A milk frother is any device that aerates milk to create a beautiful foamy, frothy texture. It may come in different styles, shapes and sizes. Having a milk frother is a fantastic way to explore a variety of drinks. With this instrument, you can make delicious cappuccinos, hot chocolates, and lattes. But how do you use it, and what are the different types? We answer these questions for budding baristas in our guide on how to use a milk frother below!
Understanding the Different Types of Milk Frothers
To froth milk properly, you must first be aware of the different devices available. This is a varied avenue of drink making. As a result, three common types of milk frother are available – manual, electric, and steam wands. We look at each one in greater detail below:
Manual Milk Frothers
A manual milk frother is relatively easy to use and works based on pressure. A manual frother may also be known as a carafe, depending on the design. It also looks similar to a traditional coffee press.
A manual frother typically consists of a milk pitcher, a sealed lid, and a plunger that you push using your hand. The plunger usually has a metal filter at the bottom so that the milk can filter through. These devices are simple to use and don’t take up to much space in your kitchen. They are also relatively easy to clean and require no electrical maintenance.
Electric / Handheld Milk Frothers
A handheld milk frother is usually a small electric whisk. An electric milk frother takes away the manual work and allows you to create foam milk and hot dense foam in no time at all.
These devices are also typically small and easily fit in a kitchen drawer. Generally, an electric milk frother has a handle containing an electric motor. The handle is connected to a metal pole with a whisk at the end.
These devices are usually battery-operated, but you can get ones that charge via USB.
Lastly, we have automatic milk frothers. An automatic milk frother is widely defined as any device that creates hot or cold foam with no user input. The most common is a steam wand found on many espresso machines and coffee machines.
Steam wands typically protrude from the espresso machine and are connected to the boiler. They blow concentrated air that is used to froth milk. Depending on the type of boiler in your coffee machine, you may have to prepare the milk first (which we describe below).
How to Use a Milk Frother – Different Methods
As you can see, frothing milk is not a simple process. It depends entirely on the tools you have. Therefore, we have provided three frothing methods below for manual frothers, handheld frothers, and steam wands from an espresso machine!
Method 1: Using a Manual Milk Frother
First, let’s look at how to use a manual milk frother. These are less common today as most people opt for an automatic milk frother or a handheld device. However, it is still useful to know how to use one.
A manual milk frother works based on pressure and force to froth the milk. The pumping action effectively causes the milk to expand and froth.
- Pour milk into the manual container.
- Chill the milk in your fridge (unless already chilled).
- Secure the frother lid and make sure there are no gaps.
- Plunge the handle up and down for approximately 30 seconds.
- Check the foam’s consistency.
- Replace the lid and plunge again if you are not satisfied.
- Heat the milk in a microwave.
- Serve with your drink, and enjoy!
- Thoroughly clean the carafe and all components.
As you can see, this is a relatively simple process. However, there are a few caveats to discuss. First, how much milk should you use? Ideally, the frothing carafe should only be 1/3 full. This is because the milk expands during the frothing process. You risk making an epic mess if you fill it more than this.
The next thing you should consider is whether you prefer hot milk or cold milk. This is mainly down to personal preference. You can froth both hot and cold milk in a manual device. Colder milk will produce a greater amount of froth. However, you then have to heat it afterwards in a microwave-safe container.
In contrast, hot milk produces less foam. However, it is ready to serve immediately.
You may also want to think about the type of milk you use. Generally, skimmed milk creates the best foam. However, it has the least taste. Semi-skimmed and full-fat milk do not produce foam as quickly, but they offer a creamier and fuller taste.
Method 2: Using an Electric Handheld Milk Frother
The most popular milk frothers currently available are electric frothers. This item is also known as a milk frother wand.
An electric frother is easier to use and also quicker. However, it can create a mess unless you use the frother correctly. You are simply plunging the whisk into the milk and frothing without any covering.
- Pour milk into your pitcher.
- Place the frothing wand whisk head vertically into the milk.
- Turn the frother on, and swirl in a circular motion for 30 seconds.
- With the whisk inserted, continue frothing but use an up-and-down motion for 30 seconds.
- Turn the frother off, and remove it from the milk.
- Heat the milk in a microwave.
- Serve with your drink, and enjoy!
- Thoroughly clean the wand and all components.
As you can see, an electric frother offers a much quicker and easier process. It also requires much less manual effort as there is no plunging involved.
One of the most important factors of using an electric frothing device is keeping the whisk head submerged whenever it is switched on. If you activate the whisk whilst it is on the surface of the milk, you will create an incredible mess – the milk will spray everywhere!
You can check the process and get the desired consistency using the electric device. This is because there is no lid. You can watch the froth forming, see the air bubbles escaping, and continue frothing until you are happy with the consistency.
Like using a manual device, you must also consider if you want to use preheated or cold milk. Again, the milk temperature depends on how you like your drink and how much hot airy foam you wish to create. Remember that generally, the hotter the milk, the less foam it creates.
Method 3: Using a Steam Wand on an Espresso Machine
Lastly, we can look at the steam wand that you often find on an espresso machine. An automatic milk frother is the easiest device to use. However, it would help if you still had the preparation and there is still skill to make the perfect velvety microfoam.
- Fill your pitcher approximately 1/3 of the way.
- Purge the steam wand to remove any excess moisture.
- Place the wand into the milk approximately 0.5 inches below the surface.
- Activate the wand and move the pitcher up and down the wand.
- Check on the progress and continue frothing until satisfied.
- Serve with your drink, and enjoy!
- Clean the wand and other coffee machine components.
This device works by blasting hot air or steam through the milk. The steam will create bubbles in the milk and give it a foamy consistency. Also, the great thing about this type of device is that you don’t need to heat the milk. The hot air/steam blasts heat the milk to 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit.
First, it is important to purge the wand head before placing it in the milk. This is because excess moisture and water could have built up inside. You can give it a blast whilst not pointing at the pitcher.
You must also only fill the frothing pitcher 1/3 with whole milk or semi-skimmed milk. Milk doubles in volume when frothed. As a result, you must leave enough space for its expansion.
When using the wand, it is important it is under the surface of the milk but not too far. Placing it 0.5 inches under the surface should help create small bubbles and a brilliant holding foam.
There is a certain skill to frothing milk using a wand. However, you will adjust your technique and learn how deep to plunge the wand with practice.
Once you have finished, make sure that you clean the wand thoroughly. It directly contacts the milk foam, and milk can easily be left inside the wand. If left, it will eventually sour and create an unpleasant smell.
What Drinks Can You Make Using a Milk Frother?
Decided you want to know how to make frothy milk but are not sure what you can do with it? Dedicated milk frothers are fantastic devices that you can use to make a range of delicious drinks. Aside from coffee, you can also make the following drinks:
A latte is one of the most popular types of coffee drink. It tastes fantastic and has a perfect blend of steamed milk and coffee.
The traditional latte is made from 1/3 espresso and 2/3 milk that has been steamed. Usually, there is also a good foam level of approximately 1cm.
All you need to make an amazing latte is an espresso and your milk frother. You can prepare the milk using a milk frother whilst preparing the coffee.
Next, we have the cappuccino. This drink is all about froth! A latte has minimal foam and is more about coffee and milk. Alternatively, a cappuccino is traditionally made with coffee, milk, and cold milk froth.
If you want to make a cappuccino using your milk froth, it should contain 1/3 espresso, 1/3 frothed milk, and 1/3 steamed milk. The typical cup size is 150-180ml, allowing you to create the perfect balance between the three ingredients.
What could be more delicious and tempting than a hot chocolate with frothy, chocolatey milk? You can find hundreds of different hot chocolate recipes, but all follow a similar process:
- Steam the milk to 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pour the steamed milk into your frother or milk container.
- Add a small amount (one tablespoon, depending on your sweet tooth) of cocoa or hot chocolate powder.
- If you have a real sweet tooth, add a teaspoon of sugar.
- Froth the milk using one of the above techniques.
- Bring to the desired temperature using either the steamer or microwave.
This is incredibly simple but results in a delicious drink. If you want to treat yourself truly, have a pack of marshmallows handy and sprinkle them liberally on top of the foam! You could even add a tablespoon of whipped cream too!
Just remember that whipped cream and marshmallows make this drink relatively unhealthy, but as a treat, who cares?
How to Clean Your Milk Frother
An essential part of using a milk frother is keeping it clean. Milk begins to go sour and create an unpleasant smell if not disposed of. As a result, we advise thoroughly cleaning your milk frother after each use. Cleaning is a relatively simple process, and you can follow the steps below:
- Dismantle the milk frother into its separate components.
- Wash each part in warm soapy water.
- Rinse each part and dry thoroughly.
- Reassemble the frother once completely dry.
This should take 5-10 minutes, depending on how many parts the frother has. Also, you should check if the frother is dishwasher safe. If it is, you can save time and place it in the dishwasher instead of manually washing it!
Take Your Coffee to the Next Level
A handheld milk frother is a brilliant tool if you love coffee. Frothing milk adds a whole new variety and opportunity to your barista activities. You can start experimenting with new drink types and treat yourself to a frothy coffee with minimal effort!