Foamed milk is essential to crafting tasty, espresso-based drinks, but making delicious foam at home can be tricky. We recently reviewed 10 milk frothers designed for home use, and we selected a winning automatic handheld model and a self-heating automatic countertop model. Below are some tips on how to achieve different types of foam with our winners.
The Perfect Foam Depends on the Drink
Foam texture exists on a spectrum, with two general extremes. If you’re partial to a cappuccino, you’re looking for one part airy foam composed of tiny bubbles floating atop one part steamed milk and one part espresso (left). This type of foam incorporates a large amount of air, and usually requires more agitation. In contrast, latte lovers prefer a silky, looser foam that is more pourable and mixes more readily with the two to three parts steamed milk and one part espresso below (right). This foam is less airy and requires less agitation.
Frothing with a Handheld Frother
If you’re looking for hot foam to add to a warm espresso or coffee, our favorite handheld model, the Zulay Milk Boss Milk Frother, requires you to heat it first—though frothing at any temperature is subsequently a cinch. It’s best to froth your milk in a separate container from your coffee, then mix the two together once you’ve made foam. Here’s how to do it.
1. Pour milk into your container of choice (milk should not exceed ⅓ of the container volume in order to give foam enough space to expand)
2. For hot foam, heat milk to about 140℉
3. Insert the frothing wand into milk at a 45° angle, positioning the whisk near the bottom of the vessel
4. Press the button and slowly move the wand throughout the milk, taking care to leave the whisk submerged but near the surface
5A. For silky, latte-style hot foam: Froth the milk for 30 to 45 seconds, then immediately serve
5B. For silky, latte-style cold foam: Froth the milk for 1 to 1.5 minutes, until the larger bubbles have reduced in volume and the foam settles, then immediately serve
5C. For airy, cappuccino-style foam of either temperature: Froth the milk for 2 to 3 minutes, then allow to sit for at least 30 seconds for the foam to set up before serving
6. To clean, submerge the whisk in warm, soapy water and turn on for a few seconds, then rinse
Frothing with an Automatic Countertop Frother
Our winning countertop model, the Breville Milk Café, takes the guesswork out of frothing with volume markings in its pitcher, two different disk-shaped whisks for latte-style and cappuccino-style foam, and a customizable temperature knob. Here’s how to use it to froth milk.
1. Select the latte disk or cappuccino disk and install it in the bottom of the pitcher
2. Pour milk into the pitcher up to the volume line of your choice, then place the pitcher onto the base
3. Turn the temperature knob to select the cold foam option or your chosen hot foam temperature, then press the center button to begin frothing
4. The device will beep and turn off when it has reached the desired texture and temperature; serve
5. Clean the pitcher in the dishwasher or with warm soap and water