, usually, whole milk, poured on the surface of your latte, steamer, or cafe au lait.

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The life goal of any great microfoam is to have as little air as humanly possible in the milk. Tinier air bubbles make for a more velvety foam and come with a silkier smooth surface.

This is the perfect base for those artistic pieces of latte art and stencil work you sometimes see the baristas making. If the steamed milk is foamed with more air, larger bubbles will be formed, and this would be considered a form of macrofoam rather than microfoam.


Which drinks require microfoam milk?

Without a doubt, there are cafe lattes, cafe au laits, and cappuccinos that, in our opinion, require microfoam. Although macrofoam, which can be achieved by a simple handheld frother, has been known to be used for cappuccinos as well.

If you aren’t a fan of coffee, but can’t live without the taste of milk, steamers – milk steamed to the embodiment of perfection with the added flavor of your choice, are one drink that could end your search for more.

You can make a steamer with a handheld frother as well, but at the end of the day, it boils down to a matter of preference and the level of silkiness you want from your milk.

How to make microfoam with a steam wand?

Creating microfoam successfully with a steam wand starts with powerful steam. From there, you need heat to create hundreds of thousands of tiny bubbles. They will not only capture the delicate flavors and notes of the espresso, but they will also unleash the sweetness of the milk. As you sip your freshly poured cup of coffee, the bubbles burst on your tongue, creating the perfect harmony of espresso and sweet creamy milk.

  1. Lower the tip of your steam wand to just below the surface of the milk. This will not only save your ears from that high pitched hiss that makes us all cringe, but it will also ensure that you create a rolling current in the milk. This helps to break up the air and create a nice creamy microfoam.
  2. Add air to your milk. You can do this by bringing the tip of your steam wand up to the surface until you hear an occasional ripping sound. The goal is to create a latex paint-like consistency and texture throughout the entire foam. Warning: Do not lift your wand too far out of the pitcher. You don’t want to be blowing bubbles onto the surface of your milk of having hot milk foam splash everywhere.
  3. Get your milk rolling. At this point, when you’ve added enough air, bring the tip of your wand down to just below the surface of your milk again and get your milk rolling. Find a nice steady spot and have some patience. Give your milk a chance to roll, you don’t want to move the pitcher around too much. The roll is paramount as it helps break up any large bubbles and gives your foam a nice even mix.
  4. Don’t make the milk too hot. If the milk is so hot that you can’t hold the bottom of your pitcher, this is a sign you’ve gone too far. In this case, less is definitely more when it comes to the volume of heat you are using. You want to be careful not to burn the milk. When it’s finished, pour the velvety goodness into your espresso and enjoy it. If you’re feeling like a challenge, you could even channel your inner barista by adding a latte art heart.

Can you make Microfoam milk at home?

So you want to make the perfect latte at home?

The ability to pour a properly made microfoam into your cuppa joe could truly change your drink experience.

There are 3 ways to go about doing this. The fastest and easiest way to create some luscious microfoam is to invest in an automatic milk frother.

This device not only heats the milk for you, but it creates your desired level of foam in minutes. A cheaper alternative to get similar results for a fraction of the cost is to pump warm milk in a French press.

Last, you can use a handheld frother to froth your milk by hand. This is the last resort option as it is difficult to truly achieve any type of small bubbles with this device. It brings more of a macrofoam vibe, but on the plus side, clean up is a breeze.


Milk Temperature

One final thing to consider is the temperature of your milk. If your milk is too hot, you’ll end up with a stretched out velvet texture that falls a bit flat.

Milk that is too cold will have a wet mushy taste to it. If you just cringed, we’re on the same page. We did too. The sweet spot you should be aiming for is 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit or 60-71 degrees Celsius. it can take a bit of practice to achieve the perfect level of foam, but there’s no shame in using a thermometer until it becomes second nature.

Now that you know what microfoam is, which drinks use it, how to froth milk to perfection with a steam wand or a simple home device, and you are ready to test out your latte pouring art skills, run to the kitchen put them to the test.

After you pour your perfect latte, you may find that this time you could give your local coffee shop a run for its money.

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