Edible Brooklyn

A Custom-made Milk Destined for Your Macchiato

Comment | March 26, 2012 | By | Photographs by Vicky Wasik

You can’t buy Sweet & Creamy—a brand new high-butterfat milk blend from upstate’s Battenkill Valley Creamery—at a grocery store, not even a fancy one. Nope, the only way to taste this ultrarich product—think whole milk spiked with half-and-half—is in a latte, a cappuccino, maybe a café au lait. That’s because Sweet & Creamy wasn’t designed for cereal bowls but for baristas: It’s the brainchild of coffee connoisseur Jim Munson, who co-owns the eco-minded Brooklyn Roasting Company in Dumbo.

The space, which opened on the waterfront tip of Jay Street a year and a half ago, is also home to a tricked-out café called the Espresso Lab. Since the beginning, Munson—who served as an exec at beloved roastery Dallis Bros. Coffee for nearly a decade and worked on a different kind of brew at Brooklyn Brewery for years before that—has been tinkering not just with perfectly pulled shots destined for caffeinated drinks, but with the dairy his staffers were frothing to top them.

In coffee lingo, what you want atop a macchiato isn’t whipped cream but “microfoam,” and from Munson’s perspective, whole milk wasn’t rich enough, while half-and-half was a little too heavy. So after a few weeks of bugging his baristas to use “half half-and-half,” he wondered if his supplier—the family-run Battenkill, up near Saratoga Springs—could make the mix for him. “Could a dairy farm,” says Munson with typical profundity, “create a new recipe for milk?”

The answer, says Seth McEachron, who runs the 100-year-old creamery with his father, Donald, was yes. High-volume coffee shops like Blue Bottle and Cafe Grumpy are big business for Battenkill, which started self-distributing milk from its 350 mixed-breed, pastured cows in 2006 to restaurants like Franny’s, Mile End and Roberta’s and forward-thinking shops like the Brooklyn Kitchen, Bklyn Larder and Marlow & Daughters. But they sell more milk to cafés—including Blue Bottle, Milk Bar, Iris and Café Grumpy—than any other kind of retail outlet. What’s more, McEachron adds, increasing the fat content wasn’t very complicated.

Like all dairymen, McEachron defines cream, half-and-half, whole and skim by percentage of butterfat—at Battenkill that’s roughly 36, 18, 4 and 0 percent, respectively. Want to take a guess where 2 percent gets its name? When he makes that, says McEachron, he just mixes the right ratio of whole and skim. So once he and Munson determined the perfect proportions for “half half-and-half”—about three parts milk to one part half-and-half, or 7-percent butterfat—all he had to do was blend and bottle it.

For now, 7-percent Sweet & Creamy Steaming Milk now heads to Dumbo in hand-labeled plastic gallon milk jugs, but the two companies are at work perfecting commercial packaging. While Munson isn’t yet sure about who will distribute it or how, expect it to show up where his beans do: specialty food shops like Stinky Bklyn, restaurants like Dumont and Egg, and coffee shops like Upright or El Beit. For now, taste it in microfoam form at 25 Jay Street—ultra rich and ultra creamy, it’s especially nice with the strawberry-scented bean called Bali Kintamani.

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