Frothed milk can turn a basic cup of coffee into a cafe-quality treat in seconds, and is a nice way to switch up your morning ritual. Plus, you can froth milk using kitchen utensils that you already own!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about frothing milk, including how to froth milk with plant-based alternatives and our recommendations for the best milk frothers.
What Is Frothed Milk?
First, let’s define frothed milk. Frothed milk is the layer of foamy bubbles you often see atop coffee drinks. It is milk that’s been aerated with a tool, such a milk frother. Milk frothers typically come in two styles: handheld and standalone.
Why Should You Froth Your Milk?
Frothed milk adds a new texture and taste to a cup of coffee. It’s also an essential ingredient in coffee drinks including:
- Cappuccino: This is a combination of equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk, evenly layered, but never mixed.
- Macchiato: Your standard macchiato has one or two shots of espresso topped with a splash of foamed milk.
Frothing vs. Steaming Milk
Some coffee drinks call for steamed and/or frothed milk. While these two ingredients might seem similar, they’re actually quite different.
- Frothed Milk: Frothing is when you use a tool, such as a whisk or handheld milk frother, to aerate the milk and create bubbles, aka the foam.
- Steamed Milk: This milk requires a special steaming wand (typically found on an espresso machine), which heats the milk and breaks down its lipid content.
While this technique creates tiny bubbles, the key difference is that steaming expands the milk content, while frothing simply foams it.
4 Best Milk Frothers
If you’re interested in buying a milk frothing tool, these are our recommendations for the best handheld milk frothers and standalone milk frothing devices.
1. PowerLix Milk Frother
The PowerLix Milk Frother creates foamed milk in 15 to 20 seconds. And because this handheld milk frother is lightweight and battery-powered, it’s easy to throw in your bag and bring along with you on vacation! PowerLix also makes a set with latte art discs.
2. Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother
This nifty device heats and/or foams your milk—you choose based on the coffee drink you’re preparing. The Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother can heat up to 1 cup of milk at a time and has two convenient auto features: an auto shutoff when the milk reaches 158 degrees Fahrenheit (so you don’t have to worry that it’ll burn) and an auto-on feature when the milk temperature falls below 122 degrees.
3. Zulay Original Milk Frother
The Zulay Original Milk Frother is one of our favorites because of its intuitive design and ease of use. It features an ergonomic handle, easy on and off button, and sturdy whisk. It also has a stand and is battery-powered, making it easy to store, and it comes in 30-plus colors.
4. Breville Milk Cafe
If you’re looking for something a bit more advanced that can also make a lot of foam at once, check out the Breville Milk Cafe milk frother. It comes with design discs for lattes and cappuccinos, and can also be used to make hot chocolate. Bonus: The jug is dishwasher-safe!
How to Froth Milk Without a Frother
If you don’t own a frother, there are a few other ways to froth milk.
First, you’ll need to heat your milk over a stove or in a microwave.
- Microwave: Pour your milk into a microwave-safe dish and heat in 15 second increments, pulling the bowl out to mix in between. (Remember to use oven mitts!) When you begin to see steam rising from the milk, it is ready to be frothed.
- Stove: There are two ways you can use your stove to heat milk: the double broiler method (milk in a double broiler pan) or by placing a heat-proof bowl (such as a glass dish) over a pan of hot water. In either scenario, you’ll wait for the milk to begin steaming and forming micro bubbles on the edges of the pan before removing from the heat.
Next, use one of the following methods to froth without a milk frother:
Jar: Fill a mason jar about half full, tightly secure the lid, and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds, as this will stabilize your foam.
Whisk: You’ll need a little extra elbow grease for this one, but frothing milk with a whisk can be done! Vigorously whisk your milk back and forth until you see foam. You can also do this in tandem with heating your milk on the stove.
Electric Mixer: You won’t have to work as hard with this method! Place your warmed milk in a bowl and use your handheld or stand mixer to whisk the milk on a low to medium speed until it produces the desired foam.
Immersion Blender: Have an immersion blender you use for smoothies and soups? You can use it for your latte, too! Simply place the head of the blender below the surface of the warmed milk until a foam has formed; this takes one or two minutes at most.
French Press: Yes, your French press can make foam! Simmer your milk on the stove (just like you do with your water for coffee) before pouring the milk into the French press. Next, put the lid on the French press, holding it in place as you move the plunger up and down. It will double in volume as the air essentially puffs it up.
How to Froth Almond Milk & Other Plant-Based Alternatives
Plant-based alternatives such as almond milk aren’t as easy to froth since they’re typically water-based and thinner in texture.
We find oat milk to be the best non-dairy option for frothing milk since its thick, creamy consistency is comparable to whole milk.
If you’d like to make frothed milk with a non-dairy milk, these are the methods we recommend:
- Jar: Follow the same directions you would with whole milk, as listed above: Pour your milk into a mason jar until it’s about half full. Twist the lid on, ensuring it’s extra-tight to prevent leakage, and shake the jar vigorously for about 30 seconds. Remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds, as this will stabilize your foam.
- Milk Frother: While there are alternative methods of frothing whole milk that don’t require a bona fide frother, having a handheld or standalone milk frother is your best chance at thickening up an otherwise thin, non-dairy milk.