How to froth milk correctly

Milk froth is an essential element in many of the preparations we make with coffee with the help of our coffee maker. Many coffee makers include a steamer tube, which helps us to complete this operation, and some users even have a milk frother (as an additional and complementary instrument to their coffee maker). However, despite the success of these tools, not everyone knows how to froth milk. Do we know how to froth milk correctly? Do we do it mechanically, or do we stop to pamper the process?

Let’s start by clarifying some concepts first.

What is froth milk?

First of all, we must stress that there is some controversy when it comes to using the terms emulsifying milk or frothing milk. Some people categorically differentiate between them, and some people consider that they mainly produce the same results. We are going to try not to confuse the reader and to get to the point where it is possible.

Well, the process of frothing or frothing the milk is nothing more than, with the help of a vaporizing tube, injecting it with air under pressure and generating some small bubbles, which are responsible for the unique texture of the milk froth or cream. The smaller the bubbles, the more difficult it is for them to evaporate and, therefore, the denser the milk froth. Think of the perfect milk froth as a consistent micro-bubble system. That is the goal.

Suppose the air bubbles are too big and will soon break up. In a few seconds, we won’t have any foam, froth or anything like it.

We’ll see how to achieve this effect later on.

The milk froth is used in various preparations, such as cappuccinos, latte macchiatos (see the difference between a cappuccino and a latte macchiato), or to decorate drinks to our taste.

A good milk froth is not only pleasant to the palate – the emulsion enhances the sweetness of fresh milk – but it also serves to create eye-catching drawings and figures on its surface in what is known as Latte Art.

latte art1

Tricks and tips for steaming milk

Once the introduction is done, it’s time to get down to business. Here are some tips and tricks that are indispensable for steaming or emulsifying milk with guarantees.

  • The milk froths better if it is cold. It has to be done with a series of physical and organic principles -relative to the proteins and fats in the milk- that we are not going to summarize here because it would be too long and technical.
  • A good steamer is fundamental. For example, an electric one will always give you better results and more consistency than a battery-powered one. If your coffee maker doesn’t have a steamer, make sure you get a separate warranty model.
  • Skim milk froth is more stable – containing less fat – but also less creamy.
  • For steaming, it is better to use pasteurized milk than UHT milk.
  • To foam the milk, we should always use a stainless steel container. Conventional dairies, for example, are perfect. Why? Because stainless steel dissipates the heat of the steam better and therefore allows the milk fat to take longer to melt. When the milk fat melts, bubbles are no longer formed.
  • Once the milk has been emulsified, it is advisable to tap the base of the jug – you will see that all baristas do this – to finish breaking the bubbles that are still too big. It is called stabilizing the foam. Remember: a milk froth should be the more creamy, the better. We must make the bubbles very small.
  • Do not insert the steamer tube to the bottom of the milk, nor in the centre of the jug. The ideal is to introduce the tube around one centimetre into the milk, always on one side, and make small movements – up and down, or in circles – with the jug to achieve a uniform texture.
  • The ideal temperature to serve the milk foam is between 65º and 70º.

Practical demonstration of how to froth milk correctly:

And if we want to go one step further or give a more professional orientation to our learning:

IMPORTANT NOTE: During the steaming process, do not forget to clean the tube with a damp cloth after each use. Besides, to eliminate water condensation inside it, it is advisable to activate the steam output briefly, both before and after use.

Necessary tools to froth milk

To get a good milk froth is usual to have an espresso machine (manual or automatic) at home. This type of coffee maker almost always has a built-in steamer tube, and it is rare to find one that does not. Some capsule coffee machines include this accessory, although they are much less common. You can find out which ones by reading this article: capsule coffee makers with a steamer. Most combi coffee machines, which include an espresso service, also have this accessory.

However, you can also have an individual accessory for foaming milk, either because your coffee maker does not include it or because you are going to perform this operation more often and you want an instrument with maximum power.

Before buying a separate accessory, you should be clear about the difference between what a normal milk whisk is and a frother or emulsifier. You can see a lot of models in our online store of milk frothers, but here are some hints:

A milk frother consists of a wire with some rods at one end. The whisk is applied directly to the milk, and when you start it up, the rods start spinning at such a speed that they will end up forming air and the consequent bubbles in the liquid. It works similarly to a small-scale mixer.

Electric induction milk frother or emulsifying machines have a more sophisticated operation. They also have a rotor that makes the wires spin, but they are also capable of heating the milk and therefore obtaining a more stable and dense emulsion. They are not applied to the milk, but we have to pour the milk inside and start them up.

It is what they look like:

And lastly, of course, a stainless steel milk jug, which is the container in which we are going to work. In the article that we link from our website, you have much more detailed information about this accessory, apart from a complete online store to purchase any model of jug you need.

Frothing milk without machine

If you don’t have a steamer accessory at home, or a coffee maker with a milk frother, which is most common, you don’t have to give up creating a good milk froth or cream for your cappuccinos. There are other alternative methods, which we will explain below:

1 – First of all, you can use a wire whisk, which is the traditional method for creaming milk and the one that has been used all your life. You can see how it is done in the following video:

2 – The second method of frothing the milk without a steamer is to use a jug. Fill the jug with milk up to halfway, and make sure it is tightly closed (airtight). If the carafe is made of glass, so much, the better. That way, you can see the result from the outside.

Then shake the jug vigorously for 30 seconds. When you have created the foam (now the jug should be almost full), finish the process by uncovering the jug and heating it for a few seconds in the microwave. It will make the cream settle and stay on top of the milk.

In this video, they explain it to you in detail:

After these explanations, you have excuses for knowing how to froth milk correctly. All you have to do is get the right instruments, practice a lot and enjoy!