How to Steam or Froth Milk for your Coffee

Steamed and Frothed (or foamed) milk is used in many coffee beverages. These are two separate processes that are done to improve the taste and quality of your beverage. The processes allow you to add texture and flavour to your coffee.

Steaming Milk for your Coffee

Steaming milk is basically heating the milk with a steam wand, in a pan on your stove or in a microwave. Careful not to boil or overheat the milk, this will ruin the taste of your coffee. When steaming milk using a commercial espresso machine with steam wand, stop steaming once the milk reaches 70-75 °F, you may use a thermometer to check the temperature of milk when steaming on stove or in microwave. However, take care when checking the temperature of your milk on the stove with thermometer as the actual heat of the milk might be 5-100 hotter than displayed.

Before you start frothing or steaming milk, here are the two equipments that you will need to make sure you have the best result:

Milk Thermometer: To make sure that the milk doesn’t overheat

Milk Jug:

Milk Frother: in case your coffee machine doesn’t come with one

Steaming milk with steam wand

Items required to steam milk with wand – Coffee machine with steam wand, espresso thermometer, pitcher, and milk.

  1. Pour cold milk in a stainless steel pitcher.
  2. Place frothing thermometer to side of pitcher with thermometer tip in milk.
  3. Purge the steam wand to ensure that no residual buildup of water or milk get into your milk.
  4. Tip of steam wand should be just below the surface of the milk.
  5. Slightly tilt the pitcher. You want to position it in a way to create a vortex and let the milk spin in the pitcher.
  6. Check to see if the milk has reached the ideal temperature with frothing thermometer. It normally takes 10 to 30 seconds to steam milk with the steam wand.
  7. Clean and purge wand when done.

Steaming milk on stove

Items required to steam milk on stove – Pan, milk, spoon to stir and thermometer.

  • Step 1: Pour cold milk in pan and place on stove.
  • Step 2: Turn on stove to low heat.
  • Step 3: Use spoon to stir milk until it is heated.
  • Step 4: Enjoy your coffee with steamed milk.

milk steamSteaming milk in Microwave

Items required to steam milk in microwave – jar/container and milk

  • Step 1: Pour cold milk in jar or container (make sure it is microwave compatible).
  • Step 2: Set the microwave timer to 90 seconds.
  • Step 3: When the timer expires, remove and enjoy milk with your coffee beverage.

Frothing Milk for your Coffee

Frothed milk is much smoother and denser than steamed milk. The milk is not only heated, air is injected into the milk to create foam. Do not put too much milk in the pitcher when frothing, frothed milk rises higher than steamed milk due to foaming. This process is referred to as microfoam, there should not be any noticeable bubbles in the pitcher when done frothing as the bubbles should be very small.

Frothing Milk with Steam Wand

Items required to froth milk with steam wand – Coffee machine with steam wand, espresso thermometer, pitcher, and milk.

  1. Pour cold milk in about one third pitcher.
  2. Place frothing thermometer to side of pitcher with thermometer tip in milk.
  3. Purge the steam wand to ensure that no residual buildup of water or milk get into your milk.
  4. Tip of steam wand should be just below the surface of the milk and positioned in the spout of the pitcher. Ensure the holes at the tip of the steam wand is exposed.
  5. Wait 10 seconds, then place the tip of the steam wand about an inch further in milk. This step adds texture to your milk.
  6. Turn off wand once at desired temperature (150 to 155 °F).
  7. Clean and purge wand when done.

Frothing Milk on Stove

Items required to froth milk on stove – pan, milk, thermometer, and wisp or immersion blender.

  • Step 1: Pour cold milk in pan and place on stove.
  • Step 2: Turn on stove to low heat.
  • Step 3: When milk is heated to approximately 104 °F, use wisp or immersion blender to mix into leathery foam.
  • Step 4: Turn off the stove once milk is at 155 °F.
  • Step 5: Remove foam from the top of milk and use for coffee beverage.

Choices of Milk for your Coffee

The choice of milk is left up to you. Whole milk does take a longer time to froth due to added fats, but it does produce softer, thicker and creamier milk than normal or skim milk. Skim milk produce more foam and has a lot more bubbles than whole milk. The process of frothing milk works with all milk types, including goat and sheep’s milk.

Tips for Frothing and Steaming Milk for your Coffee

Here are some handy tips to get the best results when steaming or frothing milk:

  • Ensure tip of the wand is not too low in the milk pitcher you will not get the desired results.
  • Tip should not be too high from the milk in pitcher. Much larger bubbles will be created and the milk will not foam, which is not ideal for coffee beverages.
  • Purge the steam wand before steaming or frothing your milk. Clean and purge the steam wand again after milk is done.
  • Do not heat the milk too much, check thermometer regularly to ensure that the temperature is not above suggested milk frothing temperature of 135-140 °F for small beverages and 150-155 °F for larger beverages. Milk will lose flavour at 160 °F, will start scalding at 165 °F and scalds at 180 °F.
  • Keep pitcher steady while frothing.
  • Use cold milk and pitcher when you are frothing milk. The colder the milk and pitcher the more foam you will get.
  • If you are using an auto frothing wand, make sure the air hole is not submerged in milk.
  • If you don’t have a frothing wand and you still want a bit of forth milk, check out this tutorial on how to froth milk without wands.

Summary

Frothing and steaming milk for your coffee will greatly enhance the taste and smoothness of your coffee beverage. There are right and wrong ways to the practice, so before you begin the process ensure you have a clear understanding of what to do or you will not get the desired results.

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