What’s your favorite coffee?
Perhaps you enjoy drinking espresso or ristretto like the Italians make it?
If so, do you also like longer, creamier coffees with espresso as the base? Us too!
Now, how can you go about whipping up an authentic cappuccino or latte at home with your new espresso machine? We’ll not only show you how to do that today, but we’ll also guide you through a handful of neat workarounds if you want steamed or frothed milk without a dedicated machine.
Before anything else, there’s a good reason you should add milk to coffee. What is it?
I. Why Should You Add Milk to Coffee?
The chemical make-up of milk comprises fats, sugars, and proteins. The way in which these compounds come together is responsible for the texture and taste milk lends to coffee.
The flavor profile is boosted when you add milk, and the natural floral notes along with hints of caramel become more apparent. You should also detect more roasted notes once the milk is added.
When the proteins in the milk interact with oxygen, the tiny bubbles of microfoam created are the end result.
The sugars will break down and caramelize. This sweetens your milk.
At this point, the heated proteins will give the bubbles more body while also binding in air so the milk is light-bodied.
When the fats melt away, you’ll be left with that trademark velvety appearance that characterizes the ideal microfoam.
So, is any type of milk good to go in coffee?
II. Milk 101
Regardless of what type of milk you use, make sure it’s fresh. Milk’s ability to transform into microfoam diminishes as the use-by date approaches. Think of this like buying coffee beans: you would only use fresh beans, so don’t skimp on the milk.
Skim milk allows you to create an abundance of foam with plenty of stiff bubbles.
Whole milk, by contrast, still lets you build out a lot of foam, but you’ll need to put in more effort to achieve this. When you’re looking for steamed milk and the lightest possible layer of microfoam, always opt for whole milk.
If you’re using soy milk, bear in mind something you probably already know – soy milk burns at a lesser temperature than regular dairy milk.
If you’re looking for a cappuccino with a twist, coconut milk is the obvious choice. This also works well with latte and flat whites. The high fat content of this milk triggers a profusion of foam.
III. Steaming Milk vs Frothing Milk
When you’re building out milk for your creamy coffee using an espresso machine, all you need to do to switch between steaming milk and frothing milk is to vary how deep you bury the tip of your frothing wand into the milk pitcher.
For a large head of foam, you need to pop the tip of the wand only slightly below the surface. This draws in air and gives you the oversized bubbles you need for an abundance of foam. Move the wand lower into the pitcher occasionally to ensure the milk is evenly heated. You’ll soon be doing this by ear as you hear the hissing sound of the steam drawing oxygen into the milk.
How about if you want some steamed milk without the mountain of foam? All you need to do is keep the steam wand completely submerged in the milk. You want the tip positioned near the side of the milk pitcher. This helps to generate a spiral vortex at the base of the pitcher. This will both heat the milk and create miniature bubbles (this is what we call microfoam). With few bubbles and a silky smooth texture, do you think you can master latte art?
If so, the simplest and most efficient method of whipping up some steamed or frothed milk is to use an espresso machine with an onboard frother. Let’s show you how to do that right now.
IV. How To Froth Milk with an Espresso Machine and Frother
- Pour milk into your jug: Use a metallic pitcher expressly designed for steaming. Don’t use too much milk. Pour until the cold milk sits just under the V on your jug.
- Stretch your milk: Pop the tip of your wand just under the surface of your milk. At this point, air is sucked into the milk and that characteristic hissing sound occurs. You need just 5 second to create your foam.
- Start spinning: With the oxygen having stretched the volume of the milk, push the steam wand down deeper but only in tiny increments. Tilt the pitcher at this point so the milk spins into a mini-whirlpool.
- Allow the steam to rest: Once your milk hits 140F (or gets too hot to the touch), stop steaming immediately. As you tap the pitcher and sluice the milk around, some of the smaller bubbles will disappear. The end result should resemble slushy and melted ice cream. If not, keep practicing.
- Pour in two stages: With the majority of the foam on top, your first pour should assimilate the creamy milk and coffee. The second pour will slide that microfoam on top while also allowing you to create some latte art.
What if you have none of this kit, though?
No problem, we’ve got you covered if you read on…
V. 5 Ways To Steam and Froth Milk at Home
Now, here’s how you can steam and froth your milk of you don’t have the above equipment.
For all of the following workarounds, you’ll need to heat the milk to 140F – you can nudge up to 155F – before you begin frothing. Fail to do this and you won’t get the requisite sweetness. Heat it too much, though, and you’ll end up with scorched milk. Use the above range as your guide.
Although there are more than 10 ways to steam and froth milk without the right gear, a handful of these are clumsy and ineffective. We cut those in half bring you the following solutions when you don’t have an espresso or latte machine with an integrated frothing wand:
- Steaming milk for coffee in a microwave
- Steaming milk for coffee in a French press
- Steaming milk for coffee in a milk frother
- Steaming milk for coffee with a whisk
- Steaming milk for coffee in a blender
1) Steaming milk for coffee in a microwave
Pour some milk into a Mason jar. Shake the sealed jar vigorously.
As soon as the milk appears frothy to the eye, pop it in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds depending on the wattage of your microwave. This serves to heat the proteins and ensure the foam sets.
2) Steaming milk for coffee in a French press
If you push the plunger up and down, this will rapidly create bubbles. Of all the hacks we discovered, this is the LaMano favorite.
3) Steaming milk for coffee in a milk frother
Milk frothers are relatively cheap. If you don’t object to buying yet another piece of coffee paraphernalia, buy a simple manual wand, or invest more fully and get yourself a dedicated frother with an onboard heating system and a pair of frothing discs so you can build a wider variety of foam.
4) Steaming milk for coffee with a whisk
Measure out the milk you need and pour it into a small saucepan. Place this on your stove at a medium heat.
Beat the milk with a whisk as it warms. A balloon whisk like you’d use for rustling up eggs makes the best weapon. Hand mixers work but tend to splatter milk everywhere if you’re not careful.
5) Steaming milk for coffee in an immersion blender
Using a regular blender to froth milk is messy. Instead, try an immersion blender.
Warm some milk in a deep, large pot. Put a hand blender into the milk with the blades fully immersed. Flick the blender to Low then blitz until frothy.
Well, if you started out with no idea how you could make the best creamy coffees at home, that should have changed.
Whether you have a freestanding espresso machine with everything you need, a milk frother, or neither, you have no excuse not to put some latte, cappuccino, and macchiato together.
Still stuck for inspiration? Check out our complete guide to different types of coffee drink and you’ll have no shortage of options.
One final thing…
Bookmark LaMano before you head off. With so many coffee sites to choose from – and that’s a great thing – make sure you can always find your way back to java HQ. We’ll see you soon!