Excerpt from a mail I sent to another espresso enthusiast:
To me excellently frothed milk has the same texture throughout the pitcher, the right serving temperature (about 65 degrees celsius) and is without visible bubbles. A milk like that will merge evenly with the espresso and give sweet taste and smooth mouthfeel. It will also keep its structure in the cup for a long time. A latte art pattern will for example be visible for a long time.
I think you just need more practice. My first latte art quality milk was made with a gaggia coffee, and now I feel I can do it on just about any machine without a frothing aid/turbo frother. It is however much easier to do bigger volumes right with a pro machine that really gets the milk moving. On home machines I compensate by steaming smaller volumes (3 dl and 6dl pitcher).
You're probably placing the tip too high in the stretch phase and inserting too much air, and then not rolling the milk enough.
Here's my way of doing it:
Cold pitcher (from the fridge) and cold milk (3,9% fat in my case, but 1.5 % or 2% is fine too)
Fill pitcher about 40% full
Open steam valve and give a quick burst to get out any water in the wand.
Submerge wand deep in the pitcher
Open valve fully
Quickly move to the surface and to one of the sides (see attached picture, with just water in the pitcher btw). Moving to one of the sides enhances the whirlwind motion/circulation of the milk. Be very careful to place tip so it barely breaks the surface. You'll hear a slurping sound or tssst tsst. Keep this placement and sound while the milk expands in volume. This means you'll have to lower the pitcher slowly, but you'll do that automatically to keep the placement. If you place the tip too high you'll get soap bubbles, too low and the milk will only heat and not expand. Keep one hand on the pitcher all the time to feel the temperature. When you feel it is about body temp, move the tip deeper so the milk only circulates.
Close the valve when you can no longer touch the pitcher because it is too warm, or maybe do some extra seconds without touching it if you like your milk warmer. Wipe the wand let out a short burst to get milk out of the wand
Bang the pitcher on the counter and swirl the milk a bit.
That is about it.
PS! steaming with cold water is a nice and cheap way to practice the placing of the tip and too see how the liquid moves in relation to where you place it. 6/12/2003 11:53:00 AM