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How to Steam Milk For Latte Art and Cappuccinos

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Purging steaming wand

Great milk is the key to truly having café quality drinks at home. It takes a lot of skill to get repeatable results every time, however, with our tips and plenty of practise, you can get very good within a couple of weeks.

For a latte, cortado or macchiato you want to produce milk that mimics the consistency of double cream – smooth and glossy, not foamy like a bubble bath. A little extra aeration will provide denser foam for a cappuccino.

Well-steamed milk will have a uniform texture, a glossy shine on the surface and a nice sweet flavour that will support and complement the qualities in your espresso.

Let's get to it....


It's best to use full fat whole milk when you're starting out, as it's stable to work with and has a higher fat content than semi or skimmed. This makes it easier create texture.

Of course you can use a dairy alternative! Through plenty of testing we've found Oatly Oat milk, the Barista edition to be very good. It's worth trying different brands to get the results and flavour you like. Some brands just aren't designed to work with coffee.

Make sure the milk is cold.


It's important to use a metal jug that is 2-3 times bigger than the cup/cups you're going to be using, as you need room for the milk to expand.

Try and get a jug that has a nice defined spout, as this will help when pouring patterns on your coffee.

Make sure the jug is cold.

Steaming milk


Fill the milk up to a level about 1 cm below where the spout starts in the jug. Purge the steaming wand to remove any water that has collected in the tip.

With the jug straight, submerge the tip of the steaming wand just under the top of the milk. Position the wand off to one side of the jug, at a slight angle, so the tip is under the milk and is half-way between the centre and the side of the jug. This will help create the whirlpool. It helps to rest the wand in the spout of the jug.

Turn the steam wand on fully (if you only turn it on a little, the wand will screech at you!).

Once the milk is swirling, lower the jug (raising the wand), to inject air into the milk. You should hear a "psst psst" sound when you've hit the correct spot. If you get big bubbles, the steam wand is not far enough under the surface of the milk. If you can't hear the "psst psst" then the steam wand is too deep in the mik so, lower the jug.

After the milk has expanded approx. 20% and is at room temperature (this happens quickly!), raise the jug a little so that the wand goes below the surface of the milk again. The "psst psst" noise shouldn't be heard anymore. Let the milk continue to whirlpool.

When the bottom of the jug is too hot to touch, you want to turn off the steam wand. At this point the milk will be around 65 degrees C, which is optimal for flavour. You can also buy an in milk jug thermometer if you wish.

Wipe the steam wand and purge it. This prevents blockages and contamination of subsequent drinks with sour milk.

Tap and Swirl

Give the jug a slight tap on the counter and a swirl, so you can see the glossy shine to your milk (hopefully!). This should also get rid of any big bubbles you may have on the surface.

It's now ready to pour.....

Pouring latte art

Cappuccino foam

When it comes to steaming cappuccino foam, you need to spend a couple more seconds putting a bit more aeration into the milk, but not much more! Most of the finished effect all comes from the pour.

Once the milk is steamed and you can no longer touch the bottom of the jug as it's too hot, tap the jug on the work surface to remove any large bubbles, then swirl, so you can see the glossy shine to the milk.

You then need to pour at a 90 degree angle, resting the side of the jug on the lip of the cup. Wiggle the milk on to the top of the espresso, all at once. The foamy milk should all sit on top of the coffee. Finish with a sprinkle of powdered chocolate. Voila, a cappuccino!

Summary of Tips

  • Start with cold milk and a cold jug.

  • Purge the steam wand.

  • Keep the jug straight.

  • Partially submerge steam tip about half-way between the center and side of the jug.

  • Adjust the jug so that milk is swirling like a whilrpool. Lower the jug (raising the wand), to inject air into the milk. You should hear a "psst psst" sound when you've hit the correct spot.

  • At room temperature, submerge the tip fully and keep the vortex going in the jug.

  • When the jug bottom is hot to the touch, turn off the steam and remove the steam wand from the milk.

  • Immediately wipe the wand and purge.

  • Gently swirl the milk and give the jug a couple taps against the counter to remove any large bubbles.

  • Pour into wonderful art (after plenty of practice!).

Look out for our tips on how to pour latte art! Coming soon!

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