The time, effort and precision that we apply to extracting espresso is now at a level that rivals the work of some of the great chefs when plating a 'signature' dish. Just as the best chefs insist on the finest ingredients, the best baristas will insist on the finest coffee.
So many variables are considered when extracting espresso that it would be remiss of us to cast aside the variable of 'milk' when creating a milk based coffee. After all, the vast proportion of the coffee we make, particularly in Australia, is milk based. The question isn't.... Which milk is best? The question is... which milk will best enhance the flavour of my coffee? Just as importantly... Which milk will detract from it?
One can tell as much about a cafe and its attitude to coffee by the milk they use as they can about the choice of machinery, coffee etc.
Enough has been said about the chemical changes that take place when steaming milk. Blogs that discuss fats or lipids, full cream vs skim or whether milk can be re used after steaming. This blog is merely to assist the cafe owner to determine which milk brand is the best to use.
Some time ago we tested a range of different milk brands at a range of temperatures, with and without coffee. This was a 'blind' tasting session and the results were virtually unanimous. As we know, steaming the milk heats the proteins and traps the air at around 60 degrees. Its not an accident that that the best flavour of milk is at this temperature. Whether the temperature was higher or lower and whether or not the milk was tasted with or without coffee, the results showed that the milks shown to enhance the flavour of your coffee all contained around 3.5gm of fat per 100ml.
Some milk varieties claim the same great taste with less fat which may be true when you pour it on your cereal but not when added to coffee. These milk varieties often have a substantial amount of sugar added which we all know will alter the flavour of your coffee. It is believed that some brands also add some powder to their milk. I can only imagine the effect on the coffee if these brands were used.
The better cafes place the same level of importance on their milk choice as they do the rest of their coffee related decisions. Its no coincidence that they are also the ones making the best coffee.
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