A Whole ‘Latte’ Good

Local Baristas Share Secrets To Fantastic Foam

Posted: November 20, 2013

(Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Harrisonburg resident and James Madison University junior Annika Wilcox makes lattes Nov. 15 at Greenberry’s. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Carolyn Burkholder, owner of Greenberry’s on South High Street, maintains making lattes at home can be fun and exciting — as long as you know what you’re doing.

“It does take practice to do it well,” she confirms. “Espresso machines are very expensive. You can get home models [and] you can get machines that steam milk. I used to do that; it’s fairly easy.”

A latte — as defined by the Greenberry’s employee handbook — is “a beverage made with espresso shots and steamed milk.” The concoctions usually come in various flavors, depending on the drinker’s preference of syrup and amount of foam.

Burkholder says that, when used correctly, home machines should take no more than a minute to make a delightful latte.

“There’s such a variety of them,” she said of the home devices. “There’s the kind that you put the water in the bottom of the machine and the espresso in the middle. You apply heat to it — that forces the steam and water up through it. That’s the way a lot of the Europeans do it at home.”

Making The Espresso

Here are some steps from the handbook for you to follow at home:

 ■ Grinding — make sure to ground the whole beans as finely as possible. This creates surface area for the water to “penetrate.”

■ Tamping — this step must be completed prior to pulling a shot. Apply about 30 pounds of pressure to create an even press on the grounds in a portafilter.

■ Pulling — once the shot of espresso is pulled, the crema — a dense, red-golden froth — will rise to the top. If there is no crema, the shot was pulled incorrectly. Discard the shot, and begin the process again until crema is seen.

■ Serving — serve the shot of espresso immediately after pulling it. Have steamed milk prepared beforehand.

The Art Of Steaming Milk

Before beginning this process, be sure to have ready a fresh, cold container of milk.

Step One. Submerge the tip of steam wand to the bottom of the milk container. Make sure the steam is on full power; move the tip of the wand just below the surface of the milk.

Step Two. Be careful. You will hear “KRSCH” noises periodically through this step. Remember, too much steam will give the milk the consistency of dish soap, too little will create hardly any foam at all.

Step Three. This part of the process is called “stretching.” As the foam expands pull the container down, keeping the wand just below the milk’s surface. This will help build “thick foam.”

Step Four. Plunge the wand to the bottom again, make sure the temperature is set to 100 degrees. Hold the container at an angle to separate milk-fat layers.

Step Five. Stop steaming milk at 140 degrees. Knock the container against something and swirl milk to eliminate bubbles.

Your Turn

Now, try making a latte on your own. Here’s a fall recipe taken from Mother Nature Network:

Eggnog Latte

This caffeinated version from Allrecipes.com falls into the latter group, and it only takes about five minutes to whip up.

1/3 cup 2 percent milk

2/3 cup eggnog

1 shot (1.5 ounces) brewed espresso

Nutmeg (optional)

Pour milk and eggnog into a steaming pitcher and heat to between 145-165 degrees, using the steaming wand.

Brew the shot of espresso, then add to mug.

Pour the steamed milk and eggnog into the mug, using a spoon to hold back the foam. Spoon foam over the top. Sprinkle ground nutmeg (or grind fresh nutmeg) on top of the foam.

Contact Therran M. Dennis at 574-6218 or tdennis@dnronline.com