..... some like is warm. Some even like it from a goat or a coconut. But most of you like it the traditional way, from a cow, added to an espresso.
Milk is such a vital part in the creation in all our wonderful coffee drinks but maybe not everyone knows why. Like anything in the coffee world, there is a certain level of alchemy involved which mixes science with creativity. And no ... I’m not just speaking about latte art.
Milk is formed of many fats and proteins but there is one key ingredient in milk that unlocks a beautiful combination with coffee: Lactose. Lactose is the type of sugar that is present in milk which to be fair isn’t that sweet. On a relative scale, if sucrose is about 100 in sweetness then lactose would only fall at a paling 16. Yet when we Baristas steam the milk, we increase the amount of lactose that is dissolved into the milk, increasing its perceived sweetness. The magic is complete.
There is one snag here, the temperature to achieve this transformation is usually between 63-70℃. This probably isn't the temperature many people are used to getting at the high street coffee chains. The reason we steam it to order at this temperature is because we want you to truly have the best coffee experience you have had. We believe that each component to your coffee should have the same level of enthusiasm, care and attention to detail. Its almost like a cocktail, we add all these different elements together to create an exceptional finished product. It isn’t just a case of pressing a button and steaming some milk.
Of course, I am always happy to make the coffee again from scratch and a little (or much) hotter if required. I would never heat it up in the microwave or put my steamer in your cappuccino and make it hotter, which has been suggested. This is because you have paid for a product and it should be your version of that product. I always try to steam it on the upper end of the Lactose scale anyway, (at 70℃) because somedays it is very cold, sometimes people want their coffee to last longer and sometimes people will want to pop to the shop quickly before they pick up their coffee and I believe you should always try to preempt these things. I am no coffee puritan or snob so its important to accommodate the person you are serving because at the end of the day, thats what we are there for.
However, I often wonder if people had their coffee between this recommended temperature would they add so much sugar to it? Microfoamed, sweet milk is such a delight to drink. Everything compliments each other so well, because I can assure you, a great coffee shop will choose a blend of coffee beans to accompany the taste when milk is introduced. If the milk is hotter than usual the sweetness will be lost meaning you will need to add sugar to reach that same taste. The same goes for skimmed milk. Many components of the milk are removed therefore it won't taste the same as steamed whole milk. It will not have that same level of sugar content/fat (which of course is usually the reason many people drink skimmed milk). But once in a while the whole milk treat can’t hurt, right?
If you want something that can be very hot and still naturally sweet then maybe lactose-free milk is the one for you. An enzyme called Lactase is added to the milk which breaks down the lactose into two simple sugars which taste actually sweeter on your tongue! But as this is a highly processed milk, its removes a lot of the subtle flavours you can get in regular milk. Problem not completely solved.
Thankfully at CWTCH, we have customers who are curious about their coffee and we have an open discussion with them. I would say its always good to cultivate an open, gentle atmosphere where you can share thoughts with your customers and not hold onto information (there is no Baristas magic circle). That way, maybe, people will start to experience even greater quality and strive for it. So the day of KFC buckets of milk and coffee may start to see their last light.
*I believe milk is a very important part of coffee and needs to be addressed, so this is why I wrote this article because I do not see much of this information being available in a comprehensive, clear way. Its also a high-5 to any Barista who was told their milk wasn't hot enough and a peice of them died inside.