Secrets to making coffee hotter

When making coffee with a home espresso machine people often complain that the coffee is too cold, or not quite hot enough, or not as hot as what you would get in a café. It is easy to produce nice hot cappuccino, caffe latte, flat white, or mocha with a home espresso machine. Here are our top tips for achieving a nice hot beverage.

Heat the coffee cups
One of the main reasons for espresso coffee drink not being served hot enough is using cold cups; when the hot beverage is poured into the cup the cold ceramic cup absorbs heat energy from the liquid causing it to cool down. Often people will overheat the milk to compensate for cold cups, they try to heat the cups using the milk added to the beverage, this usually results in destroying the milk by overheating the milk until it splits.

In a café setting cups are heated to a similar or hotter temperature than the beverage so that the cup keeps the liquid heated. Cafes store their cups on top of the espresso machine so that they absorb the excess heat from the boiler. If your espresso machine has this facility you can do this at home too, or for a simpler solution part fill your cups with hot water from the espresso machine or boiled kettle and set aside for a minute or so. Just before you are ready to produce the espresso, discard the water from the cups and place you nicely headed cups ready to accept the espresso and milk.

Expand and heat the milk correctly
It is easy to produce hot steamed milk for making cappuccino, café latte, flat white, etc at home. Many home baristas often complain that  when preparing steamed milk, the steamed foam is achieved before the milk has heated sufficiently. It is important to remember that steaming milk for cappuccino, café latte, flat white, etc is a two-step process and that expanding/foaming the milk is quite separate from heating the milk.

The first stage is the expanding or stretching stage where you inject a steam/air mixture into the milk to create foam; the steam tip is near the surface of the milk and the volume in your jug should basically double. Some heating will occur during this stage, but the main objective is to increase the volume of the milk with small micro-bubbles.

The second stage in preparing steamed milk is the heating/mixing stage; this stage is designed to achieve a consistent texture and eliminating any large bubbles while heating up the milk to the desired temperature (no more than 65 degree Celsius). Bury the steam wand deeper into the milk to mix/heat the liquid, sense the desired temperature using your hand on the bottom of the milk pitcher or use a thermometer if you must, but remember not to heat the milk more than 65 degrees Celsius otherwise it will split.

Use an espresso machine (ideally Italian) with sufficient steam power.
Obviously the most important factor in being able to expand and heat your milk is having the steam capacity to do the job. Many cheap (non-European) espresso machines from big box department stores are just simply not up to the job. Cheap thermoblock technology often results in the steam pressure dying away before you have steamed sufficient milk for two simple cappuccinos. Even the smallest espresso machines from a quality manufacturer like La Pavoni have sufficient steam pressure to produce café quality results at home. Choose a good quality espresso machine and you will be well on your way to achieving velvety hot steamed milk in no time.

The heat is in the milk – do not increase the temperature of the coffee
Most milk based espresso drinks are about 80% milk by volume so this is where the majority of the heat comes from. In fact it is possible to make a quite acceptably hot café latte using cold espresso (not that it is advised). Messing around with the temperature of your espresso may cause serious deterioration in the flavour and aroma. Espresso machines are designed to produce water that is within the right temperature range for producing excellent espresso; it is impossible to increase the temperature of the coffee/espresso that is produced without seriously degradation in the quality of espresso produced.

Recalibrate your temperature expectations.
Espresso based drinks are not intended to be drunk at the same temperature as instant or plunger coffee, in fact it is impossible without completely destroying the composition and texture of milk. Ideally a milk based espresso coffee should be served at around 65 degrees celcius, at this temperature there is sufficient heat in the milk to support the espresso crema while still being cool enough to prevent the velvety texture of the milk from breaking down.