First, I cannot say enough good things about the Gaggia milk island used with the Gaggia Platinum machines. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have actually used the traditional steam arm since this machine came out over two years ago. I have found myself making cappuccinos and lattes much more frequently, instead of the good old easy-to-make Café Americanos that I have become so accustomed to drinking.
Like any other milk frothing device, it is important to maintain a rigid cleaning routine for the milk island. Not only is old, dry milk unappealing and unsanitary, it actually can wreak havoc on espresso machines. The old milk will turn sticky, then hard very quickly and will cause reduced flow in steaming devices, undue back pressure, and can cause gaskets and seals to leak. There are no worries with the milk island that the Gaggia Platinum machines use, if you stay vigilant with cleaning the device after each use.
The good news is that the milk island is very easy to clean. If I’m making back-to-back drinks, I simply rinse out the milk carafe with some warm water, until it is clear of used milk, and begin frothing for my next drink. Once done with my first round, I’ll rinse out the milk carafe again, fill it halfway and then turn the milk island on to froth and siphon water through the unit for a bit. This is a great way to clear out any milk left in the internals of the milk siphoning device. When I’ done for the day, I will repeat this last step, take the milk island apart, rinse the components under some warm water and then let them dry in the sink. This whole process takes less then two minutes and will go a long way in keeping everything clean and running properly.
When first using the device, I like to purge any water from the steam valve simply by opening up the steam knob so that steam comes from the steam arm and not the milk island. Turn the steam knob counter clockwise and position the steam arm over the drip tray. An ounce or so of water will come out when you are first using the machine. This process should only take a few seconds. Doing the step will prevent any excess water from entering your milk.
I often get the question, “How do I know when my milk is hot enough”? After many trials, I have found that when I start to hear a sputtering sound during steaming the milk is usually done. This will put your milk temp right around 155 -160°F which is exactly where you want it. The average time that it takes for the steamed milk to reach the proper temperature is right around 80 seconds.
Making cappuccinos and lattes is easy with the milk island as well. The first step is to make a great shot of espresso. Technically speaking a proper cappuccino is 1 part espresso, 1 part steamed milk (hot milk), and 1 part frothed milk (foamed milk). A proper latte is 1 part espresso and 2 parts steamed milk.
For a cappuccino I recommend filling the milk island about 1/3 of the way before turning it on. If you fill it to the max line the carafe will overflow before the milk is hot enough. When in operation you will hear a soft siphoning sound and see the milk start to rise, as heat and air is injected in to it. The milk will almost reach the top of the carafe, and you will start to hear a sputtering sound. This is your cue to turn off the steam knob. Next, take your cappuccino cup, which should already have espresso in it, and starting pouring your milk in to it. Hold back the frothed milk with a spoon, so just the hot steamed milk at the bottom of the carafe is being poured. If you’re using a flavoring like vanilla monin syrup, add the syrup at this point and give the drink a good stir. Once complete, pour the remaining foamed milk left in the carafe on top.
If making a latte, follow the same steps except start by filling the milk island to the minimum level. Once the milk starts to expand, 30 seconds or so in to the process, add a little more cold milk into the island. This will reduce the amount of frothed milk being produced. Once complete, to further reduce the froth, twirl the milk around a bit to break up any air bubbles so you are just left with steamed milk.
I hope this helps answer some of the questions that you may have regarding drink preparation and the Gaggia milk island. If you have any tips or techniques of your own, feel free to share them by leaving a comment.