Those of you who enjoy a luxurious desert-style beverage may be wondering; can you froth half-and-half?
The good news for those who crave a creamy, cholesterol-laden caffeinated drink is that, yes, you can!
In this article, we’ll cast aside our calorie counters and dip into the world of half-and-half based coffee drinks. The diet starts tomorrow, right?
What’s in a name?
Frothed half-and-half already appears on the menu in good coffee shops, although it’s not one of the most popular options out there.
As you know, most espresso beverages have a milk base. But just as there many different coffee beans, there are a number of different forms of milk. Here’s what you’ll see on a true barista menu:
- Latte – a drink made with whole milk
- Breve – a drink made with half-and-half
- Crème – a drink made with heavy cream
- Con panna – a drink made with whip cream
- Dry – means a drink made with foamed milk only, no liquid
You can also choose a rice latte or a soy latte instead of regular milk.
So, a breve is a creamy, thick cappuccino beverage that’s made with half-and-half. The half-and-half creates a creamy foam that works really well when mixed with a shot or two of espresso. Although some people habitually sweeten their coffee, the breve is often sweet enough without any enhancement.
So, now that we’ve expanded your barista vocabulary and coffee creation horizons, we’re going to explain the method for frothing half-and-half so that you can create the perfect breve cappuccino.
It’s Getting Steamy
In any espresso-based milk drink, the milk element must be steamed in order to create the trademark froth and foam we all love.
Steamed milk is created by exposing the milk (or in this case the half-and-half) to high pressured steam from an espresso machine. As steam is slowly introduced into the milk, the natural fats in the milk expand to form a layer of tiny milk bubbles called, “micro-foam.”
The silky-smooth result of this process gives you improved texture and taste, making it ideal for creating a whole range of espresso-based “breve” dessert drinks, as well as the traditional cappuccino version.
Now, this all sounds pretty straightforward. But as every aspiring home barista knows, nailing the right technique is everything, especially when working with a thicker, more fat-rich milk such as half-and-half.
How to Froth Half-and-Half
To get frothy with your half-and-half, you’ll need the following kit:
- Coffee machine with steam wand/arm
- Milk jug
- Milk thermometer
For best results, always use fresh, cold half-and-half. Although you could try using a handheld milk frother, you won’t get the same result as you will with a steam wand.
Step 1: Fill your milk jug
Okay, so this sounds like we’re teaching grandma to suck eggs. However, it’s essential that you do this right for best results.
Fill the jug with half-and-half until the surface of the liquid touches the lower “V” of the jug spout.
Fill the jug too full and there won’t be space for the milk to expand to create foam. Use too little, and you’ll be tempted to overdo the foaming process, ruining the texture of the result.
Step 2: “Stretching”
Now you need to “stretch” the half-and-half.
Stretching refers to the process of turning on the steam and introducing it to the half-and-half. The stretching process creates “micro-foam,” tiny bubbles within the half-and-half, by slowly introducing air into the liquid.
Place the steam wand a fraction below the surface of the half-and-half. Listen out for that characteristic hissing sound that’s a trademark of coffee houses.
Keep the steam wand in the milk for about five seconds only. At this stage, you only need to introduce a small amount of air to create foam, so don’t go mad and overdo it.
Step 3: Spinning
Once you’ve stretched the half-and-half, you can move on to the next stage, “spinning.”
Spinning involves immersing the steam wand another 1/5th of an inch into the half-and-half. As the liquid spins, the hissing sound will disappear as the air bubbles within it are eaten up by the steam wand.
Spinning “polishes” the half-and-half by mixing the micro-foam into the liquid.
To create the perfect whirlpool effect that’s essential for good spinning, you’ll need to tilt the jug slightly, keeping the steam wand all little off-center throughout the process. Spinning takes practice, so be prepared for a little trial and error before you find the ideal sweet-spot.
Spin the half-and-half, keeping the temperature of the milk between 1450F and 1600F, unless you’re aiming to create some latte art, in which case you’ll want the temperature a little lower.
It’s crucial when using half-and-half that you don’t allow the temperature to exceed 1600F or you risk burning it, so be sure to use your milk thermometer throughout this step.
Turn off the steam wand and wipe it with a clean, damp cloth.
Step 4: Resting and polishing
Take your jug of half-and-half and give it one firm thump on your countertop. Thumping your jug is not merely a means of drawing onlookers’ attention to your prowess as a barista; it’s to help disperse any large bubbles that may be left trapped in the liquid.
Allow the half-and-half to rest and set while you prepare your espresso shot(s).
The liquid should become thicker and custard-like in texture once it’s rested sufficiently.
Now “polish” the half-and-half by swirling it around the jug. Polishing helps to ensure that the micro-foam and milk are thoroughly combined. Go easy here; you don’t want to make new bubbles in the liquid, which would ruin the texture.
The result you’re looking for is a thick, silky liquid that looks like wet gloss paint.
Step 5: Pouring
Pouring is the most crucial step of the whole breve creation process.
Hold back the foam and pour the steamed half-and-half into a mug. Next, pour half the foam on top. The foamed half-and-half will be very thick with air and will hold the espresso on the surface. For this reason, you must pour the liquid very slowly and directly into the mug.
Take the last bit of foam and lay it out across the top of the drink.
So there you have it coffee fan. Half-and-half can indeed be frothed and is, in fact, the main essential element of a breve cappuccino. And, as it turns out, the process is nearly identical to frothing regular milk products.