Whether you want to indulge in a creamier cuppa or you want to make that perfect cafe breve for your customers, frothing half and half is no new fad.
In fact, every coffee drink with the word breve in its name is made with frothed half and half. If the whole or skim milk is replaced with half and half for foaming and steaming your latte or cappuccino turns into a Breve. The taste is richer and the foam is creamier compared to a traditional latte cappuccino and you create a beverage that’s a little more luxurious.
So how can you froth half and half? Read on for much more than just a recipe.
Why Couldn’t You Froth Half and Half?
If you’ve tried and failed to froth half and half, here are some of the possible culprits.
You Didn’t Use Cold Half and Half
Ideally, you should use half and half that’s as cold as possible. Cold milk gives you much better froth results than warm or room-temperature milk. This is because milk proteins are at their most stable state in cold milk.
The frothing agent is the proteins, not the fats or the sugars. The more stable milk proteins are, the more effective they are at trapping air in milk bubbles. The more air, the frothier the foam.
Cold milk also gives you more time to froth before it gets to 160°.
The Steam Wand Was Too Low or Too High
You need to place the steam wand partly submerged in your half and half. You don’t fully submerge until you’ve been steaming for five full seconds.
You Went Above 160?
It’s essential not to let your half and half get hotter than 160°. In fact, it’s ideal to stop the steam wand before your milk is that hot because it’ll inevitably continue to cook on its own until it cools down.
If you went above 160°, odds are you ended up scalding your half and half.
What Appliances Do You Need to Froth Half and Half?
To froth half and half using the traditional steaming method, you need a thermometer and a steam wand.
An espresso machine with a steam wand will give you the best professional-looking results. If you don’t have one, however, you can use a handheld milk frother or steam wand.
To froth your half and half without steaming it, you can use any of the following methods:
- A milk frother that works with the heat turned off
- A whisk
- An electric mixer
- A French press
- A jar
- A microwave
- A blender
What Coffee Drink Uses Frothed Half and Half?
The cafe breve is the signature coffee drink that uses frothed half and half. Depending on the place, it can also be called a caffé breve, a breve latte, or a breve coffee.
The famous cappuccino can also be made with frothed half and half. This gives you a cappuccino breve that’s richer and much creamier.
In short, if you see the word breve in any coffee drink, it means that drink is prepared with half and half.
Do You Need to Steam Half and Half for Frothing?
While steaming is the traditional method to froth half and half, it’s not necessarily the only way to do it. You can still get a lot of froth using an electric milk frother. They usually come with an option to froth without steaming.
Clearing a Common Misconception
Before we move on to the method, let’s clear up one thing: Half and half make for some great frothing.
If this sounds strange to you, then you’ve also fallen prey to the mistaken notion that half and half is almost impossible to froth.
This mistaken notion is widespread because of a simple incomplete piece of information: Generally, the lower the fat content, the more foam but less flavor you’ll get. With higher fat, you’ll get less foam, but it’ll be much richer and with noticeably more body.
However, there’s a twist: This is only true as you go up the list until whole milk. Then the rule of thumb no longer holds water.
Here’s a quick look at the types of milk, based on fat content:
- Nonfat or skim milk, 0-0.5%
- Low-fat or 1% milk, 1%
- Reduced-fat milk, 2%
- Whole milk, 4%
- Half and half, 12.5%
The first three groups in the list above, nonfat, skim, 1%, and 2% milk, all give great froth. Then you have 4% milk, which is regular whole milk.
Unless you’re a trained and experienced barista, 4% whole milk is extremely difficult to froth and yields poor results.
Many people think that since 4% milk is so hard to froth, then anything higher than 4% will only keep getting worse. This is what gives half and half that unfair bad reputation.
The truth is that when you go higher than 5%, you start getting great frothing results again. So all you need to do is simply avoid whole milk if you want stellar frothing results.
Go lower than 4% if you want easy to foam and don’t mind the lack of flavor. Go half and half when your dietary restrictions allow for it. Simply avoid 4% whole milk when frothing, and you’ll get great results.
How Do You Froth Half and Half?
Frothing half and half is pretty straightforward, although it does involve a thermometer.
Ingredients and Equipment
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cold half and half
- A milk jug
- A milk thermometer or any culinary temperature gauge
- An espresso machine with a steam wand or a handheld milk frother
- A spoon
- A mug
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients and tools, here’s how to froth half and half.
Fill the Jug Less Than Halfway Up
You want to fill your jug less than halfway up but more than a fourth of the way up.
If you fill your jug more than halfway, the half and half won’t have enough room to expand and create that gorgeous foam.
Conversely, if you fill your jug less than a fourth of the way up, the milk won’t be deep enough to half-submerge the wand. This is problematic for two reasons.
You’ll end up making a mess and wasting a lot of perfectly good half and half when a lot of it flies out as suds. You’ll also over-froth the milk. This will give you a foam that’s devoid of flavor and closer to meringue than anything you want on your espresso.
Place a Thermometer Into the Jug
Ideally, you should aim to get your cold half and half up to 160°. Any higher, and you’ll risk scalding the milk.
Stick a milk thermometer into the jug. Keep it there, and keep your eye on it throughout the rest of the steps. You can also use any kind of culinary thermometer.
The First Part of Steaming
Place your jug underneath the steam wand of your espresso machine. Make sure the steam wand isn’t fully submerged in the milk.
Roughly half of it should be inside your half and half. The other half will pull air into the milk, helping with making the foam.
Keep steaming for about five seconds. You’ll notice the half and half increasing in volume.
The Second Part of Steaming
Immerse the rest of the wand into the milk. This should look like a little whirlpool. For the best results, it’s recommended to tilt the jug slightly while you’re doing this. Tilting the jug allows the milk to roll around in the jug, getting rid of large bubbles.
At around 140°, turn off the steam wand. Wipe it with a clean, damp cloth and purge it to get any residual milk out. Keep the thermometer in the jug. Watch the temperature while the milk continues cooking until it reaches 160°.
If you don’t have a thermometer, but you’re dying to try making yourself a breve anyway, here’s a tip: When the jug starts getting uncomfortably hot to the touch, turn off the steam wand. Remember to always wipe your steam wand with a clean, damp cloth then purge it.
Rest Your Half and Half
Set your jug forcefully on the counter. The goal behind the force here is to get rid of large bubbles trapped in your half and half.
Leave the milk to cool while you make your espresso shots. This allows the milk to settle into a denser foam.
Grab a mug and set it on your counter. Gently swish the milk in your jug around once. It should look like wet paint. Don’t panic if you don’t achieve that your first few times, though.
Hold the foam back and pour the milk into the mug. Next, pull most of the foam into the mug without scooping any of it. Keep some of the foam aside to pour in after your espresso shots.
Pour the espresso as slowly as you can. The thinner the stream is, the better the results. This way, the espresso winds and swirls its way slowly down through the thick foam of the half and half. It’ll taste better and look striking.
Scoop out the foam you set aside on top of the delicious drink you just made. Enjoy the admiring looks your handiwork will get!
Additional Tips: The Milk Jug
Your half and half will spend the entire duration of the frothing in your milk jug. Investing in a jug designed specifically to froth milk isn’t only recommended, but also smart. Take a look at what makes a great frothing jug.
A good frothing jug will have a base that’s much wider than its top. This is intentional because the wider base gives the milk room to roll around, expand, and create foam.
This durable material is well-known for its excellent heat conductivity, which is vital while frothing.
A frothing jug with a spout will make it easier to hold back the foam while you pour your half and half first.
Now that you know that you can absolutely froth half and half, you’re finally ready to take your first steps on the delicious breve journey.
Indulge in the occasional rich treat, make a cuppa for a friend on the Keto diet, or give your customers their daily breves and don’t judge. Happy frothing!