Given the fact that most of us enjoy milky coffee like lattés and flat whites, the final secret behind a great cup of coffee lie in steaming the milk correctly. Follow these steps to make sure you get it right:
Use cold milk directly from the fridge as well as a cool jug
Use the appropriate volume of milk for the amount of beverages being prepared. From a one litre jug you will make three cups of coffee. (china cups)
Place steam wand over drip tray and purge steam to release water. Then lower the wand in the milk jug so it sits just below surface.
Turn on steam to full power then lower the jug until the tip of the steam wand is just below the surface of the milk. You should hear a slight hissing sound. Make sure the tip is low enough so that the milk doesn’t splatter and high enough to create a fine-textured milk.
Ensure that your steam wand is just off centre and a whirlpool should form. If it doesn’t, try tilting the jug in a 45-degree angle. The steam near the surface will create your fine-textured milk.
As the milk expands, slowly move the jug down so the hissing sound remains. Repeat this until you have your desired amount of fine-textured milk.
When you reached your desired amount of fine-textured milk, lower the stem wand down to heat the milk. Note, do not have the steam wand too far into the milk, just enough to stop the hissing noise.
Turn your steam off when the milk temperature reaches 60 degrees Celsius and remove from steam wand. The temperature will continue to rise close to 70 degrees Celsius. This is the correct pouring temperature and at this temperature you receive maximum sweetness.
Keep your milk rolling in the jug by hand, circulating the jug in slow steady small circles. This will keep the milk and fine-textured milk combined.
If your milk and froth is combined together when it hits your espresso, you will have a combination of milk froth and espresso. This makes a beverage that is rich creamy and full of flavour.
Milk Steaming Tips:
Starting with a cold milk and cold jug essential
Do not re-heat steamed milk
Do not leave steamed milk standing for too long. You should pour immediately
Pour your Cappuccinos first then pour Cafe Lattes and Flat Whites to ensure you have enough foam
Do not leave fresh milk standing at room temperature
Do not try to create fine-textured milk once the temperature passes 40 degrees
Use the correct size jug for the amount of beverages
We believe that everyone has their own ideas on how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee. However, sourcing fresh quality beans, grinding, dosing and extracting your coffee are paramount in achieving a great café-quality coffee at home.
Selecting Your Beans
The first step to a perfect cup of coffee is sourcing fresh quality beans that have been roasted for espresso. Most milk based coffees will use blends, which consist of coffee beans from two or more origins. Single origins are best used for black coffee, as they tend to loose character and complexity in milk. Experimenting with different blends, roast profiles and origins is the fun part of coffee. When selecting your beans, it should always come down to taste. If you love the taste, go for it.
Grinding fresh coffee is the next step in the pursuit to create a perfect cup of coffee. Grinding your coffee long before you intend to use it can result in flat and unpleasant tasting coffee.
Different brewing methods require different particle sizes to achieve the correct rate of extraction. When grinding for espresso coffee you will need a fine grind. The feel of the ground coffee should be a powder like consistency with a slight grittiness. Trial and error extractions, as well as tasting the coffee, are always the most accurate ways to determine the correct grind size.
Today, there are several commercial and household brewing devices, which operate differently, and therefore, need a variety of particle sizes for efficient extraction. The following is a brief summary of the type of grind with the matching brewing method.
Weight of Ground Coffee
Coffee Volume (Liquid)
Approx. 2 minutes
Fill the basket level
Depends on size of brewer
25 – 30 seconds
Min. 9 grams
25 – 30 mL
3 – 4 minutes
Start with 10 grams and experiment
Medium – Coarse
4 – 6 minutes
Start with 10 grams and experiment
You can start to see how critical measurement is when preparing roast and ground coffee.
Tip: Changes in environmental factors such as weather and humidity, can have an effect on the coffee grind and extraction. As humidity increases, you may have to make the grind coarser. If weather conditions become cooler with low humidity, you may have to make the grind finer.
Remove group handle from your espresso machine (caution: may be hot)
Purge water from your espresso machine to remove any dirty water (note: do not wet your group handle)
Knock out any waste that may have been left in the group basket
Clean and dry the group basket
Fill the group basket with ground coffee until the mound is level with the top of the basket
Tap on bench to collapse coffee (i.e. two firm taps only)
Using the straight edge of the dosing tool, sweep the ground coffee back towards you to fill the basket evenly, then sweep forward to remove any excess coffee
Tamp evenly with firm pressure and a slight twisting motion to compress coffee
Wipe any excess coffee off rim of group handle
Lock group handle into group head
Immediately start your extraction
Ensure correct extraction volume (i.e. 25 – 30 mL of espresso should be extracted within 25 – 30 seconds)
The next step involves releasing all the wonderful flavours of the coffee through the process of extraction. This involves bringing the hot water and freshly ground beans together in a way that allows the water to extract all the flavour, aroma and other desirable parts of the roasted coffee beans.
A good extraction is when the correct amount of water, passes through the correct amount of ground coffee, in the correct amount of time, at the correct temperature, with the correct amount of pressure from the machine.
Tip: If your coffee is pouring too quickly, it will taste sour with minimal body and crema. To avoid this, grind the coffee finer or increase coffee dose in the group basket. If your coffee is pouring too slowly (or is dripping through), it will taste burnt or bitter. To remedy this, grind coffee more coarsely or don’t pack the group basket as tightly.
Try not to extract any more than 3 mL of water per 1 gram of ground coffee. To kick off your advanced espresso knowledge, this is a brew ratio of 1:3, meaning 1 gram of ground coffee to 3 mL of water. For example, a minimum 9 gram ground coffee x 3 mL of water = 27 mL. Extraction time should be 25 – 30 seconds.
When tasting espresso coffee try using this three part process:
Wait to cool so that a little more flavour may develop
Stir the coffee and crema together because the coffee can pour in layers
Consume once the temperature has dropped just a little and the coffee is stirred together for an enhanced espresso experience
Experiment with coffee beans, roasts, coffee dose, extraction time and volume.
Now let’s take a look at some common mistakes in the coffee making process. Follow our troubleshooting guide for problem-solving during Espresso extraction and you can’t go wrong!
There are five factors you need to consider when judging your rate of extraction:
1. Particle size and adjusting the grind 2. Dosage of ground coffee being dispensed 3. The pressure you apply to the coffee 4. The pump on your machine 5. Environmental factors
Particle Size and Adjusting the Grind
Remove any ground coffee from the grinder dispenser.
Put in an airtight container in a cool dark place NOT the fridge or freezer. If the grind is too course you may be able to use it in your plunger. (Never re-grind)
Clean the dispenser with a paintbrush and dispense any coffee grounds.
Turn the grind adjustment in the appropriate direction. (i.e. either finer or courser)
Only turn the grind adjustment 1/2 a cm at a time
Dispense the required amount of coffee (min 18g) into your double portafilter
Extract 2 x espresso and time the extraction,
If the extraction is not 25-30 sec for 25-30ml the grind is not correct, and you will need to make the appropriate adjustment. If adjust the collar 1 notch (½ cm).
If it’s pouring too fast, adjust the grinder in the Finer direction.
If it’s pouring too slowly, adjust the grinder in the Courser direction.
Repeat process until extraction is correct!
Hint: You can use a white marker to indicate the current setting on the grinder this setting may change from day to day. The mark you make is only a reference guide. Weather, bean types and blade condition all have an affect on your ground coffee.
Dosage of Ground Coffee Being Dispensed
For properly prepared espresso, the recommended dose is minimum 9g per single group handle, and 18g for a double group handle. For every gram of coffee used there should not be any more than 3 ml of water passed through the ground coffee. If any more than 3ml of water is passed through you will be over extracting coffee. This can result in a bitter espresso.
For example: 7 grams of ground coffee x by 3ml of water represents a 21ml extraction 9 grams of ground coffee x by 3ml of water represents a 27ml extraction
The Pressure You Apply to the Coffee
This relies to the tamping pressure applied to the ground coffee in the group handle. When applying pressure with your tamp, strong pressure is required, followed by a tap, then apply same pressure one more with a slight twisting motion. If the pour is too slow, the problem is the grind or coffee dosage, not pressure.
The Pump on Your Machine
Espresso machines can vary from make and model, so check your espresso machine manual and confirm that it is operating with the intended pressure. Some machines will have a pressure gauge to help you with this, if not this will need to be measured by a technician.
Changes in weather and humidity can have an affect on the coffee grind and the extraction. As humidity increases you may have to make the grind courser. If weather conditions become cooler with low humidity you may have to make the grind finer.
In the final part of our Guide to the Perfect Espresso, get our step by step guide to preparing just some of the many espresso varieties including Ristretto, Doppio, Macchiato and more.
Steam milk and touch the surface with air for a split second with the steam wand and then heat by lowering the steam wand deeper into the milk jug to heat through.
Serve the flat white with a light layer of fine-textured milk on top.
For an interesting twist on the standard Flat White we suggest adding 15ml of caramel liqueur of essence to your cup then add espresso.
Extract an espresso.
Steam milk and hold at frothing stage a little longer for the full cappuccino.
Serve with a thick layer of fine-textured milk and sprinkle with chocolate.
For an interesting twist on the standard Cappuccino why not try adding 15 ml of almond liqueur or essence to your espresso.
TIP: When pouring multiple cappuccinos ensure the amount of froth is distributed evenly between cups.
Extract an espresso.
Steam milk. The finish should be a creamy consistency of milk and froth combined upon the pour resulting in 1cm of fine-textured milk on top.
Serve in a glass.
For an interesting twist on the standard Cappuccino, we suggest adding 15 ml of hazelnut liqueur or essence to your espresso.
TIP: A guide to the amount of froth you need for your Cafe Latte is when frothing your milk, the amount of air to the surface of the milk that creates the hissing noise should only be present for 1/2 to 1 second then heat with no hissing noise.
Place 2 heaped teaspoons of chocolate powder in a glass.
Extract an espresso. (See Extraction). Pour over the top of the chocolate.
Blend chocolate and espresso together.
Steam milk. (See How to Steam Milk) as you would for a cafe latte result being a 1cm thick layer of fine-textured milk, and then sprinkle with chocolate.
OPTION: Add your chocolate to the milk before steaming. It is important to know your milk levels and how much chocolate to use. When you steam the milk it will blend the chocolate through the milk. Once you have finished steaming the milk add it straight to the espresso.
Pour a double shot of espresso (See Doppio).
Pour into a chilled parfait glass.
Top up with cold milk to within 5 cm of the top of the glass.
Place 1 scoop of ice cream into the glass. Stir through.
Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with chocolate.
For an interesting twist on the standard iced coffee, we suggest adding chocolate ice cream, 15 – 30 ml hazelnut syrup and a dust of cinnamon.
TIP: If your coffee is from the espresso machine mix a little vanilla or sugar with your espresso this will help sweeten your iced coffee.
Add a generous scoop of ice cream to a small dish or glass.
Serve an espresso in a small ceramic pouring jug with the ice cream.
For an interesting twist on the standard Affogato, we suggest adding macadamia gelato instead of regular ice cream, a mix of vanilla bean paste and 15ml hazelnut liqueur or essence. Garnish with coconut.