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Frothed milk is a must-have for cappuccinos and lattes. Which model can create the perfect foam at home?
Last Updated Feb. 25, 2022.
Our countertop Best Buy milk frother has been discontinued. We surveyed the market, hoping to find a good alternative. The Instant Milk Frother is versatile and user-friendly but fell a bit short on customization compared with our winner. For the price, we recommend it as our new Best Buy.
What You Need To Know
A trip to a coffee shop invariably features the hisses and gurgles of espresso machines’ steam wands, which are used to heat and aerate milk into the frothy textures necessary for lattes, cappuccinos, and other drinks. Our winning countertop espresso machine has a steam wand attachment, but unless you have $600 (or more) to spare, a standalone milk frother could be a more practical alternative for preparing specialty coffee drinks at home.
But shopping for the perfect milk frother is surprisingly complicated because there are multiple types on the market. Manual-pump milk frothers resemble French presses, with mesh filters that must be pumped by hand. Handheld wand frothers are battery-powered and resemble small immersion blenders with whisk attachments. Then there are the countertop models: cylinders or pitchers with electric heating elements and small, disk-shaped coiled whisks that heat and froth milk with the push of a button. We gathered 10 leading models—two manual, four handheld, and four countertop—ranging in price from about $11 to roughly $130.
Each product in our lineup was designed, at minimum, to froth hot milk, so we tested the frothers by trying to produce the stiff, airy foam necessary for perfect cappuccinos and the loose, silky foam preferred by latte lovers. We also used the frothers to froth cold almond milk and mix hot chocolate to evaluate their versatility. And because cold frothed milk is popular for iced drinks, we tried whipping up cold foam with each model as well. We rated the performance, the ease of use and cleanup, and the durability of all the models.
Testing Manual Frothers
Using the two manual frothers in our lineup was a tedious undertaking. These frothers required repetitive, forceful pumping of their mesh screens (similar to the filter in a French press) through preheated or cold milk. As we pumped with one hand, we had to grip the canisters tightly with our other hand so that they didn’t move across the counter, or worse, topple and spill milk everywhere. And for all that work, the quality of the foams varied. One model, whose canister was made from stainless steel, was especially disappointing. We couldn’t place it in the microwave, which meant that we had to heat up the milk in a separate container, and it created lackluster foam even when we pumped the screen for longer than the manufacturer-recommended amount of time. It also struggled to blend hot chocolate mix into heated milk, leaving heaps of sticky, powdery residue behind. The other model, with its glass, microwave-safe canister, was a bit more convenient to use and did a better job of frothing milk and mixing hot ch...
Everything We Tested
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Chase is an associate editor for ATK Reviews. He's an epidemiologist-turned-equipment tester and biscuit enthusiast.
Valerie Sizhe Li
Valerie is an assistant editor for ATK Reviews. In addition to cooking, she loves skiing, traveling, and spending time outdoors.