Last Updated on January 5, 2021
Coffee lovers place espresso among the pinnacle of coffee making. It is undeniable that good espresso is among the finest coffee beverages that you can enjoy. Many other coffee beverages are derived from espresso. These include cappuccino, latte, macchiato, and others.
A good espresso is important for the quality of these beverages. But there is an additional factor that plays a decisive role. For example, the secret to a perfect cappuccino is the frothed milk in addition to the espresso base. Thus, knowing how to froth milk correctly is the key to outstanding espresso beverages. Get ready to learn it here.
The Importance of Frothing for Espresso Drinks
If you learn the frothing process properly, the result will always be frothed milk that’s thick and creamy. Moreover, it will be smooth as well. If you taste frothed milk (also known as steamed milk) alone, you may be disappointed. But when it is combined with espresso, the resulting frothing coffee beverage can be amazing.
That’s why baristas and coffee enthusiasts alike devote a lot of effort to learn the art of frothing. At first, frothing may seem like a skill that is difficult to master. That’s not so difficult. You probably have seen how some high-skilled baristas create real masterpieces using frothed milk. Well, to use espresso as the canvas for artwork requires more practice than usual.
Nevertheless, within a few months of practice, you’ll be able to froth milk properly to create basic patterns. Pouring a heart or a rosette pattern won’t be that challenging. You’ll impress your friends and acquaintances by showing your espresso skills. So, let’s begin.
What is milk froth? We’ve been discussing frothed milk. Let’s see what this means exactly. Froth is foam created from the milk; it is rather micro-foam. The bubbles of this micro-foam are so small, that you can pour it easily. It is practically a liquid. The taste of froth must be sweet and quite rich. Its desired consistency depends on the beverage that you’ll make.
For instance, it should be almost liquid if you are going to make a latte (especially if you’ll create artistic patterns). For cappuccino, it should be thicker. But beware, because letting froth become too thick is counterproductive. If the consistency is similar to egg whites, the taste will change for the worse. Also, the appearance in the cup will not be what you expect.
How can you know whether you made froth properly? It’s easy. Properly prepared froth doesn’t show any bubbles. Don’t worry. We’ll explain all those details. Read on.
The Tools for Perfect Frothing
As is the case for any other specialized task, you will need some tools for frothing milk for coffee. Whether you are a barista or a coffee enthusiast, you must have the following tools:
- A steam wand. This comes with an espresso machine. You’ll need this device for steaming;
- A frothing pitcher. It can be anything between 14 oz and 24 oz;
- A needle thermometer;
- Milk. Preferably, you should use whole milk. Also, make sure it is fresh and cold.
You will be able to froth more easily with whole milk. It doesn’t mean that whole milk is the only alternative. You can use skim milk as well. Try 1-2% skim milk if you want. However, besides being more difficult to froth, it won’t taste as good as froth from whole milk. More often than not, you’ll have to test different milk brands until you find the right one for your froth.
You can use non-dairy types of milk also. What is frothing milk of non-dairy origin like? The process is practically the same. But the taste of the espresso beverage will vary depending on the milk that you use. Let’s summarize all the products that you can use:
- Dairy Milk. Your first choice should be whole milk. It has the right combination of protein, fat, and other components. It is ideal for latte and cappuccino. With whole milk, you’ll get very creamy froth. But as said, you’ll have to try different brands before you settle for one specific. The chemical composition of the milk is affected by the diet of the cow among other factors. Organic milk reportedly gives the best results;
- Almond Milk. If you choose to froth almond milk, then choose a barista-specific one. The resulting froth won’t be so easy to pour, but the taste can be worthwhile the experiment;
- Oat Milk. This type of milk may be a bit unusual. But like in the previous case, look for a barista-specific brand for better results. In general, oat milk steams quite similarly to the real thing. The resulting foam is exceptional: smooth, creamy, and sweet. Because oat milk contains less protein, the foam doesn’t last too long. But that’s a little detail that you can overlook;
- Soy Milk. The foam that results from using this type of milk is quite dense and creamy. It tastes good and its texture is agreeable. But don’t expect it to be so easy to pour, especially if you want to create some artistic latte patterns.
There may be other barista-specific types of milk in the market such as Macadamia Milk. We won’t discuss in detail all these products in detail. The best is that you try them by yourself if you are interested in one specific. However, below are some products that you should avoid for coffee frothing:
- Cashew Milk. This type of milk produces very thin foam that won’t last long after pouring it. The taste is not that good either;
- Coconut Milk. It is not the type of milk for frothing. Avoid it completely;
- Hemp Milk. This has a watery consistency. You won’t get any foam with it.
This survey surely gives you an idea of what type of milk is good for this purpose. Now, let’s describe the different stages of the frothing process.
The Steaming Device
Once you have all the tools ready and the cold milk, you heat the steaming device. Turn it on until you see some water going out of the nozzle of the milk steaming wand. This is an indication that you can start frothing milk. However, wait a bit longer until the steam wand stops spitting water.
Now, you pour some milk. Fill the frothing pitcher approximately to 1/3 of its capacity. Fix the needle thermometer such that you can measure the temperature of the milk constantly. Next, immerse the frothing wand in the milk. Make sure the tip is close to the bottom without touching it. When you see that bubbles begin to appear, you need to lower the frothing pitcher. You do this until the tip of the frothing wand is between the surface and the layer where foam and bubbles are forming.
Placing the wand in the right location takes a bit of practice. You can use the sound to give you a hint. If the sound is similar to a child blowing bubbles using a straw, then the frothing wand must be lower. Make sure that the temperature is 100 °F (37.7 °C). You’ll see that the volume of the milk will begin to increase.
The Frothing Wand
As the volume grows, make sure that the frothing wand is in the right position at all moments. Hence, move the frothing pitcher accordingly. Remember, the tip of the frothing wand must hover between the milk and the layer where the foam is forming. Be careful here. Breaking the surface with the tip of the frothing wand will ruin the entire process.
Watch the thermometer constantly. You’ll notice that the temperature will reach 130 °F (54.4 °C). Here, the tip of the frothing wand must be located halfway into the milk. Keep frothing until the temperature reaches 155 °F (68.3 °C). When the temperature reaches this value, you have to finish the frothing process. Take the frothing pitcher away and swirl it to ensure that no air bubbles remain.
Pouring the Beverage
If you have done everything according to the instructions above, you now have a creamy and thick froth. You’ll be able to pour it without the help of a spoon. Wait for 10 to 20 seconds for the froth to become slightly thicker. After this time, you’ll be able to pour it and create artistic latte patterns with well-defined edges. If you wait 20 to 25 seconds, then you’ll be able to create blurry edges. Beyond this point, the froth will be much thicker, suitable for a cappuccino.
Other Ways of Frothing Milk
Buying a bulky espresso machine is not within the reach of everybody. Especially if you are an occasional coffee drinker, spending big money on an espresso machine doesn’t make much sense. But if you enjoy adding frothed milk to your cup of coffee, there are simple ways to froth your milk. Below we briefly describe some of them. In all these cases, make sure the milk reaches a temperature between 140 °F and 150 °F (60 °C and 65.5 °C).
- Using a Jar. This method is the simplest one. Fill in a jar with warmed milk. Cover properly with the lid and shake away. The resulting froth will contain large bubbles, which are not suitable for artistic latte patterns. But it will be fine for a homemade cappuccino;
Other methods include using a blender, a French press, and other devices. But after the description of the simple methods above, you’ll be able to devise other ways of frothing. Remember, whether you use an espresso machine or a simpler method, you have to practice a lot. Good luck with it.
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Coffee Grinders Advice Staff
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Featured Image Source: Pixabay.
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