With the rise of gourmet coffee shops there has been an increased interest in the whole experience of buying and drinking coffee and a desire to create frothy milk at home, whether it be for that luxurious cappuccino, the creamy latte or purely for our bedtime hot chocolate, the milk frother is the ideal kitchen gadget for making our very own gourmet experience.
However, with the vast array of milk frothers and steamers on the market, the question for the inexperienced home barista is which do I buy the steamer or the frother the use with my best coffee maker, and what is the difference?
While there may not seem much difference in the two methods, there are differences in the process that will produce the end result. For instance, steamed milk is great in lattes, whereas frothed milk is the milk for cappuccinos. Steaming or frothing can be used for hot chocolate and other drinks requiring whipped milk so it really comes down to individual preference as to which method to use. If you want quality frothy milk you should first make sure that you use milk from the refrigerator, whole milk produces a rich texture but less froth while low fat or semi skimmed milk creates more froth without the calories.
There are a number of gadgets on the market for steaming/frothing milk, some come with the coffee machines for that all in one experience and some are stand alone gadgets made purely for the function of frothing milk. There is also the plunger where milk is pumped up and down in a jug by hand after heating, either on the stove or in the microwave. The easiest option is the hand held battery operated whisk if you want the occasional frothed drink, or if you don’t want your kitchen cluttered up with machines.
Best Way To Froth Milk at Home
Listed below are ways to froth milk at home using the different frothers/steamers available on the market today.
1. The Coffee Machine
If you are a serious coffee drinker and you love frothed milk with your coffee then the coffee machine/frother is for you as it is all in one place and easy to use. The best milk frother can also be used on its own for other milky drinks. You can steam or froth milk with this machine depending on what type of coffee you require.
For steamed milk simply place the steam wand on your machine just under the surface of the milk at an angle, the placement of the arm will determine the quality and amount of foam produced. Turn the steam power on while keeping the wand away from the center of the milk so that it creates a vortex. This will heat the milk and keep it spinning to give it a richer texture while injecting air into it to produce creamy milk.
Little or no hissing sound will indicate that the steam arm is in the right place, the milk should reach around 150 – 160 degrees otherwise a higher temperature will result in a burnt flavor to the coffee. If you can’t accurately guess the temperature of the milk with your hand then a thermometer can be used while you steam the milk. Steamed milk is less dense than frothed milk but will still produce a topping of foam and it should form a rich texture that can be poured and shaped.
Frothing milk is almost the same as steaming milk with this type of appliance, but it’s the placement of the steam wand which produces the froth and determines the quality and amount produced. Place the wand just under the surface of the milk as you would when steaming, and then turn the steam power on. Continually lower the jugs as the milk expands in volume and almost pull the wand out of the milk to coax the froth from the milk.
You will know when the tip of the wand is in the right place when you hear a distinctive hissing sound; this will create small bubbles that will become the foam on your cappuccino. The thickness of the foam will depend on the amount of time you leave the wand in the milk. Never fill your jug more than half full when frothing milk as it expands more than when milk is steamed.
2. Electric Milk Frothers
If you don’t drink lots of coffee but love frothy milk drinks then the electric milk frother would be an ideal gadget to invest in, as it’s suitable for all kinds of milky drinks. The good thing about this appliance is that you just simply put cold milk in the jug to the required level, press the button and leave it to automatically froth the milk. It heats the milk to the temperature required and froths it at the same time using a disc which is inserted into the bottom of the pot. It turns off automatically when ready taking the guess work out of frothing. You can also froth a second time if you prefer a thicker froth. Hot chocolate can be mixed into the milk before putting into the pot, and then frothed giving it a smooth velvety texture. Most of these machines have a function for whisking milk shakes and cold milk for iced coffee.
3. Manual Milk Frothers
A manual frother is essentially a pot with mesh connected to a plunger, and it’s simple to use. The jug is filled with hot (or cold) milk and the handle with the plunger is pumped up and down, the milk is aerated as it passes through the mesh and a froth is formed. The good thing about this type of frother is that you never need to worry about changing batteries or having to plug it in or recharge it.
4. Battery Powered Handheld Frothers
These frothers are quick and simple to use, they are great on hot or cold drinks and are capable of producing foamy rich milk in just a few seconds, perfect for that quick frothy topping on your cappuccino or for serving up whipped cream on your deserts. Easy to use, just insert into hot or cold milk, turn on and whisk.
5. Frothing Milk Without Gadgets
The simplest and cheapest way to how to froth up milk at home is to use a clean jam jar and a microwave. Great if you don’t want gadgets hanging around the kitchen or if you can’t afford them. To froth milk in the microwave simply put the milk into a clean jam jar and screw on the lid, only fill with the amount of milk you would normally use in your coffee but no more than half way as the milk needs room to produce froth.
Shake the milk in the jar as hard as you can for about 1 minute until froth is created and has doubled in volume. REMOVE THE LID and microwave for about 30 – 40 seconds. As with the machine steamer/frother, the foam will depend on the milk used. Full fat milk will just produce a fine film of tiny bubbles whereas semi skimmed or low fat milk will produce an impressive amount of froth.
This method won’t work by just shaking the jar on its own, the microwaving of the milk helps to stabilize it and stop the bubbles collapsing back into the milk. Use the froth immediately as it will begin to dissolve after a few minutes. This is a cheap and easy alternative to frothy milk but only suitable for frothy milk lovers who want a quick fix.
Whether you use a machine, gadget or just a plain and simple jam jar and microwave, frothy milk will turn a hot drink into a luxurious ‘café’ experience at home.