Frothing Milk for Beginners: Tips from the Expert

Frothing Milk for Beginners: Tips from the Expert

Ever been to a cafe and found yourself wondering how they get such a simple combination of milk and espresso to taste so good. Or maybe you’ve sat down and been served a coffee somehow with a picture of a swan and wanted to know how they managed to pull off that witchcraft?

Perhaps you’ve started your barista journey and haven't managed to perfect the texture and have your latte art flow as well as some of the more seasoned professionals. No need to stress, using this basic guide and a bit of practice you will be impressing friends, customers, family and anyone you can get your hands on to show off your new skills.

What is Milk Frothing?

Milk frothing is the art of changing the taste and texture of regular milk into something that has a creamier feel in your mouth and a sweeter flavour. This is usually done using an espresso machine with a steam wand, a milk jug and your favourite milk. These elements will allow you to add a controlled amount of air into the milk while simultaneously heating and mixing the milk to the perfect temperature.

Basic Things About How To Froth Milk

Let’s start with the basics. What you will need: 

  • Of course, you will need an espresso machine, at-home espresso machines can be a bit easier when first starting to froth your own milk because the steam wand operates at a lower pressure. This is a much more gentle experience than a professional espresso machine allowing you more time to steam your milk. 
  • The next piece of equipment you will need is an appropriately sized milk jug. There are many different sizes, shapes, colours and designs of milk jugs out there that you can have fun experimenting with. The best way to learn is by frothing milk for one cup of coffee at a time using a jug appropriate for the size of coffee you would like. A general rule is to fill the milk jug with milk to the bottom of the spout. Keep in mind that you will need slightly less milk in the milk jug than the amount that will end up in your cup. This is because the air added to the milk in the steaming process will cause it to expand.
  • The last thing you will need is your milk. There are many types of milk available depending on your preference and diet. The main two types of milk used for frothing are full cream and skim dairy milk as well as a list of non-dairy milk such as soy, almond, oat, lactose-free, macadamia etc. Full cream is the gold standard for milk steaming giving you the best results, especially when starting out. The kinds of milk with less fat content such as skim milk and almond milk are a little bit harder to achieve perfectly silky microfoam but with a little bit of practice, you will be pouring latte art with any milk that you choose.

What’s the difference between all the drinks on the menu? What’s the difference between a latte and a cappuccino? The difference in these drink recipes largely comes down to the amount of air added to the milk, the size of the drink and the ratio of espresso to milk. Eg. the difference between a latte and a cappuccino is that there is more froth (or air added while steaming) to make a cappuccino.

How to Froth Milk

Here we will go over the basic steps from start to finish.

  • Prepare your espresso or espresso drink alternative (eg. Hot chocolate, Chai)
  • Choose the size of your milk jug
  • Fill with milk to the bottom of the spout
  • Purge the steam wand
  • Angle the steam wand slightly towards you and to the side
  • Insert the tip of the wand just below the surface of the milk and slightly off centre
  • Turn the steam wand on all the way
  • Adjust jug if necessary and watch for the whirlpool
  • Add air by slightly lowering the jug listening for the “tssk tssk”
  • Raise the jug slightly to submerge the wand stopping the addition of air.
  • Wait for the milk to reach a temperature of 65 degrees celsius
  • Turn off the steam
  • Place the milk jug down
  • Wipe then purge the steam wand
  • Tap and swirl the milk in the jug
  • Pour and enjoy!

Milk Frothing Best Practices

For many people learning how to steam milk can be a daunting task. Here we will go over some tips and tricks that will have you producing coffees reminiscent of your favourite coffee shop.

Steam wand mods?

Finding it hard to control the steam pressure on a new espresso machine and feeling a little overwhelmed? Steam wands aren’t all built the same. Some steam wands will produce much more pressure than others, especially when jumping from an at-home espresso machine to a professional set-up.

This makes it harder to control the milk in the jug and gives you less time to control all the stages of milk steaming. You may have noticed that different steam wands have different amounts of holes at the tip. Swapping out the tip of your steam wand for one with fewer holes will help restrict the flow of steam making the whole process take a little longer but will be easier to control.

Use the coldest milk possible

As you are steaming milk you are breaking down large bubbles into smaller and smaller bubbles until they can’t be seen with the naked eye; this is what we call ‘microfoam’. There is one main factor that will improve the quality of microfoam; the time you spend texturising. We want to spend as much time as possible texturising the milk, however, we are limited by the milk getting too hot. Using the coldest milk possible gives you the most time to texture your milk until it reaches the perfect temperature.

No Machine?

We’re aware that many of you don’t have access to an espresso machine and those that have tried using a milk frother have found that it doesn't quite cut it. But don’t worry, we have a trick where you can get cafe-quality results using only a french press, hot milk, a thermometer, and a milk jug.

Heat your milk to 65 degrees Celsius using a thermometer to check for the correct temperature. Pour the hot milk into your french press and froth by vigorously plunging up and down until you get frothy milk. Now you can transfer that into your milk jug to tap and swirl the milk, this stage is really where you will get your milk to be as silky as possible. And that’s all there is to it! Silky textured milk is close to that of a cafe without the need for an espresso machine.

Final thoughts

Keep in mind that there are steps in the milk steaming process that require a certain amount of ‘feel’ to perfect. So if you aren't quite getting the perfect results you were hoping for remember to keep it simple and make slight adjustments until you have perfectly silky milk.

Get Your Coffee Equipment and Tools from The Artisan Barista!

Let’s finish off by talking about some ways that your coffee equipment can help you steam better milk and create latte art more easily. If you’re getting serious about your latte art we recommend investing in a quality milk jug, so please feel free top browse our wide range of latter art specialised milk jugs.

Believe it or not, not all milk jugs are built the same and a poorly constructed milk jug can make your life that much harder. There are several things to look for when looking to purchase your own milk jug. Firstly the quality of the product, the features of the jug and the colour to fit your aesthetic or become your signature.

A quality milk jug will be made to have the spout line up perfectly with the handle. Any misalignment can cause your latte art to go from a majestic swan to a confused turkey.

Features of high-quality milk jugs may include tapered sides allowing you to get closer to the cup earlier to create latte art earlier in the pour. 

Another feature of quality milk jugs may include a sharp spout. Sharp spouted, like our Pesado milk jugs, allow you to pour your latte art to have finer lines, greater detail and more control.

These different features all come down to your own personal feel and preference so give them a try and see what works best for you!


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