From Milk to Magic: A Guide to Frothing

Steam WandHave you ever tasted a cappuccino that simply blew away your taste buds as well as your mind? Chances are this cappuccino reached espresso drink perfection not only because of a well pulled shot but in thanks to flawlessly executed frothed milk. When done right, frothed or steamed milk is decadently rich, creamy, thick and smooth. More often than not, frothed milk is light, airy, and otherwise tasteless. Frothing milk is a mixture of art and skill and while the process may seem intimidating at first, is here to offer an easy to follow step by step guide that will have you frothing fancy lattes in no time! After all, you bought your espresso maker for a reason: to make espresso based drinks. Now is the time to learn how you can take full advantage of your espresso maker’s features. The best way to start is by letting of some steam, and working some milk!


Step 1: Work the Tools

Frothing Pitcher and ThermometerAs a master painter requires the perfect canvas, paintbrush, and paints a budding master of milk frothing requires the right set of tools. To start frothing milk effectively and easily, you will need the following:

  • A method of steaming such as a steam wand on an espresso maker
  • Stainless Steel Frothing Pitcher (14-24 ounces) (By the way, we sell them here!)
  • Needle Thermometer
  • Fresh, Cold, Whole Milk (although you can froth with skim, 1%, 2%, whole just tastes better and froths easier)

Note: If you do not have a fast heating large or double boiler espresso maker, you will want to froth your milk before you pull your shot of espresso.


Step 2: Work the Steam

Alright, let us start by heating up your steaming device. For convenience sake, we will assume you are using your espresso maker’s steam wand to froth your milk.

  • Turn your espresso maker on and let it heat to steam producing levels. You may notice your steam wand puttering and spitting water out its nozzle. While this does mean your steam wand is ready to go to work, for best results let it run for a bit until it stops spitting and steams “dry.”
  • Next, pour fresh cold milk into your frothing pitcher until it is a little less than 1/3 full and clip your thermometer to the side of the pitcher. Now your two elements are ready to collide!
  • Move the frothing pitcher filled with milk up to the frothing wand. Immerse the wand in the milk so it nearly reaches the bottom of the pitcher.
  • As bubbles begin to form, you will want to slowly move your frothing pitcher downwards so that your wand is hovering just between the surface of the milk and the layer where bubbles and foam are starting to form.

Your key to determining if your wand’s location is correct is by listening to the sound your milk makes. If the sound reminds you of a little boy blowing bubbles through a straw into his milk, your wand is too high. However, if the sound resembles a deep rumbling you are on the right path! At this point, your thermometer should read around 100º F and your milk appears to be increasing in volume.


Frothing MilkStep 3: Work the Wand

Now that your thermometer has reached 100º F and the volume of your milk continues to increase you have to be aware of continuously moving the frothing pitcher downwards in order to keep the tip of the frothing wand in between your milk and your foam that is beginning to form. At this point it is crucial that you never break the surface of the milk with your frothing wand.


Step 4: Work the Temperature

Watch your thermometer; it should be creeping up towards 130º F. Once it reaches this temperature, move your frothing wand pitcher so that the steam wand is half way into the real milk and continue frothing until your thermometer reads 155º F. 155º F is your temperature indicator to finish up your froth. Remove the pitcher from the frothing wand and swirl or tap your pitcher against your counter to remove any air bubbles that may have formed.


CappuccinoStep 5: Work the Pour

So you have carefully maneuvered your frothing pitcher with your frothing wand and watched the temperature creep up to the magic milk frothing heights of 155º F. You should be left with a thick and creamy mixture that requires no spoon when you pour. If you do not need to spoon out any of your freshly frothed milk, you have successfully achieved the artistic heights of milk frothing! If you are not quite there yet, never fear!   Frothing milk is skill many café’s baristas never fully master. This is not due so much to the difficulty of frothing, but more to lack of instruction and knowledge. We at the are your key to frothing enlightenment!


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