A milk frother is a piece of kitchen equipment (electrical or manual) that makes velvety foam, typically made with milk to pour on top of a coffee drink. It froths the milk by pumping micro air bubbles into milk.
While the bubbles are formed, the milk proteins are randomly excited by the heat – their appearance like balls of wool begin to unravel; protein molecules layer around the tiny air bubbles and these coatings prevent the bubbles from bursting and voila you have milk froth.
The higher the protein content in the milk, the more firmness the foam will have. This is because one side of the proteins is water repellent (hydrophobic), and the other is attracted to water (hydrophilic). The repellent side will lock on to air bubbles and the hydrophilic side attracts to water in the milk. The combined process captures the air in the milk producing the froth we know and love.
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Milk Frothers Work Best Using Milk at Room Temperature
An important part of frothing, mainly for warm drinks, is to froth it at the correct temperature. Under room temperature and the proteins break down so forming consistent bubbles is harder.
Everyone is different when it comes to what kind of drink they like and how they like them to be made. Whether with a certain type of milk or if they like a soft or a more firm foam with their drink of choice.
There are different types of frothers which are categorized as: manual frothers, electric automatic, steam wand, and handheld. Getting your milk to the correct temperature is key in getting a firmer froth and the kind of flavor that’s best for your coffee.
What is the Best Temperature for Milk Froth?
The best temperature that is best for flavor and texture is between 135 -150 degrees. The lower the temperature you froth your milk at, the sweeter it will be, while the higher temperature it’s on the less sweet it will be. So don’t feel scared or worried to play with it and find out the perfect temperature for you. Just be careful to not scald the milk.
Do Protein Levels in Milk Change the Texture of Milk Froth?
Picking the right kind of milk to froth with for your drink is important as different types of milk will give different results. Different types of milk from animals or vegetables will have different amounts of protein. Caseins (80%) and amino acids, sometimes called whey proteins (20%) are the two prevalent proteins in milk.
The protein level will affect the taste of the foam as well as the thickness, texture and size of bubbles of the foam – in short the froth will be more stable and less likely to collapse into a dribble quickly. There are a few popular types of milk that people like to use with their coffee and are great for making some froth to go with your favorite coffee beverage.
- Almond Milk- It’s a healthier option however, it only has about 1g of protein per cup that you use which is low for milk frothing but it works.
- Oat Milk- is an option for people who are vegan or just don’t like, or can’t use regular milk because it’s plant-based milk. It has an alright source of protein in it of 3g.
- Soy Milk- Another plant-based milk that has 6g of protein in it which is pretty good.
- Cows milk, which is 1%, 2%, and whole milk- This is the best milk option that you could probably choose from to froth for your drinks. It has 8g of protein in it so it would make a pretty firm foam density.
There are other ‘milks’ that you can use, but the ones listed have the better protein content in them. Even though some kinds of milk are better to use than others, it’s up to you and what your preferences are or what your health needs are. If you need a specific type of milk then make sure that you can get the temperature right for that specific type of milk.
How do I Choose a Milk Frother?
I know that when presented with more than a few options to choose from it can be a hair-pulling experience, and there can also be some extensive research that its hard to find time for, so I’ve done the research for you to answer what is a milk frother?
At least with milk frothers, there are only 4 categories for you to choose from with some nuances within each category so that helps to take some of the pressure off. They are each different and unique in their own way though so you still have to decide which one will work best for your priorities. For example some may take a little more time to froth with while others are made for usability convenience.
It may be a small footprint or an easy to clean model that you’re looking for. Perhaps you have a tight budget so will opt for a handheld device. And for the more environmentally aware you may opt for a rechargeable milk frother.
4 Types of Milk Frothers
This is a good option if you like to save energy by not having to plug it in or worry about batteries. It’s a pump-style design similar to a coffee press but instead, you have to hand pump it (about 30 times) until you reach your desired foam firmness. Many models are dish washer friendly or need a quick sink wash which is convenient. They make enough for a couple of delicious cups of froth for coffee.
Nuances of Manual Frothers
- Steel design
- Glass design allowing you to see how much froth is being made
With a steam wand you can get a more professional and airy type foam. It’s connected to one of two boilers of an espresso machine (usually the hottest) by a metal pipe that dips into your milk pitcher. Dip the wand in deeply to create milk froth for cappuccinos and withdraw nearer the surface to inject bubbles for lighter froth. The steam jet also warms the milk which gives it a sweeter taste and makes frothing easier. Tapping the pitcher on the counter top and swirling often gets rid of unwanted larger bubbles.
Nuances of Steam Wands
- A pannarello wand looks stubbier and allows for a more fool proof method of frothing.
- Some wands like the wand on the acclaimed De’Longhi Dedica have levers for steamed milk or froth.
Handhelds are another great choice if you don’t want to deal with mains electricity, but they do run on batteries. Batteries generally last for up to a year even on the most affordable models.
Along with being easy to clean and use, the handheld is perfect for deciding exactly how much froth you want – a cup at a time. With this option though, there isn’t a way to heat the milk while frothing this way so you might want to consider warming your milk first in a microwave before frothing it (see my quick guide).
Nuances of Handheld Milk Frothers
- Stainless steel design with 3 blade whisk
- 3 engine speeds up to 21000 RPM
- Travel cases, latte art stencils
- Plastic with countertop stands
An often more pricey milk frother, automatic frothers only make milk froth and are probably the most convenient way to froth your milk. However, they they take up more counter space than handhelds.
Differing from the do-it-yourself frother options, this kind can make more than just for one cup. The automatic frother (like the acclaimed Breville BMF600 XL) is able to automatically heat up to 150 degrees so that it can give you that perfect temperature for a great foam.
Often they are dual purpose creating steamed milk and warming milk for hot chocolate. Simply pour milk into the warming jug and press ‘on’, choose the density of froth you require. They often have safety auto shut off systems should the heat get too high.
Interesting Nuances are Numerous.
- Plastic with 4 modes by pressing a button: cold cappuccino, warm cappuccino, hot milk for latte, hot chocolate
- Stainless steel designs for robustness
- Dishwasher safe jugs with heating whisks and frothing disks, for heating milk or creating hot or cold velvety froth in a few minutes.
There is one more way to get some nicely frothed milk, though this would fall into the handheld frother. By using a rechargeable milk frother, you can get the same results as battery run handhelds, though they’re kinder to the environment as you’ll probably only use one battery.
Some rechargeable frothers have more than one speed to help you get the desired foam consistency. They’re easy to clean, simply by turning it on and dipping into a warm glass of water with detergent. Then repeat in clean water to rinse.
What Drinks Can be Made With Frothed Milk?
When it comes to what drink to add milk froth to, the list is wide, though the final choice is up to your creative tastes. This writer has explored interesting recipes from pumpkin spiced latte to delicious vanilla lattes. The wide range of coffee beverages that benefit from froth will soon be as richly varied as truffle chocolates. Once you begin making your own foam, you can play around with the type of milk and the density of your foam in order to find the best fit for your recipe.
- Lattes: lattes are made with a shot of espresso and steamed milk with the foam from the milk on top and have more milk in it than espresso.
- Cappuccino: similar to a latte, this is made with equal parts of steamed milk and foam as espresso.
- Mocha: this is a good option for those with a sweet tooth. By adding some chocolate syrup to your espresso and milk, you’re set up for a delicious treat.
- Flat White: made with steamed milk and espresso, this makes for a very simple, but nice drink.
Is a Milk Frother Worth It?
Most of us like a hot filter coffee with a drop of creamy milk, though adding milk froth to a traditional shot of coffee adds a decadent extra dimension to coffee. Author: Brad Goreski summed up the enjoyment of a cappuccino style beverage:
“Every good day starts off with a cappuccino, and there’s no place better to enjoy some frothy caffeine than at the Bulgari Hotel.”Goreski
In Conclusion – What is a Milk Frother?
A milk frother creates micro bubbles of milk, helping to create milk froth that is an essential part of a cappuccino, latte and several other Italian style coffee beverages. Adding a milk frother to your kitchen devices can ensure a more rewarding cuppa and fun way to enjoy your coffee. We impress guests by getting out the Hors d’oeuvre and best glasses. Offering coffee beverages with froth is an extension of this type of grand hospitality that shows you care and have an appreciation of a finer style of drinking.
Without milk froth there would be no latte art that we like to see on our bistro coffees – typically lucky clovers, hearts or smiley faces.
Another benefit of owning your own milk frother is you may enjoy cafe style coffees in the comfort of your own home and make savings on expensive bistro coffees.
You can see the answer to the question what is a milk frother? is clear; milk frothers have a primary function to create froth but come with distinct nuances.
Whether you opt for a quick, foolproof automatic milk frother, go electricity free with a stylish manual frother or handheld frother, a new world of coffee creations are waiting to be discovered.
- You may like: Coffee Shop Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe (With Froth)
- Read: Best Milk Frothers For Cold Froth
- Read about: Stand Alone Home Frothers
- Try: Home Espresso Machines
- You may like to see: Best Budget Espresso Machines With 20 BARS
- Read about a 19 Bar machine: Lafeeca Espresso Machine 19 Bar Review (With Milk Frother)