So, you’ve nailed the perfect espresso; the grind size, the dial-in, the crema…
You’ve paid hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds for your snazzy, new bean-to-cup coffee machine. You’re really onto something here.
However, with over 65% of people drinking their coffee with milk these days, nailing the perfect milk is just as, if not more important as the espresso itself.
Choosing the Right Milk Pitcher for You
If you had asked me how many variations of a milk jug there could be at the beginning of my coffee journey, I would have probably said 10, maximum. Like how varied can a standard jug get?
They’re simple. Made up of three main compartments, right?!
A spout. A handle. And a body.
Well today I can tell you, 10 was wrong. Very, very wrong. Laughable actually.
In fact, no two milk pitchers are the same.
From the branding, size, weight and colour to the handle-to-spout alignment and body proportions, every milk pitcher is unique. This makes the task of locating the perfect milk pitcher for your needs and skillsets, quite a tricky one.
You’ll be pleased to know, that with my first-hand research and the back-up knowledge of over 100 global latte artists, I have put together this blog to guide you through the lengthy process to find the most ideal milk jug for you. A ‘help you find a needle in a haystack’ type of guide.
Let’s start things off with the different shapes and sizes of milk pitchers you’ll find.
Most milk pitchers will come in 3 sizes: 400ml, 600ml and 900ml. Generally, you want your pitcher to be about 2-3 times the size of the cup that you’re pouring into.
The milk should sit just below the base of the spout and about one-third up the height of the jug. This should allow for the steam wand to submerge beneath the milk, creating microfoam, whilst not being too full that it overflows. No-one wants to be soaked in warm milk, let’s be honest.
The width and shape of the jug plays a big part too.
When it comes to the frothing of the milk, the aim is to create microfoam. Microfoam is fine-textured heated milk which is velvety and smooth in consistency and used to create latte art. To get the best results with your microfoam, you need to focus on creating a whirlpool with the milk in the milk pitcher.
The more width your jug has, the more room there is to create a substantial whirlpool and better microfoam. A jug that is too narrow, may mean there is insufficient room for the milk to move around.
So be wise when researching, the body of the jug is paramount to the end milk-frothing process.
The next element to consider is a bit more technical.
The gauge size of your milk pitcher.
But what does this mean, I hear you ask?
Well let me tell you.
The gauge size refers to the width of the material that the pitcher is made from. The best way to determine the gauge size of your jug is to look at the pitcher from above and feel the thickness of the outside rim.
And what gauge size should you be looking for in the perfect milk pitcher?
Well, over 57% of the professional latte artists we asked said their ideal milk pitcher gauge ranged from 0.7mm - 0.8mm. This is a lot thinner than many on the market currently.
A thinner gauge makes for a more lightweight jug, a lot easier to manoeuvre. As well as this, the less material between your hand and the milk during the frothing process means you can gain a more accurate monitoring of how hot the milk is. No more burnt milk!
The Barista Pro Pitcher is a frothing jug created especially for latte art, with a thinner gauge and a wide base.
The weight of your milk pitcher. An entirely personal decision.
The best way to find the desired weight for your milk pitcher is to practice with a few options.
Some latte artists are adamant that lightweight jugs are the way to go, they reason that they are easier to guide with their wrist when creating intricate latte art. Others swear by a heavier milk jug, explaining that the added weight allows them to create bigger, more brash movements in their designs. Some don’t even have a preference.
From the professional latte artists, I spoke to, I found over 65% of them like their steam milk jugs to be light in weight. Maybe this is a good place to start if you’re unsure.
When it comes to the material of your milk pitcher, stainless steel is the one you want. No questions asked.
Stainless steel is super effective at retaining heat and is incredibly durable; a desirable characteristic for a milk pitcher due to the volume of washing and heat it will undergo during its lifetime.
Many new milk pitchers are also finished with Teflon Coating. This offers a further level of insulation and protection between your hands and the hot milk. Oh, and not to mention, it makes it look pretty!
72% of latte artists agree that the spout is the most important feature of a milk pitcher – now that’s a huge claim to make!
The spout ultimately determines the pouring style for the milk, including its accuracy, speed, and texture. A poorly crafted spout can hinder the whole latte art process.
When you’re eyeing up the best spout for your milk pitcher, think about whether your designs would benefit best from having a sharp, pointed spout or a shallow, wide spout. The more intricate the latte art design, the narrower and more pointed you want your pouring spout to be.
Another factor to identify is the handle-to-spout alignment.
A great spout is pointless when the handle does not line up with the spout accurately. With a poor alignment, the milk will simply not flow in the direction you think it is going to. Always check the description and reviews for milk pitchers you buy, the greater guaranteed alignment accuracy, the more success you’ll have.
Speaking of handles, how essential are they?!
Another individual preference but I personally think, milk pitchers with a sturdy handle are more effective than those without. 83% of latte artists globally also agree with this, preferring to opt for a milk pitcher with a handle over one without.
The addition of a handle can allow for greater precision and a higher level of grip when it comes to the acts of frothing and drawing with the milk.
Ideally, the handle will be integrated within the main body of the jug, increasing the overall sturdiness and longevity of the milk pitcher.
The final attribute to consider is how does the milk pitcher actually look? Is it a product you’d be happy displaying on your shelf, above your beautiful, expensive coffee machine?! Is the coloured milk jug the best one for you? Does it compliment your other barista accessories?
And how does it feel in your hands? Is it naturally a good fit? Does it feel nice when you’re steaming and frothing milk?
If the answers are a yes, then you’re already onto a winner.