What Temperature Should You Steam Milk To?


What Temperature Should You Steam Milk To?

  • Steaming milk drinks to a lower temperature will probably improve the flavour and texture of the drink.
  • This applies to dairy and alternative milks.
  • That standard recommended temperature is 65C - which strikes a good balance between flavour/texture and drinking temperature.
  • However if you can handle the drink being a touch cooler then 60C or even 55C will improve both the flavour (mostly sweetness) and texture experience.
  • Bonus tip: pre-heat the living hell out of a ceramic cup for the drink and you can get away with a lower steaming temperature - thus able to have your cake and drink it to haha ;)

Transcript (Speaker: Adam Marley)

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another Tips And Tricks with me, Adam. This week, we're going to be talking about milk and steaming it and temperatures. So, my tip for this week is to... And it's a little bit counterintuitive, so stay for the end. But, my main tip for this week, is that you may get a better experience out of your milk drink, whether it is cow's milk, or an alternative milk, plant-based milk, if you steam the milk to a slightly lower temperature. So, most books and most barista training would tell you to steam the milk to 65 degree Celsius. And that's a good recommendation. That's a good average temperature for most consumers, especially if you're a professional barista. For most customers in a takeaway cup, that's probably a good temperature. It's not too hot, but it's also not going to go cold too quickly. It's not going to be lukewarm. However, the optimal flavour and texture experience for most milks, dairy milk in particular, but then also with plant-based milks, is probably more like 60 degrees, or even 55 degrees Celsius.

So, if you're a professional barista and you want to maximize flavor, then that's probably a good way to do it. You'll also find that with alternative milks, that they'll steam a little bit better. When you pour them into the latte, when you make the drink, when you're adding the milk to the espresso, it'll be less likely to curdle, less likely to go all funny, your latte might be a little bit better. The biggest improvement is in the flavor. This is to do with perceptibility of sugars and protein denaturing, and it gets a little bit geeky. We're going to keep this short and shiny, but steaming the milk a little bit cooler will be beneficial.

However, at 60, and particularly, if you go 55, that's too cool for most people to enjoy drinking. So, I don't do this for takeaway coffees when I'm a barista, when I'm making coffee for customers, because it's just too cool. Now, you can do it with have-in coffees, and if you're making coffee for yourself. Now, look, if you're making coffee for yourself and you like that temperature, then great, done. But, if you find that either you, or your customers want the coffee a little bit hotter, but you'd still like to maximize the sweetness and have that creamious texture that you can, then the trick is to preheat the living hell out of the ceramic cups, you're going to be serving the coffee in. So, works for have-ins, doesn't work for takeaways. But, you're at home, or you're making coffee for customers in-house, then you can use some hot water. It's a little bit wasteful, I know, and preheat the cups.

Putting them on top of the espresso machine, on the cup warmer, won't be sufficient, if you're going to be steaming to 55, or 60 degree Celsius. Maybe, 60 it's probably okay, but 55, then you'd probably want to preheat the cups with some hot water. Then, pour the drink. You've got the benefits of the cooler temperature, in terms of sweetness and texture. However, it'll then warm up a little bit, once it's in the cup and be a nice palatable, comfortable drinking temperature and stay hot longer. Now, one of the things that this brings up for me, is if you're a customer, not a barista yourself, and you've wondered why baristas particularly recently, it's very much a modern thing, I think. Baristas, you go, "Why are all the hip baristas, the hip cafes, especially places... The coffee tastes good, but it's always too cold. It's never hot enough." If you've found yourself thinking that, or saying that, or hearing someone say it, this is probably the reason why.

Because, a lot of baristas already know this, they already know this trick, and they're trying to maximize your flavor and texture experience and not taking into account your preferences potentially, on drinking temperature and how long it's going to take you to drink the coffee and that thing. So, my follow-up tip, my bonus tip this week, which honestly I think, is probably a little bit more important than the main tip, goes out to the baristas out there who already do this, who already know the main tip and already steam milk, a little bit cooler, please respect your customer's preferences.

So, two things. One, 55 degree Celsius is probably too cool in a takeaway cup, or in a cup where you're not pre-heating it, for most customers. Just go and ask some of your customers, if it was hot enough and see what they come back with. And if the majority say, "Yes," then great, then ignore me. I doubt that'll be the case. So, if you're pre-heating, then that probably helps a little bit. And then, following on from that. If a customer asks for extra hot, make it extra hot.

Stop saying, yes to a customer, pushing the button that says, extra hot, and then just steaming it to 60 degrees Celsius still. And if you think that you're doing the coffee extra hot, but you're not using a thermometer, you're just relying on your hand, or just not even steaming extra hot, just steaming in general. Keep in mind that the longer you're a barista, your hands start to get used to those temperatures and you'll start to change. Basically, you'll lose your calibration on what the right temperature is. So, if you think you're steaming hot enough, test it. Ask the customer, "Was that hot enough?" Test it yourself, just to check, if you think you're steaming hot enough. Now, if you're choosing to deliberately not steam an extra hot coffee, customer that's ordered extra hot, because maybe you're doing it a little bit hotter, but you normally do 55, now you're doing 60, that's not what a customer ordering extra hot wants.

They want 65 plus, they want 70. And if you think you're doing them a favor, by maximizing their experience, maybe the thought process, "Oh, they're going to ruin the flavor of the coffee, if I steam it extra hot. Even though, they've ordered that, I'm going to do something a little bit different." Please stop. Please stop doing that. The customer knows what they want. Now, by all means, talk to them, be like, "Hey, by steaming it this hot, yes, the coffee will be hotter and it'll stay hotter longer, but you're not going to have as good of a flavor experience." Let them decide. If they go, "No, I still want it extra hot," which is probably what they'll say. Then, you should do that. You should do that for them. That's what they've paid money for. That's what they've asked for. That's what they're going to enjoy.

And I guarantee what's going to happen is, more often than not, for every one customer that comes back and says my extra hot coffee still wasn't hot enough, there was probably another nine customers, who had the same experience, didn't come back and say anything. Just won't come back to the cafe. They're not going to come back. They're just going to go, "That cafe, when I ask for extra hot, doesn't do extra hot." They won't say anything and they simply won't come back. So yeah, in general, the customer's paying, the customer probably has a very good idea of what they like. It's not our role as baristas to decide for them, what they're going to enjoy. We can have a conversation with them. We can talk to them about milk temperature, but the decision is theirs at the end of the day, and please respect that decision, so they can have the best experience possible, for them. Because, we're all individuals and we all have individual preferences. So, anyway, sorry to nag a little bit, but those are the two tips for this week and we'll see you soon.

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