Frothy, foamy, thick, and creamy steamed milk is what makes lattes and cappuccinos so spectacular, but with so many milk choices today, which one is best? Let’s get steamy as we explore the ins and outs of frothing milk!
Why Froth Milk?
Frothing milk is a process that turns warm milk into light and lovely foam. This foamy texture is a must-have for classic cafe favorites like cappuccinos, lattes, and even cafe au lait!
Frothing the milk gives it a thick yet airy texture that is so delightful on the tongue. Plus, warm-frothed milk has a lightly sweet dairy flavor that many coffee drinkers cannot go without!
How Does It Work?
If lusciously frothy milk is the key to everyone’s favorite drinks, just how does this delicious food science work?
There is a misconception about milk foam: that is it’s all about fat. But deliciously thick and foamy milk is the result of not just fat but protein, too!
Milk foam is produced when milk (or a milk alternative) is warmed to the ideal temperature and then agitated. This causes the proteins to move and change shape. The fat then moves and traps the air in these newly formed spaces, thus creating an airy, foamy texture.
Ways To Froth Milk
There are a few tried and true methods to create a nice milk foam at home. These techniques include:
- Steam Wand: This extension of a countertop espresso maker blasts steam into the milk to rapidly introduce lots of air and create a nice foam.
- French Press: The plunger of this coffee maker can be used to stir a light airy texture into your dairy.
- Handheld Milk Frother: This battery-operated agitator will whip bubbles into your milk in no time.
Best Milk For Frothing
When it comes to frothing, not all milk is created equal. There are a few characteristics you should look out for when stocking your home cafe, including, texture, fat content, and additives. Here is a closer look at the top choices to use when frothing dairy and non-dairy milk.
Best Dairy Milk For Frothing
Dairy milk is the standard for cafe creations that have a head, like lattes and cappuccinos; yet not just any dairy milk will do. The top choice of baristas around the globe is whole milk.
Whole milk is not as thick and fatty as heavy whipping cream or half-and-half, but it has a higher fat content than skim or 2%. This makes it just right for whipping, churning, and steaming into foam. And while whole milk alternatives, like skim or heavy cream, can be frothed, it is much harder to create the consistently foamy texture you want for a latte or cappuccino.
Whole milk has a lovely viscosity and flavor to produce a smooth and mildly sweet foam. Whole milk contains the ideal amount of protein and fat to create the necessary bubbly reaction that results in smooth, sippable foam.
When it comes to choosing whole milk, try to aim high. Look for organic whole milk from an ethical farm, if possible. Fresh is always best and remember that milk is highly perishable so it must be refrigerated when not in use.
But even if you are just using regular whole milk, try to pick an opaque container. Milk sold in opaque containers is actually healthier. Vitamins are light-sensitive, so vitamin-D-fortified milk in a clear container loses its vitamins the minute it hits the light.
Best Non-Dairy Milk For Frothing
Non-dairy milk alternatives have seen a huge rise in popularity, which is very welcome for anyone with a sensitive stomach or limited diet. It also means that there are many more options when building your favorite cafe beverage, and, much like dairy milk, not all non-dairy milk is ideal for frothing.
The type of non-dairy plant-based milk, i.e. soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, etc, matters less than the ingredients in the non-dairy milk. Home baristas should seek out a barista or cafe-quality non-dairy milk regardless of brand or flavor. Barista-style non-dairy milk is enriched with extra plant-based fat, like sunflower oil, to make it richer, thicker, and easier to froth.
Barista-style non-dairy milk is often found in the unrefrigerated alternative milk section because it is shelf-stable and not as universally popular as regular non-dairy milk. However, once opened, this type of milk is perishable and must be stored in the fridge.
You generally want to avoid sweetened and flavored non-dairy milk when making coffee. This is both for traditionalism and because all the extra additives can actually weigh down the milk and make it even tougher to create an even frothy texture. Plus, using plain, unflavored, non-dairy allows you to control the final flavor of your delicious drink!
More Recipes and Tips You Might Enjoy:
- How to Froth Milk Without a Frother?
- Why does Oat Milk Separate in Coffee?
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- Oat Milk Coffee Recipe
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- Lavender Latte
- Honey Lavender Oat Milk Latte
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- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food and beverages unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove