Reducing Steam Pressure?

Tips and Tricks you have discovered with your S1, VII, Mini-VII, Dream, or Dream T that lets you do any aspect of coffee making, steaming, maintenance, etc better.
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Endo
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Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:50 am

As many have already pointed out, getting good microfoam is very difficult on the S1. I believe it is even harder on the Mini due to the "on/off" nature of the steam lever.

I have had much better results when I have reduced the number of tip holes from 4 to 2 by plugging them with toothpicks (see photos below).

I believe I may be able to achieve the same result if I had a way to reduce the steam pressure in the steam boiler. My machine is currently on the edge of the "red zone" at 1.4 bar and I would like to reduce it to 1.3 or 1.2 bar. Since the steam pressure is controlled by a temperature probe rather than an adjustable pressure-stat, is there a way to adjust this somehow or am I stuck playing with the tip holes?

I imagine I could trim down the steam boiler temp by adding a resister. Has anybody tried this? Is there some software trick I'm missing like the mk1 to mk2 trick?
2holetip.JPG
2 hole tip made with toothpicks
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2hole_rosetta.jpg
2 hole tip rosetta
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Sun Mar 29, 2009 3:02 pm

Luckily I could care less about Latte Art but I don't find it that hard to get nice foam with the S1. I use the 4 hole .9mm tip that I opened up to 1.25mm. As I noted previously the "1.3mm" tip is actually 1.5mm so this is a nice compromise. My machine cuts off just before the 1.35 red line & settles at 1.3. Never used the paddle but the S1 knob allows you to dial in as little or as much steam as you want.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:52 pm

All foam seems fine.... until you try to do Latte Art. :grin:

While I don't drink Lattes either, I like the challenge of making nice art for my wife and friends.

I'm sure making the holes bigger than 0.9mm (or whatever it is I currently have on my current 4-hole tip) would be opposite from what I am trying to achieve. (Based on my experience with the 3 hole 1.3mm tip).

Have a read through this post on H-B and you'll see a comment where someone says 0.8mm is maximum, and the only way he achieved microfoam on a Oscar is by blocking 3 of the 4 holes. This sounds very familiar.

http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-ma ... t6581.html

I have never tried the S1 steam knob, but it seems like it would be easier compared to the Mini lever.

My next course of action will be to solder closed some tips and drill a center hole of progressively larger diameters (starting at 0.5mm) to see what works best.

So far no luck finding S1 tips nearby. I may have to order from Chris unless someone wants to sell me some? I'll keep everyone updated of the progress.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Sun Mar 29, 2009 5:03 pm

And as fate would have it....

A machinist from Switzerland on H-B just posted a picture of his custom made 4 hole tip and asked if anybody wants one.....YES!!

http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-ma ... 10425.html

He built a replica of the S1 tip but perhaps he can do other customs.

Does the Dalla Corte Mini have the same steam tip thread as the S1?
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:38 am

Endo wrote:
http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-ma ... 10425.html
He built a replica of the S1 tip but perhaps he can do other customs.
Where do you come up with this stuff?? The tip he made looks nothing like an S1 tip outside of the fact that it has 4 holes in it. Replica my ass!! The holes aren't even the same size.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:35 pm

Ah yes....the JohnB method of asking for clarification. :grin: OK here goes:

The tip has 4 holes. The holes are 1.2 mm (same as your custom tip) but not the 0.9mm stock S1 size (he orignally said 0.9mm in his editted post). It has threads and an o-ring like the stock S1, but I don't know if the thread is the same (but it looks to be). In other words, it should fit an S1.

Change of tip hole size and number is minor so I'm hoping he'll make a custom one for me (not sure of the hole size yet but I'm thinking 3 holes of 0.9mm and another tip with a single 1.2mm center hole). I e-mailed him and I'll let people know the outcome, if anyone else with "microfoam issues" is interested. If not, I'll just keep it to myself.
Last edited by Endo on Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Mon Mar 30, 2009 5:17 pm

He went from a 3 hole 1.4mm tip to a 4 hole 1.2mm tip. Not much of a drop when you factor in the extra hole. I found the .9mm(actually 1mm) too lame for lattes quantities in the 20 oz pitcher but ok for the smaller amounts in the 12 oz pitcher(cappos). I can't believe you need something smaller then .9mm to do any normal quantity of milk. The 1.25mm tip I'm using works fine in the 12 oz pitcher if you go easy with the steam. Remember when you thought you needed p/i to pull a decent shot? Don't all normal tips have threads & an o'ring?
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by oton » Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:01 pm

:shock: 1.25mm tip for a 12oz pitcher? how much time do you steam milk? ...like 0.5 secs?

I steam with 0.9mm tip about 200-220ml in my 500ml pitcher .. all is fast, too fast. Usually my foam is too thin or too thick. It's very difficult to get the right one.

Endo wrote: Change of tip hole size and number is minor so I'm hoping he'll make a custom one for me (not sure of the hole size yet but I'm thinking 3 holes of 0.7mm and another tip with a single 1.2mm center hole). I e-mailed him and I'll let people know the outcome, if anyone else with "microfoam issues" is interested. If not, I'll just keep it to myself.
yep. yep. :bounce: You know that I'm interested if it can help to make proper microfoam.
Last edited by oton on Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:03 pm

Sorry, typo. I meant 3 holes and 0.9mm (a 25% area reduction). I'll edit to correct.

I'm targeting a 25% reduction in area and less spread on the exit angle. After trying Chas's 2 hole x 1.3mm no burn tip, I'm getting more convinced the angle is the most critcal part (a more axial angle gives much better swirl and mixing).

I'm getting a good feel for what works and what doesn't since I now have 4, 3 and 2 hole tips. Just need a one hole to go for a straight! :lol:

I agree there is some technique involved as well. Eventually I'll find the right combination of technique and tip. If you are not convinced of my technique, have a look at what I just did with Chas's 2-hole no-burn tip (see below). Perhaps my Latte Art standards are just higher than yours?
no-burn.jpg
No-Burn Tip Rosetta
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Mon Mar 30, 2009 8:04 pm

OK. Back on topic.......... (Yes, Let's - Admin)

Have a read through this. I think the reply really makes the point about tips! (I couldn't have said it any better).

http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espres ... art/417003
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Thu May 07, 2009 9:17 pm

I bought some of Chas's old steam tips for some experiments.

Here a shot of Chas's 3 hole tip versus the one that came on mine. Quite a variation.
3tip.jpg
3 hole tip variations
3tip.jpg (32.53 KiB) Viewed 15880 times
Which steams better? I prefer the one where the steam goes down more...but that said....both are way too powerful for anything less than a 20 oz pitcher.

Still looking for a tip that will work with my smaller 12 oz pitcher (single Latte size). After trying 6 different tips (2,3 and 4 holes), I'm still looking for something that will provide consistancy (not just too thin or too bubbly).

So far the single hole is the only one that has worked for me. I think it's time for some "single center hole" mods on some of my spare tips.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by BrewHaHa » Thu May 07, 2009 11:17 pm

Endo wrote:Which steams better? I prefer the one where the steam goes down more...but that said....both are way too powerful for anything less than a 20 oz pitcher.

Still looking for a tip that will work with my smaller 12 oz pitcher (single Latte size). After trying 6 different tips (2,3 and 4 holes), I'm still looking for something that will provide consistancy (not just too thin or too bubbly).

So far the single hole is the only one that has worked for me. I think it's time for some "single center hole" mods on some of my spare tips.
It would be helpful to talk in terms of volume of milk being steamed, rather than the vessel size. For example, you use a 12 oz pitcher for lattes, and I use a 12 oz pitcher for cappuccinos. I steam 4 oz of milk in a 12 oz pitcher for a cappuccino; how much milk do you steam in a 12 oz pitcher for a latte? (I'm using the .9mm four-hole on a no-burn arm, S1V1, BTW. Works great when I'm streaming 4oz; works OK - takes longer - when I'm lazy and steam 8oz for two cappuccinos at a time - in a 16oz pitcher.)
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Fri May 08, 2009 3:10 pm

BrewHaHa wrote: It would be helpful to talk in terms of volume of milk being steamed, rather than the vessel size.
I steam 6 oz of milk in a 12 oz pitcher for a Latte.
BrewHaHa wrote: I'm using the .9mm four-hole on a no-burn arm, S1V1, BTW. Works great when I'm streaming 4oz; works OK .
I use the same tip but I find I get foam that is either too bubbly or too thin. I think the bubbly foam would be OK if I could get a better whirlpool going during the rolling stage. The 4 holes seem to resist any whirlpool. I can get the best whirlpool going if I block 2 holes on the 3 hole tip. So far this has produced my best latte art results.

Unless you do Latte art, the foam from any tip would be fine. But for good art, it's a completely different story.

As others have pointed hinted, the stock S1 sucks as a Latte art machine. A simple Silvia or Gaggia is MUCH easier to work with.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Fri May 15, 2009 9:19 am

Here's the new 1 hole tip:
DSC01420.JPG
One hole tip
DSC01420.JPG (25.06 KiB) Viewed 15785 times
I used some a "ding stick" (epoxy) to close the holes since solder wouldn't stick. I drilled a 1/16" hole in the center (the metal was super thin in this area).

How does it work? Well....very slowly (as expected).

It gives me more time to find the right spot in the pitcher to get a good roll going. But that said, the usual problem of having 2 phase foam and bubbles is still there (just to a less degree). I'm now convinced it is not only the tip.

Unfortunately, the only other factors that could affect things (steam pressure and wetness) cannot be adjusted. So this is the end of my experiments with steaming.

If anyone else wants to try, I strongly suggest using the Scott Rao method of using water with one drop of dishwashing liquid (instead of milk). It comes out looking exactly like steamed milk! This technique is brilliant and saved me a lot money on milk (considering my 500 or so attempts with 7 different tips over the last 4 months). :shock:

I must say, at this point I'm very disappointed. The consistant espresso and general convenience of the Vivaldi double boiler has been an improvement over my other machines (like the Silvia), but this machine has brought me a big step backwards in regard to the look (and texture/taste) of my milk based drinks. Very sad. :-( :-(
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Fri May 15, 2009 7:50 pm

Endo wrote:
I must say, at this point I'm very disappointed. The consistant espresso and general convenience of the Vivaldi double boiler has been an improvement over my other machines (like the Silvia), but this machine has brought me a big step backwards in regard to the look (and texture/taste) of my milk based drinks. Very sad. :-( :-(
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by sheikov2000 » Sun May 17, 2009 8:44 pm

I must agree with the author of this post. THe Mini Vivaldi is indeed a terrible machine for steaming milk properly. My older Gaggia was much , much better at this, making great foam, and expanding the volume of the milk in the pitcher, as a result. With the Vivaldi, I never got to expand anything in the milk, and the foam is very, very thin and poor, if present at all. I wonder if there is actually a solution of this problem??? I was thinking of upgrading to the longer no-burn steam arm, which will allow me to dig it deeper in the pitcher in order to produce rolling and steam. Is this going to help, in your opinion? As a general disadvantage, I find the stock steam arm too short in order to allow me to dig it deep in a medium sized pitcher.

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Sun May 17, 2009 9:48 pm

I now own all Vivaldi arms (short, long S5, and no burn) and all tips (1,2,3 and 4 holes).

What works best? Well, that depends on the pitcher you use.

For a big pitcher (20 oz) you can use the big 3 hole tip, but you'll need the longer S5 arm.

For small pitchers (12 oz), you can use the small arm but you'll need the small 4 hole or custom 1 hole tip.

So far, I have had the best results with a 16 oz pitcher, longer S5 arm and 0.9mm 4 hole tip. But that said.....it takes a tremendous amount of experimenting to find what works best (arm position, timing, swirl) to get thing just right. And also a bit of luck.

If that doesn't work....just make a simple "apple" pattern like in the Chris Coffee steaming video. :grin:

It's a shame I can't impress the guests with fancy rosettas like I used to with my cheap Silvia.

I've learned to impress these guests by swirling my crappy rosettas with a toothpick to make a nice pattern and finishing it off with a cocoa heart pattern from shaker (pathetic I know....but it usually is enough to impress the Starbucks crowd).
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Mon May 18, 2009 9:38 am

If he can't expand milk or thicken it with a Vivaldi either the steam valve is plugged or he needs to go back to steaming school. You complain about too much steam & he can't expand milk. Hardly the same issue. Mike McG nailed it in the next to the last post in this H-B thread: http://www.home-barista.com/advice/whic ... 22-20.html
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by oton » Mon May 18, 2009 1:57 pm

sheikov2000 wrote:I must agree with the author of this post. THe Mini Vivaldi is indeed a terrible machine for steaming milk properly. My older Gaggia was much , much better at this, making great foam, and expanding the volume of the milk in the pitcher, as a result. With the Vivaldi, I never got to expand anything in the milk, and the foam is very, very thin and poor, if present at all. I wonder if there is actually a solution of this problem??? I was thinking of upgrading to the longer no-burn steam arm, which will allow me to dig it deeper in the pitcher in order to produce rolling and steam. Is this going to help, in your opinion? As a general disadvantage, I find the stock steam arm too short in order to allow me to dig it deep in a medium sized pitcher.
I made this cappas with my Mini VII. viewtopic.php?f=33&t=691&start=100#p13757 I have the stock arm. I would like to go to a coffee shop to compare the foam but I can't... All shops I know make that stupid bubble soap foam. :roll: Anyway I dont think that my foam is thin. I think the solution to the problem is... practice.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by sheikov2000 » Mon May 18, 2009 3:26 pm

I made this cappas with my Mini VII. viewtopic.php?f=33&t=691&start=100#p13757 I have the stock arm. I would like to go to a coffee shop to compare the foam but I can't... All shops I know make that stupid bubble soap foam. :roll: Anyway I dont think that my foam is thin. I think the solution to the problem is... practice.[/quote]


What shape and size pitcher did you use?

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by sheikov2000 » Mon May 18, 2009 3:50 pm

I also realized that the milk I use may be the problem. I drink a lot of milk, and I know what good milk should taste like. I only drink organic, as it comes closer to what milk tastes in Europe. Lately, however, the milk (whole organic) tastes more and more watery. It may due to the economic crisis, but I suspect it contains more H2O than it should. My taste buds will not lie and I know it is diluted with water. So my question is, if that is the case, could that be the problem why I can't get ANY foam at all?
Here is what happens: I steam the milk with all the skill I have, but at some point I just have to stop, because it will get burnt. Guess what, no froth at all.... so basically I am only able to get it as hot as I want, and that's it - no thickening of any kind and no froth! Could it be the milk???

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by michael » Mon May 18, 2009 4:07 pm

i have also found that most of the organic milks with not froth well (remain thin); i now only use nonorganic 2% and it works well 8)

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Mon May 18, 2009 4:39 pm

I use only organic whole milk & I have no problems thickening the milk. In fact I have to be careful as it will get too thick if I over do the stretching. How deep do you put the tip when stretching? You want the holes just below the surface.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Mon May 18, 2009 5:01 pm

It's kind of like giving someone a lap with an F1 race car. When he crashes it on the first lap someone says, "practice". Well, yeah......duh. :-?

I think it's important people who are considering buying a Mini Vivaldi realize that it is in fact MUCH more difficult to steam with compared to cheaper machines with single hole wands. I wish someone had told me.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by michael » Mon May 18, 2009 6:11 pm

for me, the organic valley brand 2% never gets thick enough for milk drinks; sometimes i can get the horizon 2% to thicken, but not always 8)

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by oton » Wed May 20, 2009 7:58 pm

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by sakurama » Thu May 21, 2009 12:03 pm

Yeah, I think it's just practice. I say that only because I've gotten it perfect on a few occasions which means it's possible to get it perfect all the time - the machine is just that, a machine. I had a hard time in the beginning as I was using a too large pitcher (500ml) and then switched to a 350ml Alessi which is more in line with the amount of milk I steam for cappuccinos (150ml). I have the VII and the .9 tip and when I got the machine I probably steamed gallons of milk trying to get it down with little success, well, some success but not much.

Part of what got me to use the smaller pitcher was going to all the good espresso joints here in NYC so I could watch and learn and almost without fail these places used the smallest pitchers. No one ever used a larger pitcher for a capp or did the "milk sharing" thing. The larger pitcher was just for lattes which I don't care for. So I sprung for the Alessi which seemed too small at first but that's all I use now. The other thing that helped was switching brands of milk as strange as that sounds. Milk that isn't absolutely fresh won't foam - it may still taste fine but microfoam is the first victim of non-fresh milk. Obviously overheating also kills the foam.

The biggest help was the tip I got from a 9th Street barrista that said ditch the thermometer and go by feel which is what I witnessed on my cafe tour. Keep the tip just at the surface making a light sucking noise and introducing air until you feel the temperature just change (5-10 seconds?) and then bury the tip to get a good roll going until it's almost too hot and then quit. This really simplified things and now I get really consistent foam and consistent rosettas and don't think much about it anymore.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Thu May 21, 2009 1:39 pm

Funny you should mention the small pitcher. I just did the opposite.

I just switched back from my small 12oz straight sided pitcher to a bigger 18 oz tapered pitcher and doubled my milk volume (after seeing a Latte art pro using a big pitcher).

I also changed my 4 hole wand position from the tradtional 15 deg angle aimed along the side of the pitcher to a straight down orientation, centered in the tapered pitcher. I find with the bigger milk volume and center wand position I can stretch the milk for the whole time (from 35F up to 150F) and the bubbles get simultaneously rolled in from the torroid effect. A 2 in 1 effect !

This odd technique has produced the BEST velvety foam yet with no surfacing macro-bubbles. My rosettas are looking good again. :lol:

Sometimes it helps just to ignore all those You-Tube steaming videos and just go with what works best for you.
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by sheikov2000 » Tue May 26, 2009 10:15 am

Okay, after complaining that I could not steam properly with the Mini Vivaldi, I thought it is time to correct my last statement, after I learned how to achieve good results :)

The Mini Vivaldi CAN steam milk well!!! Here is what I learned which allowed me to finally get good results - very good indeed. The pitcher must be in the freezer prior to using it for steaming. I use 18-20oz pitcher, not expensive. I fill it half way with 2% milk. I let some steam go out of the steaming arm before steaming the milk. It slightly reduces pressure. Then I only submerge the very tip of the arm just below the surface of the milk. I do not roll, move anything. My milk starts to roll aggressively, and shortly it's done with plenty of thick micro foam, expanding about 1/3 of it's volume. FINALLY, HAPPY ME!!! If you have problems, follow these instructions, I am sure it may help you with the steaming!

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Endo
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Tue May 26, 2009 11:00 am

Yup...that's it! :bounce:
  • 4 hole tip
    frozen medium pitcher half filled
    blow off wet steam for 3 seconds
    wand straight down and centered in the pitcher
    all 4 holes just under the surface for the whole time
    stretch the whole time (simultaneous rolling occurs)
That "angled wand" business they show in most steaming videos just doesn't work for me. I think getting the right milk volume (200ml for me) was important as well since the Mini Vivladi lever wand and 1.3 bar steam pressure is too much for anything smaller.
Last edited by Endo on Tue May 26, 2009 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Endo

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oton
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by oton » Tue May 26, 2009 3:21 pm

Uhh.. Anyone saw my video?

The pitcher is not frozen. Boiler pressure is not low. Wand is not straight down and centered. I'm not stretching all the time. And I get steamed milk, isn't it? :|
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JohnB
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by JohnB » Tue May 26, 2009 8:30 pm

I do keep my pitcher in the freezer & I use only whole milk but I only stretch until the milk gets warm & then I turn up the steam & sink it to get a nice roll.
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Endo
S1 9th Degree Black Belt
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Tue May 26, 2009 8:39 pm

oton wrote:Uhh.. Anyone saw my video?

The pitcher is not frozen. Boiler pressure is not low. Wand is not straight down and centered. I'm not stretching all the time. And I get steamed milk, isn't it? :|
Yeah. I just saw it. Super nice foam!

I never thought of using a stand like that. It seems to work very well. I like the 500ml Motta pitcher. I have a 500ml tapered pitcher and would like to upgrade to something nicer but the same size.

I tried the technique you showed of the angled wand and then rolling using the side of the pitcher, but no matter how much I try, it doesn't work for me. I can only guess it has something to do with the impingment angle of the jet on the side of the pitcher (which varies on each machine). Yours hole pattern looks nice but mine has a hole that exits straight out towards me.

It looks like your milk has a higher fat content than mine as well. I use 2% only. Wife's latte.

I'd video my technique, but I lost my camera battery charger. So no more pictures and video for a while. Cost of new camera $100. Cost of new charger $80. Crooks!
Endo

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Weska » Thu Jul 09, 2009 4:30 pm

sheikov2000,

This is a change of topic, actually off topic, but what harpsichord is that you have in your avatar? Looks a beauty. I once studied that glorious instrument as an adult beginner (and found that I have no musical aptitude but learned a good deal of interesting stuff). What tuning system do you use? Have you recorded anything that I could access? I'm about ready for a harpsichord phase again--listening, not playing.

Anyhow, it's a fascinating instrument for which there is absolutely no substitute, eh?
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Endo
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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Endo » Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:53 pm

Sorry, no harpsichord comments. Just more comments about steaming:

I've done a few hundred of Scott Rao's "dish soap" microfoams in an attempt to perfect my technique. As mentioned before, the 4 hole tip and centered pitcher technique described above seems to work the best to date.

Still, it seems I can never get it "perfect"..... until now.

The last missing element seems to be related to steam pressure. I've experimented with different boiler steam pressures by timing it so I start steaming as the pressure is building during the intitial heat-up. When I start at about 0.8 bar rather than the typical 1.3 bar, it comes out beautiful (very small bubbles, velvety smooth, very long lasting).

I've grown to hate the steam boiler thermastat and wish there was an adjustable steam PID (or even a p-stat like other machines). Perhaps the p-stat is a little less reliable, but at least it's adjustable!

So the problem still remains. How can I do reduce he steam pressure on a consistant basis? I'm thinking maybe a way to do it is to add some upsteam restrictor inside the steam wand. Any other ideas? I'd love it if I could get an adjustable thermastat. Does one exist?
Endo

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Re: Reducing Steam Pressure?

Post by Weska » Sat Aug 01, 2009 4:52 am

OK, Endo, back to frothing milk.

Maybe I'm not very fussy and maybe I have given up too easily. I certainly admit that a free-pour rosetta is a thing that I can only approximate and not very consistently. On the other hand, I always get a pleasing foam that I'm willing to call "micro" in contrast to the euro-cafe style where the volume is really stretched. Typically, my foam increases volume by about a third. It pours well and always permits etching. Sometimes there are a few larger bubbles, but never very many nor very large. A couple of taps of the pitcher on the counter usually makes them burst. At times, if I'm letting my attention wander, I'll get a "marshmallow" in the center that ruins any art I'm trying to produce.

I almost always use a very small (10 ounce) absolutely cylindrical pitcher and make foam for a single cappuccino at a time. Rarely I'll make a much large batch for a latte for my wife in a much larger pitcher. I use the stock (in Europe) steam arm with the four-hole "slow" steaming replacement tip that ChrisCoffee offers. Even that didn't change things much. It only made it possible to concentrate a little less and still get the same result. My Vivaldi is an S1 from just before the II was available and is 220v.

Anyhow, I find the kind of basically pleasing foam I described above is nealy effortless. It took a learning curve of maybe twenty drinks before I got there, but now, like learning to ride a bicycle, I can hardly even imagine how to make useless foam except by overheating it. None of the usually mentioned variables seem to matter. I use very routine UHT 1.5% milk, but nothing much changes at 3.2 or even 6%. I never chill the pitcher, the milk is kept in the refrigerator but still works the same even if it sits on the counter for half an hour. I never pay the least attention to the state of the boiler as I start to foam.

In other words, I don't fuss much and get a decent result without any struggle worth mentioning. With my earlier Gaggia Classic I could say almost the same thing.

So, Endo, I conclude that there should be an easy solution for you without tampering with the boiler so much.
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