Coffee – you can hardly imagine life without it. It wakes us up in the morning and shortens the wait on the train platform. It promises moments of coffee-shop pleasure in the afternoon and the elegant end to a convivial gathering over dinner later. XS or XXL – we drink our coffees short and tall, light or dark, with or without sugar.
The fascination of frothy milk
If you’re looking for a real treat, you can’t beat a coffee with a light and frothy milky topping. The ultimate in coffee culture, cappuccino and latte macchiato hold a particular fascination for us. The frothed milk combines genuine skill, pure enjoyment and an artistic touch. The most talented baristas in the world compete to produce the most beautiful milky foams at international competitions such as the “World Latte Art Championship”, creating real works of art from coffee and frothy milk.
"We have been processing milk since 1895. Developing new applications is almost in our genes."
We have a more modest approach to frothy milk in our everyday lives. We want to create an enjoyable, frothy coffee experience with the minimum of effort. But we still want a fluffy topping that doesn’t just disappear after a few seconds – and the milky froth needs to cope with chocolate powder or a caramel topping.
Wanted: milk powder for the perfect coffee topping
A well-known Swiss manufacturer of Nespresso-compatible coffee capsule systems was on the look-out for the perfect milk froth when it approached the HOCHDORF Group. Two-capsule systems are becoming more popular with coffee lovers. “The growing number of single-person households has increased the need for portion-sized milk and coffee quantities,” explains Christian Fanger, Key Account Manager in the Dairy Ingredients division at HOCHDORF for many years. The advantage is obvious: a carton of milk only stays fresh for a fraction of the time of the milk powder capsules. Then it needs to be thrown away.
Alongside the longer shelf life, a two-capsule system that combines coffee and milk powder to produce frothy coffees also offers other welcome benefits: you need a separate milk pan and a milk frother to make cappuccinos or latte macchiatos if you don’t have a machine that does it, as Christian Fanger points out. These become a thing of the past with the two-capsule system: the cappuccino is easier to make and the preparation and cleaning time is reduced to a minimum.
In search of flavour – milk is not just milk So how can we create a delicious drink with a delicate milky froth from a milk powder capsule? As an expert in milk powder, it’s a question that gets Christian Fanger excited. “It is all about combining the flavours harmoniously. Each milk powder has its own character and reacts differently when it is combined with coffee.” Christian Fanger has no doubt you achieve the best results with the most natural milk powder possible, produced in a gentle drying process. Swiss milk, or milk based on a diet of grass and hay, is particularly good. “The type of feed gives the milk its unique taste and influences its nutritional value,” he emphasises.
Flavour may be the key factor when it comes to cappuccino, but it is still reassuring to know that the milk powder capsules from HOCHDORF taste good and are healthy too.
The secret of frothy milk – it can’t be taken for granted
A good cappuccino or latte macchiato has a balanced, rounded flavour. In terms of taste, the coffee powder and milk powder are equally important.
Without a frothy topping the most delicious cappuccino is just a milky coffee. HOCHDORF, or the milk powder developed by HOCHDORF, delivered the perfect milky froth. “It was a challenge that was made for us. We have been processing milk since 1895. Developing new applications is almost in our genes,” says Christian Fanger. It’s not just about developing the perfect milk powder either; you also have to meet the specifications for the intended end packaging.
"Our employees were able to establish the exact composition of our milk powder using laboratory tests. But that didn’t solve the problem of optimum frothiness."
“I can share one or two commercial secrets with you,” he laughs. To make a lighter froth flow from the capsule in the desired quantity, it requires a powder with specific qualities. And here it’s also important to note: the milk powder has to fit in the packaging, in this case the capsule. “So there needs to be a clearly defined bulk density.”
If it is too high, the powder will spill over the sealing edge when the capsules are filled and there won’t be an air-tight seal. If the volume of powder is too small, you might be able to seal the capsule perfectly but it won’t provide the right quantity or quality of milk froth.
So what about the frothiness? “Milk powder needs to have the right combination of milk fat, lactose and protein to create a really good froth,” explains Christian Fanger. HOCHDORF also adds sunflower lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier. “The lecithin quantity that occurs naturally in the milk is not sufficient to create a lovely, stable froth. Sunflower lecithin also helps the solubility of the powder.” Powder solubility is also very important for the quality of the cappuccino or latte macchiato. If the powder doesn’t dissolve completely it stays in the capsule and the cappuccino or latte macchiato contains too little milk. It might not affect the milk froth, but we won’t enjoy the coffee as much.
Finally, the perfect froth also needs the ideal machine settings. The water needs to run through the capsule at a specific pressure and the right temperature to ensure that the coffee is not bitter and the powder froths nicely: one area that lies outside the responsibility of the milk powder producer.
The process technology is our best kept secret
“Our employees were able to establish the exact composition of our milk powder using laboratory tests. But that didn’t solve the problem of optimum frothiness by a long way.” The biggest secret, by far, lies in the engineering and processing technology – or when and in what order the individual steps in the process occur. “We are keeping our cards close to our chest on this one,” explains Christian Fanger. “And that includes the storage and transport of the milk powder.”
Producing milk powder for capsule systems is a cross-location process for HOCHDORF. The two-capsule system manufacturer now sells its products in Switzerland and abroad. There has been a strong publicity campaign internationally and the capsules intended for export are manufactured at our plant in Prenzlau (Germany). “We have undergone the necessary process and product development for the powder for the second time,” explains Christian Fanger. To create the same product at a different plant is no mean feat, but we have risen to the challenge. All things considered, it’s a great success story for the HOCHDORF Group.
It seems the entire coffee culture with its cappuccinos and latte macchiatos still has a touch of mystery about it. It’s a familiar feature in adverts almost every day: those funny, mischievous coffee agents bringing coffee capsules straight into our living rooms. That’s what coffee represents – an international product with a touch of fun.
- Overview "Brief encyclopaedia of milk-based coffee specialities"
- Short article "The perfect coffee"