There are a few coffee drinks that use foamed or steamed milk, but few coffee drinkers know the difference between the two. Although they mostly use the same equipment, there are many differences between frothed and steamed milk.
Steamed milk is heavier than frothed milk. The milk is only slightly aerated and therefore has a thicker, more velvety texture. The aeration causes it to have small bubbles, also known as microfoam. It is best when used in creamy and smooth drinks, or when used to create latte art. Steamed milk is best for lattes, the café au lait, or mochas.
People use steamed milk in their coffees to add flavor and body to the drink. To steam milk, you will need to have a steam wand as you often see as part of an espresso machine. It is best if you start steaming milk with cold milk, as the steam will heat it up during the process. The steam wand also heats up the sugar in the milk to make it sweeter and break down the fats to make it smoother. In the end, the milk should reach a temperature of 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. After 160 degrees, the proteins present in the milk will begin to denature, and you will not be able to achieve the perfect microfoam when you have your milk steamed. To get to this ideal temperature, you will need to turn off the burner after the milk reaches 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk’s temperature will continue to rise even after the heater is turned off.
To begin making your steamed milk, you should remove the rubber cover from your steam wand. Next, you should pour your cold milk into the steamer carafe and position the steam wand’s tip, so it is just below the surface of the milk. The wand will introduce the surface of the milk to pressurized steam. It will create a vortex to spin the milk evenly. It should take around 20-60 seconds depending on what equipment you are using, and you should tilt the steamer carafe to make the milk smoother. Steaming milk will also fold air into the milk and allow the contained proteins to unwind and wrap around the air bubbles. They do this because one side of the protein is hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water, and the other hand is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water. The hydrophobic side connects to the air bubble, and the hydrophilic side attaches to the water in the milk.
With frothed or foamed milk, the milk is more aerated than in steamed milk. The bubbles in foamed milk are larger and stiffer, and it takes up more volume. It adds a creamy and airy feel to drinks and can go into iced coffee to add complexity and texture. Foamed milk is best with cappuccinos, as they are 1/3 froth or foam. You can also add the foam to hot chocolate to add texture and a richer flavor.
Maybe a pour-over gets even more delicious with some steamed or foamed milk? Check it out in our Pour Over Coffee Basics – Brewing the Best Cup of Joe at Home!
Contrary to making steamed milk, the milk does not need to be hot to make frothed milk. However, you will need to heat the milk separately if you want it to be heated since most frothing machines do not involve heat. Some electric frothers will also heat the milk while frothing it. In the end, your frothed milk should be around 140 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. When you are frothing the milk, you should also only use a small amount of milk because the volume will increase two to three times during the process. To make your frothed milk, you can use an electric handheld frother, a manual frother, or a steam wand. The best choice is to use an automatic electric milk frother as they are convenient and do the job effortlessly to create the perfect foamed milk. You can also use a jar and a whisk to froth. Instead of a jar, it’s possible to use any closed container, such as a blender or your French press.
Most frothing machines have two whisks, one for steaming and one for frothing. The steamed milk forms a foundation for the froth in your coffee. If you use a steam wand to create the milk froth, you should first add the milk to a stainless steel pitcher.
Position the tip of the steam wand just above the milk’s surface, with only a small amount in the milk. This will allow more air to be introduced when you froth the milk. As the liquid expands, you will need to continually lower the frothing pitcher so that it does not overflow. The foam produced during milk frothing is considered a dryer product than steamed milk because it is less watery and holds its shape, so you should be able to pour it onto your coffee. The finished product should be dense and fluffy and should have larger bubbles and look more aerated.
What Milk is Best?
Regular cow’s milk contains two major proteins. It is about 80% casein and about 20% whey protein. In that right, the three types of cow’s milk are the same, but each type of milk has different qualities that make them better for frothed or steamed milk. When using any type of milk, you should always go slowly, as this will allow the sugars and fats to melt and create sweet tasting milk.
If you’re a beginner and are looking for the easiest way to get frothed or steamed milk, you should try non-fat milk. The lack of fat makes it slimmer and, therefore, easier to foam. However, the milk’s fat is what gives the foam its taste, so your froth will not taste as good if you use non-fat milk.
If you care about the taste the most, then you should use whole milk. This has the most fat out of the three options so that it will be the most difficult to foam. However, this extra fat will also give you the extra taste you might be looking for. Using whole milk is probably not the path to take if you are a beginner at frothing milk.
The milk type between these two extremes is 2% milk. Although it doesn’t have as much fat as whole milk does, it still has enough to make it creamy and give it the taste you are looking for. In addition to this, it still foams pretty quickly. So, if you’re looking for flavor and are still a novice, 2% milk might be the best option.
Steaming or frothing milk adds delicious flavor to your drink. Many coffee drinks, specifically the espresso-based ones, are a perfect companion for steamed or foamed milk. The air bubbles in the milk foam give texture and sweetness to the coffee.
Modern equipment makes it easy and safe to steam or froth milk. High-end steamers can even come with thermometers in them to make sure you won’t overheat the milk.
Use 2% milk when you start out to steam milk or produce foamed milk. Mix the foam in with your espresso and then kick back and enjoy a delightful cup of cappuccino, latte, or any other espresso drinks that get better with foam!