Tools of Trade

Tools of Trade
Category: Barista Skills and Techniques
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Use the right tools to steam froth milk.

Milk Frothing Steaming Pitcher:

For the average user, any stainless steel pitcher will do. Don't use a plastic cup as the heat may have an effect on the milk taste.
The most important factor is, you want to match the pitcher to your steam wand. If your pitcher is too large, you wont be able to submerge the steam nozzle in the milk and end up with a mess. Just search our website for "stupid steam". Further, a too large pitcher will not provide you with the capability of rolling the milk.
If the pitcher is too small, your milk will overflow the pitcher.
The purist will tell you that the stainless steel pitcher should be chilled for best results in creating Latte Art.
If you are attempting to create Latte Art, a pitcher with a narrow spout will be required.


The beginner wants to make use of an accurate and fast thermometer. Calibrate the thermometer with ice water. The specialty coffee industry will recommend 160 Fahrenheit or 72C Celsius as the final milk temperature. Don't steam this hot as the milk is already scalded at that temperature. Steam to about 5 degrees less and you'll find the milk tastes a little sweeter.
If you are using a slow thermometer, you want to stop the steam wand at about 140 Fahrenheit.

3 Words about the Steam Wand: Clean-Clean-Clean

Make sure you blast some steam thru the steam wand right after you're done. Milk will get sucked up the steam wand and you want to make sure to purge the steam wand. If not, milk can/will end up in the steam valve and steam boiler causing large repair bills.
Please also wipe the steam wand immediately after use with a damp cloth. Otherwise milk will get burnt onto the steam wand and it will be difficult to remove the calcium after it's burnt onto the steam wand.

Espresso Tamper:

There are different shapes of tampers, flat and convex. Many baristas prefer the confex shape as it compresses the ground coffee in the middle of the porta filter harder. This provides for a more even extraction of all the coffee in the filter. It is important to always use the same force to tamp. Use a tamper with an integraded load spring that clicks at 30 lbs.

Cappuccino Spoon:

If you pour the milk right after you're done steaming, you really don't need a spoon to separate the milk from the foam as the milk hasn't had a chance to separate yet. But it does help to scoop out a bit of froth on top of your beverage.


This is a separate chapter, but just some quick facts:
  • It is the protein content that dictates the frothing capability.
  • The higher the fat content the richer the cappuccino or Latte will taste.

Don't forget that milk is a dairy product. Read our technical background briefing on milk to learn why sometimes it is impossible to froth milk. Don't panic if your espresso machine is not producing the perfect froth, Most likely it's a problem (seasonal) with your milk. Just go to the next variety store, pick up a new/different batch of milk, and everything will be back to normal.


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