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I have a deLonghi Icona coffe machine. It contains a steaming wand of the panarello kind (with a hole in the top that automatically injects air). I tried to steam the milk to create a microfoam that would behave correctly when pouring into coffee. No success though.

My question is - is it possible to make a correct foam that would create latte-art on pouring with this kind of wand? Or do I need a machine with other wand type?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes, you can. And it is not too easy.

Microfoam has small bubbles by definition and the panarello wand will draw a 'certain' amount of air and you can't really control that part. The notes below might help you get there. I have successfully done this with the panarello wands of automatic Saeco machines which aren't too different from deLonghi.

  • Run your steam wand in a cup water first until it's fully producing steam and not spuddering hot water mixed with steam.
  • Use a small Stainless Steel Milk Frothing Pitcher. If the wand is trying to blow steam and air in for a long time, you'll end up with big bubbles. That wand is not as powerful as a commercial espresso machine with a proper boiler.
  • 'Stretch' the froth only for a few seconds in the beginning.
  • Keep the wand off-center in the pitcher to encourage circulation (see next point).
  • Most important: make sure you create a whirlpool to circulate the milk (helps to gently move the pitcher in a circular motion to encourage the start of the whirlpool).
  • I use the fattiest milk I can find.

The trick is to move the milk in a circulation such that big bubbles break and only microbubbles survive. Some microfoam creation also happens at the vortex of the whirlpool.

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Finally, before pouring the foamed milk, knock the pitcher on the counter a couple of times (presumably to remove the large bubbles) and swirl it around a bit (while the bottom remains firm on the counter). –  Itamar Jul 2 '13 at 3:48
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