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(Just posted this on another thread, but thought it might help here too.)
We have finally figured this one out - perfect micro-foam!
Here's the trick (perhaps you know this already?):
You need to stretch the milk ONLY while it is cold - so you need a thermometer. Only stretch until 15 C, or 60 F (once it reaches this temp - NO MORE STRETCHING! - this is hard to not do).
Once you hit this temp., drop the wand into the milk and make a 'standing wave'. Get the milk swirling in the pitcher and try to make a nice little kayakers-dream surfing wave on one side of the pitcher. This is what will keep your micro-foam from getting those big dopey bubbles. Think waves on rivers...(I hope this makes sense).
Keep steaming until it's hot enough (I prefer 80C, or 170F), then pour into your espresso immediately. If you get big bubbles on top, swirl and tap pitcher lightly on the counter - they don't really mess you up too much).
As for latte art, my partner is better at it than me. He makes leaves, phoenixes (his specialty), hearts, and many other gorg. designs.