If you thought that you must have an espresso machine to make foamed milk, think again! Milk frothers and steamers have enabled coffee enthusiasts to get their caffeine fix right at home. The best part about these simple gadgets is that they cost next to nothing (some as low as $30) without compromising on performance. They are also compact and portable and will not cram up your kitchen space.
Maybe you want to save a few bucks by cutting back on store coffee. Or perhaps you are looking to improve your latte art skills. Whatever your reason for needing a milk frother, you have come to the right place. Our review and user’s guide below will help you in bringing home your latest coffee gear; the best milk frother/steamer. Relax and take a sip of some black coffee; it may just be your last after an introduction to foamy, creamy, homemade lattes, and cappuccinos.
Is there a difference between foamed milk and steamed milk?
Yes, there is undoubtedly a difference between a milk frother and a steamer. Although the method for steaming and frothing are similar, whereby the milk is heated, the results are quite different. A steamer heats milk slowly resulting in a rich, thick consistency. A frother, on the other hand, aerates the milk by injecting air bubbles making a foamy light consistency. Since frothing increases the volume of milk by four to five times, less milk is needed as compared to when steaming.
The best results for both frothing and steaming are from an espresso machine’s steam wand. This is no surprise as espresso makers are built to produce high-quality espresso-based drinks. The second-best alternative for creating milk foam is a milk frother. Steamed milk can be made on a stovetop, but for better results, an electric frother is used.
What is the best milk for frothing?
For thick, creamy foam, use whole milk to make your lattes and cappuccinos. On the other hand, low-fat and skimmed milk make fluffier and larger foam. For vegetarian alternatives, you can go for almond, soy, rice or coconut milk, however, expect the foam to be way thinner than cow (or any other animal) milk.
Different Types of Milk Frothers
Other than espresso machine steam wands, there are different ways to make and enjoy steamed or frothed milk. The best part is that all these frothers are very easy to use, unlike a steam wand which requires mastery. They are also quite affordable compared to steam wands.
Also known as handheld whisks, motorized frothers are a cheap and convenient kitchen appliance for coffee lovers. They consist of a spinning whisk which rotates at high speed by the press of a button. This rotation agitates milk creating creamy foam for delicious beverages.
Handheld whisks are quite easy to use; a beginner will get the hang of it on the first day. Simply dip the whisk wand in your milk and press the start button. To achieve consistency, move the whisk around the pitcher of milk, and in a matter of minutes, you should be enjoying delicious foamy drinks.
A significant disadvantage of using motorized whisks is that they can effectively handle small amounts of milk at a go. Handheld whisks are also battery-operated, which means that you will have to replace them every so often. The fact that you will have to heat your milk before frothing can also be quite inconveniencing.
Manual Milk Frothers
Hand-pump or manual milk frothers resemble a french-press structure-wise. They consist of a container for holding the milk and a lid with a pump hand which has a mesh plate at the end. Manual frothers are uncomplicated and affordable. Cleaning a manual frother is also easy as most units are dishwasher safe.
However, the pumping action (although satisfying) is not for everyone. It takes 5 to 10 minutes to make foam which for many people is a lot of time. Not to mention the time required to heat/warm the milk as these units do not heat milk.
Electric Milk frothers
These types of frother include a jug with induction coils installed for heating the milk. Milk foam is attained by continuous whisking of the milk with some units able to heat and whisk simultaneously.
Unlike handheld whisks, electric frothers can make large batches of frothed or steamed milk which comes in handy when entertaining. Steaming and frothing is quite easy, often at the press of a button. However, this convenience does not come cheap. Electric frothers are quite expensive when compared to motorized whisks usually going for a little over $100.
Pro Tips On Steaming and Frothing
Below are some helpful tips on making near-perfect foam or steamed milk as can be.
- Always use fresh milk.
The fresher you milk, the easier it is to manipulate. Also, keep in mind that fresh milk will improve the taste of your brew.
- The type of milk you use matters
As mentioned earlier, whole milk makes the creamy, thick, foam as well as steamed milk. It may be a little harder to manipulate, but it will yield beautiful results.
- Milk temperature counts too.
The ideal temperature for frothing milk is 60 to 68 degrees Celcius while that for steaming is between 65 and 70 degrees. Beyond these temperatures, milk protein may get denatured making steaming and frothing harder. It may also affect the taste of your drink.
Milk temperature will continue to rise minutes after the heat is turned off. For this reason, consider switching off the heat a few degrees from the desired temperature. For accuracy, you can use an espresso thermometer to take temperature readings.
- Warm your cups for a better experience
To prevent your drinks from going cold, you can warm up the cups before serving.
- Cold milk foams better
Cold or chilled milk makes more fluffy foam. On the other hand, while steaming your milk, tilt the pitcher when using a steam wand, to make the milk roll hence creating a smoother texture.
- Ensure your tools are clean
Milk is very sensitive to dirt, acidity and bacteria. To prevent your milk from going bad, ensure your tools are clean before use. This is especially when using a steam wand which can be a harbor for bacteria.
Buyer’s Guide: What to look for
The first consideration to make before buying a milk frother is the type that suits you. Are you a hands-on person who does not mind using a manual frother? Perhaps you want a simple handheld frother to serve your one-cup-a-day lifestyle. If you take more than the average 2 cups a day or if you have a big family, an electric frother should serve you right.
Many coffee enthusiasts enjoy displaying coffee gear on the kitchen counter. If you are one of these people, the style and design of the frother should matter.
Milk frothers are simple appliances with little features to offer. However, some frothers can warm as well as froth milk reducing your work by half. High-end units are convenient enough to steam and warm milk simultaneously.
Reviews: The Best Milk Frother in 2020
Best Value for Money: Nestle Nespresso 3694-US-BK Aeroccino3 Milk Frother
The Aeroccino3 has received tons of positive reviews for its froth quality. In a matter of minutes and with as little effort as possible, you get tons of creamy, fluffy foam. What most users seem to be pleased with is its ability to yield excellent results even on non-dairy milk.
You get two whisks with the Aeroccino3, one for making milk foam and the other for less foam and more steamed milk. The simplistic design of this frother makes operation seamless. Simply pour in your milk and press the “on” button. It works well with both hot and cold milk, something that pleased many users and allows you to enjoy both hot and cold coffee delicacies.
The fact that the Aeroccino has quiet operation guarantees that you will not be disturbing anyone’s sleep while making your morning cuppa. So how do you know if the machine is running? Once you press the “on” button, it turns red indicating that frothing is in process. An auto-shut feature turns off the frother when finished eliminating guesswork.
If you intend to display your frother on the kitchen countertop, you will be pleased to know that colour options are not limited to black. The Nespresso Aeroccino comes in red, white and black all with the classic ribbed surface. The interior surface is non-stick, giving you easy cleaning time.
- Makes great milk froth quality
- Works well on hot and cold milk
- Receives great reviews even on non-dairy milk
- Easy to operate
- Non-stick interior surface
- The base houses whisk storage
- Three color options
- It does not come apart for cleaning
- It is not microwave or dishwasher safe.
Best High-end: Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother
Wondering why the Breville milk frother comes with such a hefty price tag? Well, to sum it up in one word, I would say flexibility. For starters, this frother comes with accurate temperature control allowing you to set the milk temperature anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees. You can also set the dial on cold stir to work with cold milk. This opens you up to a wide variety of drink recipes, including cold coffee delicacies and even hot chocolate.
The Breville BMF600XL also comes with two whisks, one for maximum foam production and a second one for less foam and more creaminess. Magnetic storage at the rear of the frothing base provides on-board storage for the whisks for safekeeping. The frothing pitcher easily detaches from the base allowing for easy cleaning. You can also throw it into the dishwasher, making your work much easier. The non-stick pitcher will enable you to add ingredients such as hot chocolate directly into the pitcher. It also has measurement markings indicating the level of milk required for different recipes, including hot chocolate. An auto-shut function kicks in when the frothing process is over.
- Large capacity offering up to 3 cups of frothed milk
- Calibrated pitcher for accurate frothing depending on your recipe
- Works well with cold or hot milk
- On-board storage for the frothing whisks
- Adjustable temperature
- Dishwasher safe
- Quite pricey
- Does not offer a variety of color options
Best Electric: Secura Automatic Electric Milk Frother and Warmer
The Secura milk frother gets points for being affordable, but is it up to the task of making great foamed milk? From the many positive reviews it has received, it is safe to say that the Secura makes good milk foam without much fuss. It features a simple design comprising of the base and the frothing pitcher. Just like many electric automatic frothers, the Secura offers the option for making foam or hot creamy milk. This is enabled by the two whisks available which can be stored on-boards, under the lid for safekeeping.
You don’t expect an automatic frother this cheap to have extra features. The Secura frother defies this assumption by being able to make foam using both hot and cold milk. It also features non-stick walls for an easy time cleaning. Speaking of, a small cleaning brush is provided with this unit to help in cleaning the whisk discs.
Operating the Secura automatic frother is effortlessly done by the press of the ON/OFF button. To froth cold milk, simply long-press the ON/OFF button. The pitcher also comes with clear markings for minimum milk level as well as the maximum milk level for both frothing and warming milk.
- Quite affordable
- Does a good job making milk foam
- Easy to use
- Conveniently heats milk for hot beverages
- Works well with cold milk
- It is not dishwasher safe
- The design is not eye-catching (dare I say, tacky)
- Milk might get a little burnt and stick on the frothing disc.
Best Handheld: Frothy Hand Mixer and Milk Frother
If you are looking for convenience with paying a fortune, look toward the Frothy hand mixer. This little frother looks sturdy at a glance, and it is. Made of a stainless steel wand and hard plastic handle, it is quite durable.
The selling points for the Frothy hand mixer are in its powerful operation, enabling it to make fluffy foam. To top this, this handheld frother offers two-speed settings with the highest speed of 15000 RPMs. This power is adequate for frothing cold milk and even non-dairy milk with great results.
It boasts of a mere 15 seconds froth time which is half the time of its counterparts. Although the stainless steel makes it bulkier than other frothers it makes for a good travel mixer. It also features a curvy ergonomic handle, a BPA free shaft and a flat base for easy storage.
- Excellent frothing action
- Value for money
- Two-speed setting
- Sturdy and durable design
- Easy to operate
- Good for travelling as it is compact and battery operated
- Does not have a storage stand which makes storing hard
- You will have to warm your milk first
Best manual: Ninja Coffee Bar Easy Milk Frother
It is hard to believe that a manual frother is capable of making quality foamed milk. However, the great reviews the Ninja manual frother gets for its performance tell a different story. Other than making decent milk foam, this frother gives you the satisfaction of watching the action through the glass pitcher. This way, you can be sure when you have whisked the milk to your desired consistency.
The glass pitcher that comes with the Ninja frother is microwave and dishwasher safe for added convenience. You can quickly warm milk in the microwave and get right to frothing. The beautiful design of this frother earns it a place on your kitchen counter next to your brewer.
- Beautiful design
- Microwave and dishwasher safe pitcher
- Easy to use
- Makes decent froth
- Great for making multiple cups
- Manual frothing takes much more time
- The glass pitcher is not durable since it breaks easily
Best Budget: PowerLix Handheld Milk Frother
The Powerlix handheld frother is one of the cheapest you will get, but it gets the job done. This motorized frother is not only eye-catching but quite compact with a small footprint. It is also battery operated eliminating the clatter of cords and the need for sockets. All these features allow you to bring it along to your next travel destination.
The Powerlix is quite simple featuring an ON/OFF button at the tip of the handle. To operate it, simply insert the frothing wand into your milk and press on the power button. It also features a stainless steel stand which allows for storage. The frothing wand is also made of stainless steel, ensuring it does not rust. These stainless steel parts make cleaning a breeze. Simply run the frother in a pitcher full of water and vinegar after each use. Alternatively, you can give it a simple rinse with pressurized water, and it’s ready for storage.
- Compact with a small footprint
- Makes decent milk foam
- Easy to clean
- Convenient for carrying around and travelling
- Very cheap
- It does not warm milk
- It is not durable and cannot stand heavy use.
Classic, manual stainless steel design: HIC Milk Creamer Frother
The HIC stainless steel milk frother has a sophisticated look and great performance. You can quickly pump your way to delicious foamy lattes and cappuccinos in a matter of minutes.
The stainless steel body not only makes it durable but adds to its beauty. Some people use the carafe to warm milk directly over the stove. It also cleans quite easily. You can hand wash it or on lazy days, throw it on the top rack of your dishwasher without worrying about damaging it. The steel pitcher has a 14-ounce capacity which is enough to make 4 to 5 cups of foamed milk.
- Makes decent milk foam
- Large capacity which is handy for entertaining guests
- Simple yet beautiful
- Durable and sturdy
- You have to keep checking to see if the foam is ready.
- The handle feels awkward and large.
It is a great thing that milk frothers are not expensive appliances. This means that you can enjoy delicious milk-based delicacies at the comfort of your home. Better yet, you can brush up your barista skills by practising latte art.
I must admit, I am a fan of electric milk frothers due to the convenience they offer. You can simply heat milk or make foam hustle free. I would recommend this type over manual and handheld frothers despite their significantly higher price.
Our best milk frother in this review is the Breville BMF600XL for the flexibility and convenience that it offers. It also makes excellent milk foam and comes in handy when you simply want some warm milk. Although the price is a bit high, its features male it well worth it. Our second runners up is the Nespresso Aeroccino3 which makes equally good milk foam and costs less. However, you will not have the convenience of temperature control that Breville offers.