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Thread: What am I doing wrong?

  1. #1
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    What am I doing wrong?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I have literally watched most youtube videos on how to steam milk but I just can't seem to get the result I want.
    My milk gets very watery rather than being well integrated with foam.

    I have tried again tonight and I just couldn't get any whirlpool going no matter where I placed the wand. This was using a 600ml jug filled to just below where the spout starts.

    My machine is Lelit Victoria and have the steam temp set at 135c.

    Can anyone give me any advice? I find it hard to believe I can't get decent milk out of this machine so surely it must be my technique. I am purging for a fair amount of time before steaming and following all the usual instruction. Keep the wand just beneath the surface of the milk to create the chirping noise and once I have enough foam submerge etc.

    Getting really frustrated....

  2. #2
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    A video of your technique would help. What milk are you using? How many tips are there on your steam wand and which way are they pointing? Assuming you have either a single or two hole steam tip, to get a whirlpool going you may want to adjust the angle of incidence of the wand (i.e. by adjusting the angle of the wand relative to machine and / or the angle at which you hold the milk jug) so that it is roughly at a tangent* to the circumference of the top of the milk jug. Think about how you might try to create a whirlpool in your kitchen sink by spraying water from your garden hose in it (I'll guarantee that's the first time this analogy has been used).

    *obviously, we are 3-dimensional space here, and you won't actually have your steam wand parralel to the plane that is goes across the top of milk jug (just jumping in before the inevitable science lesson).

  3. #3
    Senior Member Brewster's Avatar
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    Hi Coladuna.
    A lot of snobs have found this thread to be very helpful over the years.
    https://coffeesnobs.com.au/milk-frot...crofoam-6.html
    Hope it helps.

    cheers
    Mal
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  4. #4
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Agree with everything Barry Speedster said.

    The jug may have to be tipped at an angle from vertical (mine has to be) depending on the angle of the steam want holes, and which way they are pointing.

    Where the wand sits within the pitcher is important -- centre may not be ideal...then again it might....close to the wall may be ideal...then again it may not....

    You have to pay attention to the noise. Screeching is indicative something is not being done right.

    But the first priority is to get the swirl happening, a clean fast swirl with no bubbles, or, quickly diminishing bubbles at worst.

    Some advocate plunging the wand deep once you are satisfied with the foam....to heat the milk.

    I don't for two reasons. One, by the time I am satisfied with the froth, the temperature is as high as I want it. Two, more milk froth to clean off the wand!

    Thermometers? My fingers, tongue and lips are "calibrated" to the same temperature. I want my milk comfortably warm/hot to drink. Placing fingers under the
    pitcher let me know when that is. If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to drink.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    A video of your technique would help. What milk are you using? How many tips are there on your steam wand and which way are they pointing? Assuming you have either a single or two hole steam tip, to get a whirlpool going you may want to adjust the angle of incidence of the wand (i.e. by adjusting the angle of the wand relative to machine and / or the angle at which you hold the milk jug) so that it is roughly at a tangent* to the circumference of the top of the milk jug. Think about how you might try to create a whirlpool in your kitchen sink by spraying water from your garden hose in it (I'll guarantee that's the first time this analogy has been used).

    *obviously, we are 3-dimensional space here, and you won't actually have your steam wand parralel to the plane that is goes across the top of milk jug (just jumping in before the inevitable science lesson).
    Will record a video next time. I'm using full cream milk and there is one tip on the steam wand. I have the steam wand at slight angle and tried holding the pitcher level as well as tilting it towards me and nothing seems to work.
    In terms of location of steam tip, I'm putting it off to my right when I'm facing the machine, but not on the edge. Probably somewhere in the top right quadrant, if that makes sense.

  6. #6
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    Hopefully it's just my technique, not something to do with the machine

  7. #7
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    You say "I am purging for a fair amount of time before steaming".

    Maybe that is the problem? It's only a 300 ml boiler, I believe, so purge only for a couple of seconds to get rid of condensed steam. Anything beyond that is wasting steam power/pressure and reducing what's available for the actual business of steaming.

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    I have found that some milks do not froth very well. The foam you create falls as fast as you create it. We have milk that is ultra pasteurized so it will last for a month in the store. This milk seems to create great micro foam. Some organic milks I have tried do not steam well. Changing milks may help.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    You say "I am purging for a fair amount of time before steaming".

    Maybe that is the problem? It's only a 300 ml boiler, I believe, so purge only for a couple of seconds to get rid of condensed steam. Anything beyond that is wasting steam power/pressure and reducing what's available for the actual business of steaming.
    I purged for only a few seconds before so that's not what giving me grief unfortunately. I tried purging longer last night just to see if it's my short purging process that's causing the issue.

  10. #10
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    I sympathise with you.

    I also have looked at heaps of You Tube videos etc and listened to advice to put steam wand vertical or at x angle. Yet still struggle to get that wonderful thick paint, evenly integrated, stretched milk. The post by KK is very good but still left me wondering how much air to add. https://coffeesnobs.com.au/milk-frot...crofoam-6.html

    My two bob's worth as a learner is to:

    a) Get a thermometer. It's fine for masters of the black art to hold their thumb / tongue / left toe against the jug and know when to change from adding air to stretching and when to stop. But as a beginner I found it SO helpful to use a thermometer. Preferable a specialised digital milk one. Some much cheaper than others. Be aware that analogue thermometers have a considerable lag so you will see 5 or so degree lower until it catches up. Not nearly so bad with digital.

    b) Pay lots of attention to the depth and sound of the wand whilst you add air. Too much air and its all froth and bubble. Too little and the milk will screech like a banshee towards the end of the integrating. Seems to my beginners mind that how much air you add and when is one of the most important parts. Wand just below the surface and add air slowly. ie carefully adjust depth of wand to add JUST the right amount of air. USING the thermometer it's all over by 30-35 degrees. Then lower wand a bit and try and get some vortex.

    c) Temperature again (using digital thermometer). What sort of drink do you want? Creamy warm coffee? Stop at 60-65 degrees. Hotter, less milky but slightly stronger tasting coffee. Stop at 65-69 degrees. The purist will say this is too hot. Yes the milk is starting to denature and lose its creamyness and taste a bit thinner but I have found it lets the coffee through more.

    d) Note that KK says to only add air for the first second. Not entirely clear about this. On my Rocket Giotto to do this I have to purge and then leave valve just off so that I can adjust jug and add air at the very start. Otherwise I'm trying to turn the vale a number of turns hold the jug JUST right and watch thermometer all at the start.

    All this is from a relative newby so all care and no responsibility. No doubt more experienced members will have their own ideas. But they might also be doing things automatically and no longer be conscious of critical steps.

    Good Luck. Hope you come up with some great enlightenment that you can share.
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  11. #11
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    Another tip is to watch the level of the milk in the jug. If you start just under the spout you should see that the milk level has risen, this shows that you have added enough air. It sounds like your'e doing everything correct to me. Most beginners either introduce too much air at the start and blow big bubbles or they don't introduce enough air and it will screech and the milk level wont have risen. Honestly, it's all about the amount of air you introduce at the start before plunging the tip down and getting the whirlpool happening. It's just practice mate. Oh, and have your steam on full blast if it's a little machine.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Another tip, have the steam valve wide open.

    When steaming milk, there are just two speeds. Off and full blast.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    That's a big jug that you're using. The jug I use is around 500 ml and I steam just over 200ml. It takes longer to heat up 300 ml of milk and that could be your problem.
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  14. #14
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    Thanks for the tips and advice guys.

    I do always have the steam valve fully open. I also have a 350ml jug on order as I do find the current one too big when I want to make small milk based drinks or one normal sized milk based drink. Also wanted to see whether transferring it to smaller jug as you see some latte art experts do will improve the consistency of the milk. Nothing worse than having foam on top but milk below is all flat, watery milk with zero texture.

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    You could fight with steaming milk. Or you could whack the milk into the cup, microwave it for 46 seconds (adjust as required for your microwave power level/preferred temp/taste and then pull the shot straight into that.

    I've been doing that for about 15 years and far prefer the result to any of my steaming efforts. And I can count on one hand the number of cups with stretched milk I've had away from home that I prefer. Without troubling most of the fingers.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theonetruepath View Post
    You could fight with steaming milk. Or you could whack the milk into the cup, microwave it for 46 seconds (adjust as required for your microwave power level/preferred temp/taste and then pull the shot straight into that.

    I've been doing that for about 15 years and far prefer the result to any of my steaming efforts. And I can count on one hand the number of cups with stretched milk I've had away from home that I prefer. Without troubling most of the fingers.

    Fair enough if you prefer a flat white, certainly doesn't float my better half's boat, she's a cappuccino lover.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by theonetruepath View Post
    You could fight with steaming milk. Or you could whack the milk into the cup, microwave it for 46 seconds (adjust as required for your microwave power level/preferred temp/taste and then pull the shot straight into that.

    I've been doing that for about 15 years and far prefer the result to any of my steaming efforts. And I can count on one hand the number of cups with stretched milk I've had away from home that I prefer. Without troubling most of the fingers.

    I certainly do this when travelling with my Espresso Flair or Bacchi, and the results are pretty good.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Erimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    I certainly do this when travelling with my Espresso Flair or Bacchi, and the results are pretty good.
    Also an Aerolatte, or French Press for frothing.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by coladuna View Post
    Also wanted to see whether transferring it to smaller jug as you see some latte art experts do will improve the consistency of the milk. Nothing worse than having foam on top but milk below is all flat, watery milk with zero texture.
    I think there might be a couple of misconceptions lurking here that would benefit from some clarity.

    Firstly when you refer to flat milk and foam on top, is the foam stiff at all or is it just separated from the milk? If it's stiff you have over-worked the milk. It's it's not stiff and has just separated then that's completely normal. The foam is lighter than the milk because of the air trapped in it and will float to the surface if given enough time.

    People doing latte art often transfer between jugs for two reasons: 1. It's easier to pour late art with a jug that is half full or less, typically for steaming we half fill the jug with cold milk and increase the volume by adding air. 2. To control the amount of foam in the jug they will pour from. When you have a jug with foamy milk in it, since the foam floats more of it will come out early on in the pour. If you are going to pour a latte and a cappuccino from the same milk jug you'll need to do the cappuccino first.

    When pouring from a milk jug you'll need to combine the foam and milk again before pouring by swirling the jug until the milk looks glossy like wet paint. If you put the jug down for more than a few seconds it will start to separate again. It should be noted that to do latte art a slight separation is required, and if you watch the videos carefully you should see them swirling to combine them waiting a few seconds before starting to pour.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Ninja...which is why you shouldn't steam mulk first then do the espresso. In the little time it takes and the steamed milk is sitting waiting, that nice glossy texture is breaking down fast.
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  21. #21
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    You just do both at once. I steam while doing the shot. I can walk and chew gum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by theonetruepath View Post
    You could fight with steaming milk. Or you could whack the milk into the cup, microwave it for 46 seconds (adjust as required for your microwave power level/preferred temp/taste and then pull the shot straight into that.

    I've been doing that for about 15 years and far prefer the result to any of my steaming efforts. And I can count on one hand the number of cups with stretched milk I've had away from home that I prefer. Without troubling most of the fingers.
    Unfortunately if I can't get this right, it's going to nag me for God knows how long. Besides, part of the reason I upgraded the coffee machine is to be able to texture milk properly. Obviously not going to plan so far haha

  23. #23
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    You just do both at once. I steam while doing the shot. I can walk and chew gum.
    Yes, but it's one or the other for those with a single boiler or non hx such as a Silvia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by coladuna View Post
    Unfortunately if I can't get this right, it's going to nag me for God knows how long. Besides, part of the reason I upgraded the coffee machine is to be able to texture milk properly. Obviously not going to plan so far haha
    Keep at it mate, took me ages for it to click, even now I get some good days, some bad days. One day soon you will nail it

  25. #25
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    Lots of (mostly) good advice above but until you post a video of what you’re doing it’s almost impossible to help you in your specific situation.
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  26. #26
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    Wand a bit under milk and on either side of jar with an angle, Better not in the middle or deep in milk.
    get the steam going and wait for the spinning patiently instead of moving around you wand.
    you would get it spin for sure, does not matter full cream or skinning, small jar or big.

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    Probably just about patient.
    my wife could not get it the first place.
    once she relax and just leave wand tip at the spot right under milk and wait.
    then it works
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by coladuna View Post
    Unfortunately if I can't get this right, it's going to nag me for God knows how long. Besides, part of the reason I upgraded the coffee machine is to be able to texture milk properly. Obviously not going to plan so far haha
    I think it's been mentioned before - but also the TYPE of milk is essential around the frothing process. I once got stuck with low fat (god forbid) and I couldn't make microfoam to save my life.

    The goal of the perfect coffee at home is exhilarating and frustrating at the best of times, changing one thing at a time can help. Also - as others have mentioned: filming the process can help others to constructively guide. You'll get there

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawk87 View Post
    I think it's been mentioned before - but also the TYPE of milk is essential around the frothing process. I once got stuck with low fat (god forbid) and I couldn't make microfoam to save my life.
    Morning Hawk, low fat steams for me without problem, I use it in my wife's cappuccino's regularly.

    Practice makes perfect.
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  30. #30
    Senior Member Jackster's Avatar
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    I was out of milk, and had a visitor...said I only had uht, it steamed the best I have ever done. It was like cold diff oil
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  31. #31
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Been steaming low-fat milk for years, without any problem. Beautiful silky microfoam. Some say there's a steaming difference between winter and summer milk but if there is I haven't noticed.

    There is tho a very infrequent occasion with a bottle that doesn't work.

    If technique is good and constant, for me the thing that can make all the difference between soap suds bubbles and microfoam, is the direction of the steam tip holes.
    Last edited by robusto; 1 Week Ago at 02:56 PM. Reason: correct the autocorrect
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  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    Been steaming low-fat milk for years, without any problem. Beautiful silky microfoam. Some say there's a steaming difference between winter and summer milk but if there is I haven't noticed.

    There is tho a very infrequent occasion with a bottle that doesn't work.

    If technique is good and constant, for me the thing that can make all the difference between soap suds bubbles and microcosm, is the direction of the steam tip holes.
    And the answer is ........... ?

    Do we have to pay or subscribe to find out which direction is best?

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meggs8 View Post
    And the answer is ........... ?

    Do we have to pay or subscribe to find out which direction is best?
    into the milk would be a good start
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  34. #34
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meggs8 View Post
    And the answer is ........... ?

    Do we have to pay or subscribe to find out which direction is best?
    I don't know if there is a best direction -- I can only speak for my own machine. I would guess that it varies depending on their equipment, taking into account how many holes, their angle down into the jug, size of jug etc etc.

    But for what it's worth mine has two holes (the other two I soldered closed) and they face parallel to the front of the machine, sort of east west.

    Due to a change in thickness of the washer in the steam tip they were pointing more like a 45° angle and I was blowing bubbles. Problem now fixed.
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  35. #35
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    With all the black magic about steaming milk - which way you hold your tongue, the phase of the moon and the shape of the milk jug, I have often wondered about the direction the holes in the wand point. Is the vortex stronger if they are in line or across this?

    Probably makes little or no difference for most. But if you are having trouble would altering the direction with a two hole steam wand help?
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  36. #36
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    You have to find the sweet spot. Because there are so many variables steaming can be tricky for a novice.
    Here are a few:
    Distance of tip to side of jug.
    Angle of wand to surface.
    Depth of tip below surface.
    Amount of milk in jug. Too little and it may get hot before microfoam forms.
    Temperature of milk (cold gives more time to steam properly)
    Holding jug vertically or at an angle.
    How many holes?

  37. #37
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    Hole angle only matters when combined with technique. E.g. with my Breville 920 at home the holes are close to straight down so I angle the wand to get the milk moving. On the LSM 85E commercial machine at church the holes are 45° up from straight down so I have the wand pretty much vertical. You'll run into problems if the combination of hole angle, wand size and shape, and jug size and shape doesn't all work but otherwise technique is flexible.
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Morning Hawk, low fat steams for me without problem, I use it in my wife's cappuccino's regularly.

    Practice makes perfect.
    Maybe I need to try your type of low fat. Have done some reading into the different proteins in milk stretch differently/produce different micro-foam. As you would likely say - too much hassle. Just steam milk

  39. #39
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawk87 View Post
    Maybe I need to try your type of low fat. Have done some reading into the different proteins in milk stretch differently/produce different micro-foam. As you would likely say - too much hassle. Just steam milk

    Morning Hawk, I don't buy any particular brand, pretty much whatever is available at one of the three supermarkets in our area.

    As a matter of interest, I do find the streaming properties of milk do deteriorate during the summer months when cow are on dry feed, no green fodder.
    Last edited by Yelta; 6 Days Ago at 11:56 AM.
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  40. #40
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    for such an apparently simple thing it has more complexity than distribution of grinds in the pf.

    Just to add another step in the process, I keep the jug on the fridge. Its only a 350ml Motta, about 1/2 full, which gets hot quickly. The extra chill allows me a few more seconds to get that microfoam just right.

    It's curious what makes it click for people, this from Scott Rao did the trick for me:

    - use the smallest jug for the amount of milk - 1/3 to 1/2 full
    - set the tip just below the surface of the milk, near the centre, 10 - 30 degrees from vertical
    - keep the tip just below the surface at all times without creating bubbles
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  41. #41
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hawk87 View Post
    Maybe I need to try your type of low fat. Have done some reading into the different proteins in milk stretch differently/produce different micro-foam. As you would likely say - too much hassle. Just steam milk
    Different milks do steam differently, but they still steam. IME the lower the fat content the more air you need to add to achieve the same level of foam. I do find Aldi milk more difficult than most to achieve microfoam.
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