Turbofrothing - Introduction

glennIs it microfoam or is it micro-texturization? That is the question. Another month or so has elapsed since I asked Colin - chief editor of CoffeeCrew, about microfoaming advice with the Gaggia Classic and similar machines.

More experimentation has been done with using the Gaggia Classic turbofrother. The particular frothing device that I've got on my machine consists of a stainless steel sleeve that fits over the end of a rather short steam wand. The sleeve fits over an O-ring that holds it in place. The sleeve also has a small hole - the inductor hole, which draws in air and forces it into the milk. The end of the sleeve is slightly castellated.

I am refining my technique and am doing some things differently now.

1. the use of a tool - a stirring spoon - assists in texturing the milk
2. reducing the amount of "stretching" is critical to making good texturized foam
3. size and type of frothing pitcher is important

Observations:

From looking at the various latte art videos on the web, it is apparent that true microfoam has the fine texture of table cream. This ideal is what we should be shooting for.

First of all, forget about swirling milk with the frother device, it is not going to happen. The turbo frother is a dispersion device. You just won't get enough force to swirl milk. The type of frothing pitcher is important too. My results have improved immeasurably by purchasing a proper 20 oz frothing pitcher. What I mean by a proper pitcher is the slightly cone shaped ones with a fairly large spout. This style is what the pros use for latte art.

Do not overstretch the milk - that is, overexpanding the volume of milk/foam. Overstretching causes too much "sea foam" and it will be difficult to smooth out. Usually, I steam about 10 oz of milk (for two lattes) at a time. The level of milk is easy to ascertain. Just fill the pitcher to just about where the base of the spout starts.

The foam should reach the inductor hole fairly quickly as you start steaming . You want to bury the inductor hole in the sea foam and keep it buried for as long as possible in order to micro-texturize the large bubbles into tiny bubbles. For this reason, I like to extend the steaming session as long as possible by steaming right up to 160 - 165 degrees.

The spoon - yes Luke, use the spoon! If you can't get a swirling motion with the steam jet, you sure can get it swirling with a spoon. Yup, an ordinary stainless steel tablespoon. Don't worry, I believe the use of a tool is allowed under SCAA rules.

Caution. The spoon is used to smooth out the milk and disperse some of excess air after you've finished steaming. You do not want to introduce more air/bubbles by careless stirring. You do not want to to rest the milk for too long or it might separate. Just before you start pouring the foam, try swirling the frothing pitcher in the best Schomeresque technique you can muster.

The foam should be shiny and be micro-textured, It will look like cream rather than a meringue-like topping foam. Try your hand at latte art.

Yes, micro-texturizing is tricky using the turbo frother. You might not get it right every time, but you will come tantalizingly close. Keep practicing!

-- UPDATE --

Mystery solved. The secret of the Gaggia turbofrother is...

... is the depth of the milk! About 10 oz of milk in a 20 oz pitcher. Insert the Gaggia device as deep as it goes and leave it there keeping the air intake hole (the inductor hole) submerged in the froth. Bulldozing bubbles, surfing the surface, swirling with a tool is not strictly necessary. Grab the handle of the pitcher and swirl the container...that is all you need to do.