Milk compliments a properly brewed espresso with it own sweetness and texture, if it is properly prepared.
Milk sugars caramelize at about 123ºF. In as little as 5ºF above this temperature the sweet flavor disappears. This temperature is cool to most American beverage consumers, but this is optimum temperature for sweet milk. As the temperature increases these sugars begin to burn off and the milk begins to taste baked and finally burnt. However, the texture of the milk remains at these higher temperatures.
Perfectly prepared milk begins fresh and cold. The steam nozzle should enter the top of the pitcher at an angle and inserted only an half inch or so beneath the surface. Create a swirling motion and fold large bubbles back into the center. To get a creamy texture of very small tight bubbles, control the depth of the steam nozzle and the amount of surface air that enters the mixture. Let the steamed milk rest a few moments and swirl the pitcher to completely blend the froth and milk.
For perfect taste offer cappuccino and latte warm or hot. The consumers that will appreciate the taste will probably accept a cooler drink. Steam milk for each drink in small amounts and do not reuse previously steamed milk. Hot milk should be a maximum of 160ºF and warm, sweet milk should be 123º to 125ºF.
Types of Milk
Whole milk is 3.3% fat and has both a beautiful texture and rich flavor. Whole milk is preferred for it’s taste and texture. Many consumers request 2% or nonfat. These milks froth more easily, but never attain the flavor or texture of whole milk. Again they will be sweet at 123ºF and less so at hotter temperatures.
Soy milk unless it is sweetened is bitter and not very complimentary to coffee. It will froth nicely with some practice.
Rice milk is sweet, but because it lacks protein, it does not froth sufficiently. Try a combination of rice milk and soy milk as a substitute for consumers that request non-dairy beverages.