~ It's National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, so we aren't crying - we're frothing. ~
What is microfoam, and why should you care? We're so glad you asked. For starters,
"In the right hands, milk can be transformed into a thick chiffon that has the feel of the finest satin on the tongue." ~ David Schomer
Sounds like something you want to drink, right? Mmhmm.
What does it mean? Milk is "foamed" or "frothed" by adding air and heat, usually by way of an espresso machine steam wand. Microfoam refers to the silky sweet achievement of incorporating the air into the milk in hundreds of tiny bubbles that can't be seen, resulting in a luscious, smooth foam that accentuates the milk's natural sweetness.
Why does it work? We'll let Counter Culture's Erin Meister answer that in this incredibly helpful explanation from Serious Eats, because we couldn't possibly say it any better. It's mostly about milk proteins hooking up and results in "texture that is something like liquid velvet."
How to do it: There are plenty of great barista resources for creating this magical substance, two of my favorites being David Schomer's Milk Texturing Basics and Intelligentsia's Milk Steaming Guide. In this case, practice makes perfect, and teaming up with a local latte artist for some tips won't hurt, either. This graphic from latteartguide.com sums it up in a nutshell:
- If the wand tip comes above the milk surface while steaming, you will very successfully decorate yourself, the bar, and everything else with a dairy-style Jackson Pollock.
- "Stretching" milk makes the "hissing" or "scratching" noise you hear as air gradually expands the milk.
- "Polishing" means tapping the pitcher on bar and swirling the milk to pop any large bubbles and incorporate the foam.
As microfoam sits after being poured, the air dissipates through larger bubbles, leaving just warm milk and espresso in your mug. Still tasty, but not quite the luscious treat it used to be, which means you should sip and savor that cappuccino or latte as soon as the barista sets it on the bar. Cheers!
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