If you have been trying to experience that barista-quality coffee at home using a dedicated milk frother, then you’ve probably realised that the nice frothy milk you usually get really does make a difference to the end product.
So, you decided one day that you were going to attempt it, only to be faced with milk at the end which has barely a bubble in it. Is it the milk you are using? Your technique? Equipment?
Well, it could be a mix of all three, actually. There is an art to getting a decent froth, but if you aren’t using the right equipment, then even the finest baristas would struggle.
What To Look For When Frothing Milk
You know your barista gets it just right, but what *is* right? Actually, frothed milk is a tad more scientific than you’d imagine (but don’t be put off making your own!)
The best frothy milk creates microfoam, which is tiny bubbles that are barely visible
- Velvet Texture
Frothed milk should be a lot creamier, and smoother to drink
- Increased Volume
A good telltale sign whether your milk has actually frothed is that it will often as much as double in size. If you end up with the same volume at the end as at the start, something has gone wrong
How To Froth Milk At Home
The first thing to mention is that the equipment you use can vary widely. For some people with an espresso or bean-to-cup machine, there will be a milk frother wand attached to your machine. You can then froth your milk in a separate milk jug.
Or, if your machine doesn’t have this, you can use a handheld frothing wand (which is similar to a whisk except does all of the hard work for you). There are also automatic milk frothers which can do the frothing at the press of a button (they do lack personal control, but the froth is usually top quality and it can usually heat the milk as well).
You can even use a french press to do it, pumping until the milk doubles in volume, although this isn’t ideal if you will also need it for your coffee straight after! Dedicated milk frothers which use this same method are available from brands such as Bodum, however.
Which would we pick? We would opt for the automatic frother if you are unsure what you are doing and also want to heat the milk, but the handheld wands are a good budget pick if you’re willing to practice.
Using A Coffee Machine Steam Wand:
A wand like the one in the picture above can come on most espresso or bean to cup machines and is a great tool to have if you know you will want options such as cappuccinos and lattes. They don’t take up extra space, but do need to be cleaned and maintained after every use to avoid the whole machine breaking
- Pour cold milk into a milk jug
- Insert the wand into the milk, just below the surface
- Keep it at the side of the jug to create a vortex in the milk
- Then, move the wand around to try and remove large bubbles until the milk has doubled in size
Automatic Frother Method:
This is our pick for the best way to get a froth. Easy for you, and professional results. It can even heat your milk if you wish, and they are simple to clean
- Pour your desired amount of cold milk into the frother. Remember it can double in size in the end
- Set the temperature you desire if you want to heat your milk
Smeg Automatic Milk Frother
French Press Method:
The cheapest way, especially if you already have a cafetiere to hand. However, it involves a lot of arm work and the cleanup can be a pain, especially if you will have to use the same cafetiere to then make your coffee. You will need to preheat the milk
- Heat your milk
- Pour this into the container, but try not to pour in any more than ⅓ of the total capacity
- Put the lid on and push down the plunger repeatedly until the milk doubles in size. This can take anywhere between a minute or five
Bodum Latteo – dedicated French Press milk frother
Handheld Frother Method:
This is another budget option, although requires the most effort from you and can often make larger than ideal bubbles, which means a less smooth result
- Preheat your milk
- Put your handheld frother into the milk and turn on, slowly moving it around
- This will whisk and aerate the milk. Keep going until bubbles form
Handheld aerolatte milk frother
Preheating Your Milk
Automatic milk frothing jugs will often be able to heat your milk to a certain temperature as well as frothing it, but if you are using a wand or french press method, you will want to heat it before frothing.
You can do this on the stovetop, by heating over a low temperature in a saucepan. Keep stirring to prevent a layer forming on the top, then remove from the heat when steam starts to appear.
Or, use your microwave by pouring the milk into a suitable bowl and heating on full power in 15-second intervals until steam starts to appear.
Milk Frothing Tips
- If large bubbles still remain, try tapping the jug firmly against a countertop or similar surface, then swirl the milk around
- The longer you wait to pour, the quicker the milk will lose its texture
- Leave a bit of milk in the bottom of the jug – this will likely be less foamy because it has been in there a bit longer, so it is the best way to ensure you only use the foam
- Clean your frother immediately, as milk will be harder to remove if it starts to dry. It is also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to form
Which Milk Is Best For Milk Frothing?
It can depend on the exact end product you’re after. Whole milk creates a thicker, creamier foam while low-fat and skimmed milk will create more foam, but with larger air bubbles which doesn’t give you the authentic texture.
If you are looking for a non-dairy alternative, oat milk is often the best pick. This is thicker, especially if you buy a dedicated Barista version suitable for frothing as opposed to just pouring.
Soy milk or almond milk can also be used in a frother but the results are often quite thin, similar to using skimmed milk. This will create a less intense milky coffee.
How Do I Create Latte Art With Steamed Milk?
You don’t just want to end it at the froth and be done. You also want the love heart/leaf/swirly design.
It can take quite a bit of practice, but the key is in the rate and angle of pouring. Watch the below video for some tips: