Frothing milk for your cappuccino or latte is the one action in the coffee making process that people seem to have a lot of trouble with. It is certainly true that no matter how good your shot of espresso you can quickly kill it with poorly prepared milk. To successfully froth milk it is important to have a stainless steel jug, most have a handle and a spout, and a frothing thermometer. The thermometer is preferably the stick on variety that is permanently stuck to the side of the jug but the type that attaches to the lip of jug and sits in the milk is better than nothing.
The size of jug you use is important in so much as you do not want to heat more milk than you are going to use for the number of drinks being prepared. Whatever the size of jug it should be half filled with fresh cold milk; the type of milk you use is your preference but the less fat in the milk the less density you will achieve with the foam. The most common milk used is semi-skimmed which froths well but does not have too much fat content. For a rich, smooth tasting coffee it is common to use full fat milk.
When using a jug with a spout then filling halfway is to the bottom of the spout, fill with your cold milk to this point. Before starting to steam the milk it is important to open the steam valve and purge any water lying in the wand. Put your steam wand into the milk so the tip is almost touching the bottom of the jug and turn the steam on full. Let go of the steam valve and hold your jug with two hands then slowly slide the jug down the wand until the steam tip is just under the surface of the milk and it starts to suck in air. Do not splash on top of the milk keep the tip under the surface of the milk gently sucking in air, no big bubbles, and increase the volume of the milk to 50% from where you started.
When you have the volume put the steam tip back into the milk, at an angle, you are now concentrating on the temperature and swirling the milk round in the jug mixing with the air that has been introduced. The volume should steadily increase till it is almost filling your jug and when the temperature reaches 70 degrees turn off the steam. Put the jug on the counter take a cloth and wipe the steam wand clean and open the steam valve and give a blast of steam to clear any milk from inside the wand.
Pick up your jug and tap it on the counter and at the same time swirl the milk round in the jug, practice required! Swirl and tap till your milk is smooth and silky. What you are doing is knocking the loose milk to the bottom of the jug and making the foam silky smooth. You are now ready to pour the milk for your cappuccino or latte.