Microfoam, which hasn't been stirred yet.
IntroYou have might been trying to steamed some proper micro foam - maybe you had success otherwise you hadn't, therefore lets look at the guidelines. There is always room for improvement and I often look through different guides to pick up an extra tip or trick and thereby becoming a better home-barista.
Micro foam takes a lot of steam capacity from your espresso machine and especially when making the larger latte drinks - therefore the minimum steam boiler capacity of a HX-machine would be around 1.0 L. and 0,75 L. for dual boiler. You might be wondering what difference does it make, but actually there is a great difference, because with a larger boiler the steam will exit consistently and endless compared to a small boiler, where it will come in stages.
The reason for the steam stages is because the boiler always needs to have some water covering the heating element otherwise it will burn out; Francis Francis X1 has a 325 ml. boiler, where some of that volume always needs to be water, therefore you are left with 200 ml. steam at max, which isn't the grand thing when steaming for two cappuccinos in a 0,75 L. pitcher. In other words the steam pressure will dry out many times before you are finished producing the micro foam and the micro foam will also suffer badly under the inconsistency of the steam.
Bottom line; we can't change your home espresso machine in a heart beat, so lets get on with the guide and hope for the best experience on your home front.
Steamed milk with a two hole tip
Preparing for steamingWe have rounded topics like your espresso machine and boiler capacity, but these aren't the only things that can get you a little closer towards the velvety micro foam. I have the believe that the steam tip is an essential part of your ability of creating beautiful foam. In fact the steam tip often sets the bar off how well you will be able to steam your milk - you can have a lot of steam capacity and a perfect pitcher, but without a decent steam tip you will be chasing ghosts in creating velvety foam. You will always be able to foam the milk, but the texture of the milk will be awful lacking - I strongly suggest a "professional" four hole steam tip, because this will create four different whirlpool zones and therefore be better to incorporate air into the milk. Be aware that some espresso machines can't keep the steam pressure up for the four hole tip, so hear your local coffee shop before you start investing in gear.
With that said Im in the strongest belief, that a proper Barista can create micro foam under any circumstances, so technique, technique and technique mixed with a little bit of luck.
Pouring the thick and rich milk
SteamingStart off be gathering all your equipment, meaning steam pitcher, milk, espresso machine and cloth for cleaning afterwards. Before you begin to steam, start off with a clean cold pitcher and cold fresh milk - never try to re-steam already steamed milk! In other words the colder the pitcher and milk is, the longer you will have to play with it and foam the milk. If you start off with room temperature milk and pitcher, your foaming time will be cut down considerably. Don't make it any tougher than it already is - clean cold pitcher and cold fresh milk.
IClean out your steam wand to get rid of any excess water that has condensed up inside the wand - we certainly don't want that going into our milk. Most likely, your prosumer machine will have a heat exchanger system (HX) or a dual boiler, which means your machine is ready to produce steam as soon as its turned on and heated up. If your machine is a single boiler/dual boiler, you have to warm up the machine to steam production by pressing/flipping the steam switch. Wand dried of all moisture build up inside? Great machine ready to go.
IISink the tip of the steam wand deep into the milk and open up the wand all the way. Ensure that the wand is fully opened, because sometimes the valve doesn't get open all the way and nervous first timers are trying to steam milk with just a little gurgle of steam coming out of the wand.
IIISteaming, steaming, steaming - you are on the way. Bring the tip quickly and expertly up to just below the surface of the milk so that you hear a ch-ch-ch sound. This is the point at which the milk is being foamed; its commonly known as the sweet spot. If you don't hear any sound, you are not foaming the milk, but instead simply heating it - if you get some big, big bobbles the tip is too high and needs to be lowered deeper into the milk. Until this step everything is coming around nice and smooth, but when surfing the surface, the expertise is dividing the amateur and expert. If you are fulling around trying to find the sweet spot the milk will be heating up and you will be quickly cutting down the time, which you had to create the greatest volume of foam within the milk. You really want to find the sweet spot as quick as possible and thereby incorporate as much foam as you will need.
IIIIWhen you think you have achieved to incorporate enough air into the milk, simply sink the tip deep into the milk to continue heating the milk up to the desired temperature. NOTE: We are trying to incorporate a lot of air into the milk, but too much foam can actually destroy your pouring latte art. Starting to create foam right after the drop, you should be able to create as much foam as you will need for a latte by about 38-48 degrees (100-120 Fahrenheit) - 60 degrees for a cappuccino (140 Fahrenheit), after which you will sink the steam wand and finish heating up the milk to the desired temperature.