Everyone loves warm, frothy foam on top of their coffee drink. Whether you like to warm up on a cold day with a macchiato or a mocha, you can use a milk frother to achieve barista-level foam. By choosing, preparing, frothing, and serving your milk, you can recreate your favorite fancy coffee beverages at home.
EditChoosing and Preparing the Milk
- Buy fresh milk. Check the expiration date of milk when you buy it at the store. Choose milk that is farther from its expiration date. Older milk has more glycerol, a natural compound that makes it harder for frothed milk to hold its bubbles.
- Use skim milk if you’re new to frothing. Swap in skim for higher-fat milks as you learn how to froth milk. The chemical structure of skim milk is better at holding foam at room temperature.
- As a shortcut, you can use whatever type of milk you prefer for your drink and then spoon skim foam on top.
- Pour your milk into the carafe of your manual frother. Fill your carafe or another container (if your frother is electric rather than manual) so the milk only fills 1/3 of the volume. This will leave plenty of room for your milk to grow in size when you froth it.
- Chill your carafe of milk. Place the carafe in the refrigerator to make the milk cold. This is especially important if you buy UHT milk, which is normally unrefrigerated. Dip a spoon into the milk after 30 minutes to test the temperature on your wrist. Remove the milk from the fridge when it is cold to the touch.
- You can froth steamed milk, but it will make less froth. It’s best to froth the milk then heat it if you’d like your foam to be hot.
- There is not a particular temperature your milk needs to be chilled to.
EditFrothing the Milk Manually
- Replace the lid of the frother. Check the edge of the carafe to make sure the top has fit into place and that there is no gap between the lid and the carafe. Placing the top on improperly can cause a big mess when you froth!
- Plunge the handle up and down for 30 seconds. Hold the carafe firmly with your nondominant hand as you pump the plunger into the milk with your dominant hand. It may require more strength to pump the milk as the foam builds, which is normal.
- Check the foam’s consistency. Lift the top off the carafe, and look at the milk. Some people prefer their milk only slightly foamy, while others prefer lots of foam. If your milk hasn’t reached your desired consistency, plunge it for up to 30 seconds more.
- Don’t plunge your milk for longer than 1 minute total by hand. Over frothing your milk can cause the air bubbles you’ve developed to break down.
- Remove the lid of the carafe. Tap the whisk at the bottom of the plunger on the edge of the carafe. This will shake any excess froth into the container.
- Swirl the carafe in a circular motion once. Tap the bottom of the carafe on the counter once to remove excessively large air bubbles. Your foam will settle a little bit, which is okay. Your milk is now ready to heat and serve.
EditUsing an Electric Frother
- Hold your frothing wand vertically with the head inserted in the milk. Check that the head of the wand is fully submerged in the milk, and turn the wand to on.
- If the wand has multiple speeds, turn it on high.
- Swirl the wand in a circular motion for 30 seconds. Keep the head of the wand near the bottom of the carafe as you begin whipping the foam. You will see bubbles forming.
- Change to an up-and-down motion for another 30 seconds. Keep the head of the wand beneath the surface of the milk at all times to avoid creating a mess. The milk will become foamier during this last 30 seconds. Switch the wand to off.
- Tap the wand on the side of the container to remove any excess foam. The foam created by an electric wand is finer, so avoid swirling or tapping your carafe. Your milk is now ready to heat and serve.
EditHeating and Serving the Foam
- Microwave your frothed milk for 30-40 seconds. If your carafe is made of metal, gently pour your milk into a microwave-safe container. If your carafe is microwave safe, you can pop it directly in the microwave. Check the milk every 30 seconds until you reach your desired temperature.
- Overheating your milk can cause it to scald, affecting the flavor. Avoid heating your milk to the point of boiling.
- Remove the milk from the microwave. Wear an oven mitt or use a tea towel to remove your hot container from the microwave. Handle the milk as if it is very hot—it probably is!—to prevent accidental burns.
- Use a spoon to lift the foam onto your favorite coffee drinks. If you’d like some hot milk in your coffee in addition to just the foam, pour your frothed milk slowly into your cup so the foam doesn’t collapse.
- Treating your frothed milk gently will prevent it from losing air.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Milk frother
- Skim milk
- Oven mitt
- Manual frothers require more physical effort than electric ones, but they can give you more control over the final result.
- Most milk substitutes, such as soy, rice, and almond milks, will not froth as well as cow’s milk.
- Handle hot beverages with care to avoid burns.