The Fine Art of Texturizing Milk

Cappuccino Latte ArtSteamed milk enhances the sensory experience of espresso. A layer of rich, creamy milk is pleasing to the palette and allows a barista to demonstrate an elevated level of espresso sophistication. Milk texture is so important to the specialty coffee business that a micro-industry has evolved around the idea of latte art, where baristas compete nationally and internationally for the title of World Latte Art Champion. Even if a world latte art title is not your goal, mastering the art of texturizing milk can be a major differentiator for your store.

San Domingo Fair Trade Latte Art

San Domingo Fair Trade Coffee Latte Art

Our customer San Domingo Fair Trade Coffee, a full-service coffee café in St. Michaels, MD, is a great case in point. The baristas at this enchanting restaurant and coffee shop have spent extensive time perfecting the fine art of texturizing milk, which they regularly feature as latte art on their Facebook page; As result, the shop has built up a robust following.

Mastering milk texturizing not only brings in more customers, it results in a higher average ticket. In July, The Journal of Sensory Studies published a study showing that customers happily pay more — at least 11%-13% more — for a beautifully texturized latte.

Nick Brown, editor of Roast Magazine’s Daily Coffee News, hypothesized that customers place a higher value on their coffee experience if a barista knows how to texturize milk properly.

“It shows an area of skill from the barista, and I think it demonstrates that the barista cares about what they’re giving you,” editor Nick Brown said.  “Buying a really good latte at an upscale shop and enjoying it there is kind of a luxury.”

Developing Your Shop’s Latte Chops
To help all our retailers develop these in-demand skills, Stockton Graham & Co.’s Coffee College 101 dedicates an entire afternoon to practicing the fine art of steaming milk. Taught by our Specialty Coffee Association of America-certified lead barista, Alex Jeans, participants get one-on-one time with the steam wands on our in-house Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II Volumetric 3 Group Espresso Machine.

Micah and Elizabeth Behan, owners and operators of First District Coffee Co. of Fairview, TN recently enjoyed the Coffee College experience in our Raleigh, NC coffee roasting headquarters. Here’s just a bit of what they learn:

The texturing process is created when pressur­ized air is introduced to cold milk and breaks the hydrogen bonds between proteins. With these bonds broken, the natural sugar found in the milk is easier to taste, making the milk taste sweeter. This sweet taste combined with a creamy texture will help you prepare beauti­ful, delicious, sophisticated drinks that will set your shop apart from the competition.

Stockton Graham & Co. Latte EspressoThe Specialty Coffee Association (SCAA) teaches that there is only one way to texturize milk with one result: A microfoam with the texture, consistency and sheen of wet paint. The difference between a latte and a cappuccino, then, is the depth of the microfoam on top of the cup of brewed espresso.

In this case, the difference between types of espresso drinks—a cappuccino and a café au lait, for instance—is the proportion of milk foam and steamed milk to espresso. But there is no difference between the way milk is ultimately prepared.

A second approach to texturizing can be considered by shop operators. The idea that there are two types of texturized milk has been made popular by large chain coffee shops: One for latte drinks and one for cappuccino drinks.

Those who ascribe to this approach explain the difference this way:

“The distinction is that in cappuccino, the milk is “frothed… into a “microfoam” that is about twice the volume of the original milk. In latte, the milk is merely “steamed.” For latte, the goal is not to create that much foam, so any type of milk works.” The Coffee Brewers, Danbury, CT

The different “techniques” create markedly different textures. The consistency of latte style milk is creamier and cappuccino style milk is foamier. Some, but not all, of these operators also adjust the proportion of milk foam and steamed milk.

Although Stockton Graham & Co. complies with the SCAA approach to texturizing, we share the second approach with our customers so operators can decide what’s best for their store.

Creating milk with different textures requires submerging the steam wand below the surface of the milk at different times in the texturizing process. The differences are discussed below.

  • Latte Style Milk

The latte style of milk steaming is used when the texture of the drink to be created is more creamy than foamy.  When a drink that has been prepared with latte style textured milk settles, there should be a layer of foam on top that is usually less than an inch.

To create latte style milk, submerge the steam wand completely below the surface of the milk no more than 5 seconds after steaming begins. Completely remove the wand when the milk reaches 140-150F. This should take about 20 seconds.

The latte style of steaming can be used when preparing latte, mocha, café au lait, hot cocoa, or flavored milk drinks, or any drink that has a texture that is more creamy than foamy. It usually does not produce a dollop of aerated foam on the top of the drink; so it is possible that the steamed milk and coffee mix quickly and evenly, resulting in a smooth, creamy beverage.

  • Cappuccino Style Milk

The cappuccino style of milk steaming is used when the texture of the drink to be created is more foamy than creamy, or has equal parts steamed milk and foam.

To achieve more foam, introduce more air to the milk at the beginning of the texturizing process by allowing some of the holes in the tip of the steam wand to be exposed above the surface of the milk.  Leave the holes exposed for a full 10-15 seconds before submerging the tip of the wand completely.

Cappuccino style is used by commercial shops when preparing a traditional macchiato, American-style cappuccino, traditional cappuccino, or for any customer who prefers extra foam on top of their beverage. Often customers who request a “dry cappuccino” are looking for a beverage topped only with the most aerated foam, which is lifted out of the steam pitcher with a spoon. This way, there is actually less milk added to the  beverage, resulting in a less diluted espresso element.

Top six espresso drinksTo download our frame-ready Top 6 Handmade Espresso Drinks poster, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Coffee College offerings, click here or dial 800 835 5943 and talk to one of our Customer Care Associates.




Dear Joe,

Everywhere we go we see “Follow us on Facebook” or something about Twitter. We don’t even know what a “tweet” is! Do we need to look at these in addition to our website for our business? We’re a small shop and don’t want to spend a lot of effort or money on some fad. What do you suggest?

Twitter Dee and Twitter Dumb


You should absolutely do these for your shop.  First of all, they are free and very easy to start.  Furthermore, those people that you get to follow you, do so because they WANT to hear from you.  We a have customer in a very small town who has over 600 fans on her Facebook page.  All of her followers are by association…no advertising, no mailing lists… simply through viral interest in her business.  Each week she will post a special, event or announce new products.  We’re talking maybe five minutes or less, two or three times a week.  These sites are also more dynamic and useful than most webpages today.  I highly recommend you start a Facebook Fan Page and link to it via Twitter so you can update while mobile.  Check out our blog at for more social media tips.

Yours Truly,

Josephius A. Graham

How to Build a Facebook Page to Increase Your Café’s Sales

Are you a member of the social media site Facebook? If you aren’t, and your business isn’t either, now is the time to set up a page. Why should you fall ON the grid, so to speak? Using Facebook is a great way to interact directly with your current customer base, increase awareness to gain new customers, promote events, reward customer loyalty, receive feedback, etc.  Ultimately, the goal is to build sales, right? So, how do you create a fan page for your cafe?

1) Join Facebook

This is a rather obvious, but important, step. Facebook requires that you have a personal page for yourself before you can set up a fan site for your business. With over 350 million members worldwide, it’s fair to assume that you already have your own page, however, if you have been delaying your membership, visit the homepage and get started. It’s free and anybody can join. If you aren’t computer savvy, ask a trustworthy and knowledgable staff member to be the administrator for the page.

2) Create a Fan page for your business

Visit the ‘Create a Page’ section.  You will be asked to enter the category for your business in a drop down menu. Under ‘Local’ most of our readers will select ‘Cafe’.  You must then choose to name your page, which should be the name of your business. It is important to note that you cannot change the name of the page later. You then have an option to make your page visible to the public. While you are getting it up and running, I would recommend keeping the page hidden and making it visible only when you are ready to present it to the world.

3) Building a fan base and content development

Once your page is created and you have added the pertinent information, make your page visible and invite all your friends to become fans. Ask your employees to do the same. Consider placing a small sign near the cash register to promote your site and encourage customers to become fans by letting them know what they can get out of it. Drink discounts, event promotions, limited-time offerings, etc.

Here I think it is important to note the potential pit falls with this step. You have to give your customers a reason to be a fan. If the message is just, “Follow us on Facebook, myspace and Twitter” because we happen to be there, then you haven’t accomplished anything. Also, if you have 1,000 fans and  never send updates, again, you will get nothing out of it.

It doesn’t always have to be about discounts, either. People want to see what you are up to. What makes you a destination? You can post pictures of a popular local musician performing to a crowd, a link to a YouTube video of your barista pouring latte art, etc.

4) Have fun with it

Facebook, (and Twitter, and foursquare, etc., etc., etc.) are great mediums to interact with your customers. Not only is it free, but it is so much easier than trying to develop your own website. The opportunity is there so take advantage and have fun!

I invite you to become a fan of Stockton Graham & Co. on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay updated on all the specialty coffee and beverage industry trends, get useful business building tips and to see our specials, discounts and limited time only deals. Also, if you need any help getting your Facebook fan page up and running, give us a call at 800.835.5943 and we’d be glad to provide assistance.

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.

Check Stockton Graham & Co. out on Facebook and Twitter

We’re always looking for more ways to reach out to our valued customers.  Stockton Graham & Co. is proud to announce the launch of our official Facebook page and Twitter feed, designed to help keep you updated on all the specialty coffee and beverage industry trends, offer useful business building tips, increase awareness for SGC events and happenings, and to publicize specials, discounts and limited time only deals.


Also, if you don’t have a fan site or Twitter feed, and you think it would work in your area, I would encourage you to develop one. It’s fairly easy to maintain and is a great medium to instantly communicate with your customers. If you need some convincing or need help getting started, consult the business guides for both Twitter and Facebook.

For any suggestions on content, or to contribute to our pages yourself, send us an email at  We’d love to hear from you and follow you, too!

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.