Perfect Latte

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I thought of several utterly corny names for this thing (names like “Whole Latte Love”…groan…), but I decided that since I stumbled on to the concoction quite accidentally, and since it requires no genius whatsoever, I’d stick with the plain old common sense name… The Pink Latte.

I made this using my Most Wonderful Thrift Shop Purchase Ever, but if you have any way to get a shot of espresso (or even really strong coffee will do – my French Press makes coffee nearly as strong as my espresso machine), then there are Ways of recreating this lovely beverage. (After writing most of this post, I’ve decided that the alternative methods will be a second post, since this turned out to be so long and “technical”)!

I should admit that what I ended up with is not even a true latte. It’s actually a cappuccino. A cappuccino is one third espresso, one third steamed milk, and one third frothed milk. A latte is one part espresso, and either one or two parts steamed (not frothed) milk. I’ve included directions for both.

Perfect Foamed Milk:

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(Photo credit – DeaPeaJay)

Always froth the milk before pulling the shot of Espresso, in order to have your coffee at it’s hottest. The milk will retain it’s temperature for longer than the Espresso.

The one thing I know about frothing milk, is that everything should be COLD to start with. I like to pop the frothing pitcher in the freezer for a few minutes while I’m getting everything ready, and sometimes I even pop the milk in the freezer for a minute or two as well.

I used about 1/2 c. cold 2% milk (I think you could get away with less). I used 2% because I like the feel of the higher fat content in my coffee, but I think that skim milk is supposed to be the easiest to froth “perfectly”. I added 1T of Davinci’s Classic Raspberry Syrup. I really used it because it was the only syrup I had on hand, and it turned out so pleasantly pink that I saved the rest of it for Valentine’s Day.

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(Photo credit – Steve Kay)

All you need are two fairly basic items: a stainless steel frothing pitcher (though when I was unable to find mine once, I successfully used one of my Fire King mugs), and a cooking thermometer.

Put the milk in the cold pitcher, insert the thermometer, and place the pitcher under the steam wand. Make sure that the steam wand is just below the surface of the milk, and open the steam valve fully.

If the surface of the milk becomes “violent” and large bubbles begin to form, then move the nozzle deeper into the milk and turn down the steam just a bit. The goal is to get even, tiny bubbles, which means that the milk is developing a velvety texture. It won’t take long till you will be able to tell by the sounds alone if the milk is foaming properly.

Allow the milk to double in volume, and turn off the steam when the temperature hits 140*. The temperature will rise a bit more even after you’ve finished frothing the milk. The foam on top will always be a bit cooler than the steamed milk underneath.

If it’s a true latte your after, then you want steamed milk. This is accomplished by putting the wand closer to the bottom of the milk, and steaming till the milk reaches about 160*. Gently bang the pitcher of milk on the counter top to get rid of the extra air. The texture should be more creamy and thick, like whipped cream.

Never try to re-foam, or re-steam your milk as this will simply water it down.

Perfect espresso:

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(Photo credit – romanlily)

They say that the most important thing about a shot of espresso, is the grind of the coffee. For a pump style espresso machine, the coffee should be very fine, with a texture somewhere between flour and table salt. In a basic home burr style coffee mill, it should take about 20-25 seconds to get the proper grind.

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(Photo credit – Angeluzzo)

The correct amount of coffee (dose) for one shot of espresso, is 1/4 to 1/2 oz of coffee per 1 to 1 1/2 oz water. I usually use my double shot portafilter and make two shots at a time.

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(Photo credit – tonx)

Measure coffee into the portafilter, and tamp.

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(Photo credit – DeaPeaJay)

Tamping is very important because if the coffee is packed too lightly then the brewed espresso will be light and watery, lacking flavor and body. If it is packed to tightly, then the brewed espresso will have a scorched or burned taste. The “perfect method” seems to be to tamp the coffee four times, and a “North, South, East and West format on the inside diameter of the portafilter.

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(Photo credit – tonx)

When your coffee is properly tamped, you will know when you dump the spent grounds. If you spot “worm holes” in the wet coffee pack, then it was tamped too lightly and the water has found weak spots in the coffee. Ideally, the spent coffee should be able to be knocked out of the portafilter while still maintaining a solid “puck”.

Assembling the Perfect Cup:
I often microwave my cup, filled with water before I brew the espresso, because I like it to be as hot as possible, for as long as possible.

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(Photo credit – CoffeeGeek)

Brew the espresso directly into your cup. Use a large spoon to block the foam at first so that the hot, steamed milk pours out of the pitcher first. Pour no more than 1/2 cup steamed milk over the espresso. Spoon the foamy, satiny milk on top of the cup.

Additions:
I mentioned the Raspberry Syrup. That’s what made mine so perfectly pink. (Can you tell how much this thrilled me?)

For a mochaccino, add about 2T chocolate syrup to the milk before frothing. The chocolate adds texture and froths beautifully.

Once the milk is added to the espresso, and it has been crowned with the creamy foam, you can garnish it with shaved chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, or a maraschino cherry.

Enjoy! There are few things in life as fine as a good cup of coffee!

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