Frothed milk is the silky, creamy foam that accentuates espresso drinks like cappuccinos. But how can you make it at home?
Our Top Pick: Nespresso Aeroccino
In this guide, we'll learn all about the different types of frothed milk and help you pick the best milk frother for your kitchen, so you can take your coffee game to the next level.
Best Milk Frothers: 5 Top Rated Models
Model & Brand
Milk Frother Reviews
Capresso Milk Frother
Easy to clean and use, the Capresso frothPRO 202 Automatic Milk Frother is a perfect starting place for making great foam in your kitchen.
- Produces thick meringue-like foam
- Automatic, no attention operation
- Dishwasher safe pitcher
- Auto-shut off
- Three temperature settings
- Froths up to 8 oz
Capresso's unit is one of the easiest automatic frothers to clean featuring removable disks and a dishwasher safe carafe. This is a wonderful contrast to some of the other units we will talk about.
The foam produced by this frother is impressive. It's got two disks and three heat settings to give you complete control over the finished product (other units have two). It completes a cycle in about two minutes which is not the fastest, but you're free to do other things while you wait.
This machine uses special technology to spin the frothing disk within the pitcher. There's a little spindle on which the frothing disk sits. After repeated use, it can wear down and render the machine inoperable. Luckily, the pitcher is pretty cheap to replace.
With an 8 oz frothing capacity, this machine can process nearly twice as much milk per use as the other two carafe frothers we recommend. It's still not a colossal amount of milk, but you might be able to make two medium cappuccinos with a single use.
While Capresso only offers a one-year limited warranty, we're not as worried about this model breaking as we are some others. Inexpensive replacement parts and simple operation help to ensure that it'll last for home kitchen use.
Nespresso Aeroccino Milk Frother
The Nespresso Aeroccino Plus is our top pick. While it's not a perfect unit, it does do what we needed it to!
- Hot froth in 70 seconds!
- Two temperature settings
- Detachable base for easy pouring
- Automatic, no attention operation
- Froths about 4.3 oz
- Quiet operation
While this unit isn't dishwasher safe, you can dunk the carafe in your sink. This makes cleanup pretty easy because you can go nuts with the spray attachment and just hose it down.
It's especially important to do this lest any milk gunk build up and cause spillage during subsequent use.
You will need to clean out this unit in between consecutive uses to prevent build up.
The capacity of this machine is adequate but a little disappointing. While it's really fast, you basically get enough foam per use for a single cappuccino.
If you're planning on making multiple drinks at once, consider a hand frother, steam wand, or a unit with a bit more interior volume.
The froth created by this machine is excellent -- you can literally cut it with a knife, if you want to. It's also one of the fastest with an operating time of just over a minute. For those who have little patience to wait, this might one of the best options.
This unit is nearly silent. You can use it while kids and spouses are sleeping without waking them, or without disturbing your co-workers in a nearby office.
Replacement parts for this frother can be difficult to source should it break so consider purchasing an extended warranty. In order to extend the lifespan of your frother, don't leave the carafe on the base unless you're using it.
Automatic carafe-style frothers have two major downsides: You have limited control over temperature and they tend to be fairly small.
This Aerolatte frother solves both of those issues. Since it's a wand you stick into your own vessel of milk, you can use a container that's as big as you want.
We think the Aerolatte is the best handheld milk frother!
- Handheld model for ultimate control
- Results in 30 seconds
- Includes 2 AA batteries
- 5 year warranty
It places you in charge of heat control. While this is a bit more work, it also lets you heat your milk to the exact temperature you want, when you want to.
To clean, Aerolatte recommends that you basically just turn the unit on in some soapy water and then give it a rinse. This is a total breeze compared to cleaning any of the carafe units we reviewed. You don't need to fiddle with parts or wipe anything down.
While Aerolatte offers a 5 year warranty, we couldn't figure out how to contact them to utilize it.
The lifetime of these units can be pretty variable, so if you want to make sure yours lasts the full five years consider making sure you can get in touch with Aerolatte customer service before you purchase a unit.
Epica Milk Frother
This is our last, but not least milk frother review. Like other carafe frothers, the Epica milk frother produces a bit more foam per use than you'd need for a large cappuccino and needs to be cleaned between uses.
You're not supposed to immerse this unit in water but cleaning still proves fairly easy, although we prefer the Capresso and Nespresso when it comes to cleaning.
The froth that comes out of this unit is thick with small bubbles. There are two heat settings, enabling production of hot and cold froth.
You can vary your foam by temperature manipulation: heat milk before frothing for big bubbles, and run once on cool froth then once on warm froth for rich microfoam.
Consider the fat content of your milk as well. Low fat milk will generate thick, dry foam, while higher fat content will produce a creamier mouthfeel but less dense foam. Epica has helpfully included two frothing attachments to give you additional control.
This unit is almost totally silent. You're not going to disturb anyone or wake anyone up when you use it, unlike a steam wand.
Still not sure if this frother is for you?
Types Of Milk Frothers
There are three main types of milk frothers:
1) Steam Wand
A steam wand style frother works by injecting hot air directly into the milk. You'll see these on espresso machines.
They're basically an upside down straw that pushes out hot air. They can take a bit of practice to use: you need good tip placement and temperature control in order to properly produce foam.
They introduce heat as you use them, meaning that temperature control can be a bit limited. These work very quickly, taking as little as thirty seconds to produce enough froth for one drink.
2) Handheld Milk Frother
A hand-held wand frother works by agitating the milk with a whisk and introducing bubbles through this agitation. These come in both electric and hand-powered varieties.
These usually don't heat the milk. This means that you get to control the temperature of the process on your own, but it adds an additional step if you don't want cold foam.
While using these devices is pretty easy, you can't easily get up and do other things -- they still need your full attention. They tend to take a couple minutes to produce a small amount of milk.
3) Pitcher or Carafe Style Milk Frother
Pitcher style frothers feature an agitation device in the bottom as well as heating elements. Most modern frothers in this style can froth and heat totally separately, giving you complete control over temperature.
They're also completely automatic, meaning that you're free to go do other things while your milk froths. They take between one and seven minutes to work, depending on the amount of milk you're agitating.
These frothers usually come with multiple agitators: a whisk for stiff foam and a paddle for gentler micro foam to blend more easily. They also have a fairly limited capacity: you can froth enough milk for a single large cappuccino, but no more.
How To Froth Milk At Home
Fat holds bubbles pretty well. It's how butter and whipped cream work: the fat forms a kind of lattice that holds bubbles of air or water.
These bubbles give the fat structure: in whipped cream, they're soft and airy and make gentle (but still fairly stiff) foam. In butter, they create a solid block of delicious fatty goodness.
Frothed milk works on a similar principle except instead of a structure of fats holding the air bubbles it is a web of proteins. Proteins in milk have an end that likes water and an end that tries to avoid water.
If you introduce air bubbles into the milk, the proteins encircle them and try to stick their water-phobic end in the bubble. The ring they form will be tight enough to prevent the air bubbles from leaving.
Heating the milk changes the way the proteins behave. The hotter your milk gets, the more freely the proteins swim around and the more easily it holds big bubbles.
If you want small bubbles, add air before heating your milk.
If you want big bubbles, heat your milk first. You generally don't want your milk to get above about 165 degrees Fahrenheit because it will start to taste a bit "eggy" as the proteins unravel.
Here is a great video on 6 milk frothing mistakes:
Best Milk For Frothing
You can froth:
- non-fat milk
- skim milk
- whole milk
- soy and almond milk
The way your milk froths will depend on both the type of proteins in it and the amount of fat. The ends of the proteins in your milk are also attracted to fat particles.
Less fat means that the proteins spend more of their time protecting bubbles. This means that lower fat milk produces drier foam. This isn't better or worse, it's just a question of taste.
Dry foam is really cool when it comes to introducing layers to a drink, but when it comes to mixing, you might prefer creamy high fat foam that blends with your beverage more easily.
Soy and almond milk usually froths fairly well, but you'll get different results with different brands. Play with temperature, time and brand to get optimal results.
Different Milk For Different Drinks
There's more than one way to froth milk, and there's more than one way to add it to your cup. We'll refer to steamed milk when we mean gentle, blendable microfoam and foam when we mean something stiffer with a bit more substance that won't blend as easily.
You can create stiffer foam by heating your milk before frothing it, using milk with less fat, or adjusting the placement of your steam wand.
Some frothers have multiple attachments for producing different styles of foam -- a wire whip for stiffer foam, and a plastic paddle for steamed milk. Here are some drinks you can make with steamed milk and foam:
Latte: A small amount of strong coffee with a lot of steamed milk, topped with a gentle touch of foam.
SEE ALSO: Flat White vs Latte
Cafe au Lait: half steamed milk, half strong coffee. Float a bit of foam on top if you want, but it's usually served without.
Cappuccino: 1/3 espresso (one shot), 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 foam. The foam should float on top.
Espresso Macchiato: Similar to the cappuccino, this is espresso with foam on top. Usually comes with far less steamed milk than a cappuccino.
Cleaning Milk Frothers
Milk is pretty nasty if it sits, so it's important to thoroughly remove all residues from your frother after you use it.
Be especially careful to clean any spinning rods and moving parts. Your frother might not be safe to immerse in water, so be sure to read the directions for the unit you end up purchasing.
Frothing milk can add such a drastic change to your morning cup even if you aren't in to making espresso based drinks
We chose the Nespresso Aeroccino as our top pick because of the brand name and it's capabilities as a frother for home use.
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments with your frothing experiences and share what you consider to be the best milk frother for making your favorite coffee beverage.