"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2812/20/00 - This morning's cappas didn't go so well. I finished pulling the two doubles, switched to steam, did my minimal clean-up around Rocky which gives the steam time to build up, and then went for the soymilk. It was then that I found that there wasn't enough milk for two, so I consumed my now coolish two singles and made a cappa for wifee.
We decided that to make up for that fiasco that I would make mocha lattes for dessert. I had no real recipe as it's sometimes just fun to wing it and see what happens. We had purchased a couple of heavy, clear glass latte mugs and they had ben sitting on the shelf for weeks now begging to be filled.
For evening drinks I started as usual with two double Donkey (decaf) pulls. In each of the latte mugs I put about a teaspoon of sugar and about of a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. Over that I poured two shots and stirred.
Now the steamed milk, and here is a good place to share my new steaming method. I have not been able to coax much in the way of microfoam from the homemade soymilk. No matter what I tried I got some nice stretching but nothing that would float after being poured. Certainly nothing that would work for latte art. What I was getting was good expansion and a good amount of spoonable foam. That's OK as Wifee loves the foam, but I was looking for more. In that quest I tried many variations of steam wand and pitcher manipulation.
I am using a 16 ounce pitcher (by actual measurement. The box it came in stated that it was a 20 ounce pitcher). The technique I have been using with great success is as follows: I position the steam wand pointing straight to the bottom of the pitcher, perpendicular to the surface of the soymilk right in the middle of the pitcher. That is, the pitcher is held level and the steam tip is pointing as nearly straight down as possible. The tip of the wand is just barely into the surface of the milk, maybe submerged two or three millimeters. Instead of swirling the milk in a whirlpool, getting it all to swirl around like a flushing toilet as many suggest, this method pushes the milk in the center of the pitcher to the bottom and then up the sides all the way around the entire pitcher all at once. If the other method is a whirlpool, this one resembles a doughnut. I find that this stretches the milk sufficiently (turning about 6 or 8 ounces of soymilk into about 14 ounces of "semi-micro-foam") while at the same time avoiding creating excessive froth.
While this process is going on I lower the pitcher to keep the tip of the wand at the same depth in the soymilk. If it makes a hissing or ripping sound like tearing up a bed sheet it means that the tip is too high and is pulling in a lot of air. This means that the tip needs to be just a bit deeper into the milk- we're talking about 1 or 2 millimeters deeper. If the wand does get too high it will create a lot of large bubbles that will form on the surface shortly thereafter. To eliminate them, move the pitcher sideways so the wand is nearer to them. The motion of the milk as described above will pull the foam towards the steaming tip and push it back into the milk where it will be broken up and mixed in. This movement of the tip towards the foam is in an area about the size of a dime right in the center of the pitcher. The pitcher can be momentarily tipped just a little as well to get the bubbles to float upwards toward the steaming wand as well, but I like the lateral movement better. It is easier to keep the tip submerged during this adjustment than with the tipping of the pitcher. All of these movements, vertical as well as lateral, should be done slowly and smoothly.
There is an added benefit with this method: with the Silvia the steam wands gets very hot. Hot enough to cause the soymilk to begin to boil around the wand (or at least to show boiling-like behavior). This causes some seafom bubbles to form which are not wanted at all. Keeping the wand out of the milk also slows the heating of the milk down just a bit which extends the time you have to work the milk. The Silvia stretches the milk so fast (particularly for a novice) that any added time can be a good thing. Becasue of this i start with at least 6 ounces of soymilk, even for cappas, and about 8 ounces for lattes. Less milk seems to heat up too quickly and I end up with a pitcher full of sea foam in a big hurry, particularly the second or third batch as the boiler loses water and gets even hotter.
As it turns out, our economy latte mugs worked very well. They held the heat in our lattes all the way to the bottom of the glass- much better than our ceramic cappa cups.
So then I poured the stretched/foamed milk over the chocolate/espresso/sugar mixture in the bottom of the mugs*, waited a minute for things to settle and separate, then drizzled some of our homemade chocolate sauce on the top of the foam. How did they come out? Delicious! I think we need to find some real chocolate sauce to use as our homemade stuff gets hard too quickly, but otherwise, they were wonderful! Can't wait to try again!