If you have always dreamed of becoming a barista but have ended up as someone else, you may be interested in devices like milk steamers and milk frothers.
But the more you go into detail about these tools the more confusing it gets.
What’s the difference between a milk steamer and a milk frother? The primary difference between a milk frother and a steamer is that that the frother makes the milk very foamy, light, and airy. Milk steamers heat the milk with steam while also texturizing it. However, the milk may not get quite as textured (or foamy) with a steamer.
Continue reading to learn why milk steamers and frothers cause so much confusion.
We also have made a list of the best frothers and steamers you can buy online to make your morning coffee better. Impress your guests with gourmet coffee at home.
If you’re just curious about what my current favorite milk steamer/frother is, it’s this one from Amazon. It is by far the best that I’ve found, and I’ve tested dozens.
What Is a Milk Steamer?
If you love the milky layer on top of your latte, then a milk steamer is what you need. A milk steamer is what makes the milk for your latte so fluffy, warm, and delicious.
At a coffee shop, steamed milk is made with a steam wand. This wand is present on almost all espresso machines – even most of the smaller espresso machines for at-home lattes.
To steam the milk with the wand on your machine, first make sure there is plenty of room in your milk pitcher (or cup) as the milk will expand. Submerge the wand halfway and turn on the steam.
Quickly bring the milk pitcher down so the steam wand just brushes the surface for just a few seconds. But be careful as the milk can splatter if it’s too far above. You may hear an awful sound until you aerate it like this, but this should make it quieter.
By aerating it like this for just a few seconds you’re introducing air and helping to create those tiny bubbles that will give your milk its delicious creamy microfoam – that’s part what makes a latte a cut above your typical cup of joe.
Just after the steamed milk has gone quiet, submerge the wand back into the milk. It doesn’t need to be too deep but should be properly below the surface.
Even better, tilt the pitcher slightly until you see the milk really swirl around. That creates a bit of a vortex or whirlpool that helps the milk heat evenly. This makes a smooth foam (microfoam) – and not the texture of your bubble bath.
You can also steam milk with compact electric milk steamers and stovetop milk steamers. Stovetop milk steamers are not the easiest to use.
You may find an electric steam “wand” that is separate from any machine. These will often steam your milk at the touch of a button, but results may not be as smooth.
Many people may find it hard to steam milk with espresso machine wands. Thus, using electric milk steamers that will do the job with just a press of a button are a great option.
What Is a Milk Frother?
If you are a cappuccino lover, then you probably have a milk frother either on your kitchen counter or on your wish list.
A milk frother is exactly what the name suggests. It is a device that froths milk. It introduces air into the milk making it truly foamy. The milk becomes lighter and airy and expands 2 to 3 times.
There are different types of milk frothers. You can use those tiny handheld milk frothing devices that operate with battery.
There are also automatic frothers which are larger and more professional. They are usually on the pricier side. If the frothy milk on your coffee means a lot to you, you should certainly invest in a good quality automatic frother.
As for manual frothers, they are convenient and easy to use. But you will spend more time and effort with manual frothers to get the milk foamy.
What Are the Differences Between Milk Steamer and Frother?
To answer the question if milk steamers are the same thing as milk frothers, no they are not. There are two key differences between a milk steamer and a frother.
What They Do
When frothing milk, you introduce air into it which makes milk foamy. When using a steamer, milk is exposed to steam. The steam heats the milk while giving it some texture.
What takes place during the milk steaming process is a bit more complicated. As the steam heats the milk, the fats in it break down. This happens as a result of heated lactic sugar.
When it comes to the home versions, there are a few differences in texture. On a real espresso bar steaming milk can create either texture, thanks to a powerful machine and talented barista.
But for home milk steamers and frothers, you’ll most likely see some different results:
Frothed milk is light and airy, more cappuccino-like. It holds its shape, especially when made with manual frothers. To froth milk, you only need an even smaller amount as it increases in volume significantly.
You will need a bit more milk for steaming as steamed milk that doesn’t froth much also doesn’t expand as much.
Steamed milk, on the other hand, has a velvety texture – it’s your beautiful latte with microfoam. It is not as light as frothed milk. When you look at properly steamed milk, it seems like it has a glossy finish.
Steamed milk is less foamy. If you see too many bubbles in steamed milk, you have let too much air in. To improve it, you can try to “settle” the bubbles by giving the cup a firm tap on the counter and swirling the cup around.
Should You Get a Milk Steamer or Frother?
Before you decide on buying any of these devices, think if you love milk-based coffee that much. If so, then buying a milk frother or steamer is certainly worth a purchase.
There are many benefits to having any of these devices at home.
Firstly, you will never get bored drinking the same coffee every day. Secondly, you will spend less money on buying coffee and will start making it yourself. And lastly, frothed or steamed milk will make your drink taste ten times better.
Keep in mind that some devices, such as stovetop steamers, may take time to get used to. Don’t be discouraged and try a few times to steam/froth your milk until you master the art of milk-based coffee.
If you can’t choose between a steamer and a frother, look for a device that claims to do both.
Whichever device you decide to pick, here are some criteria to take into account.
- Ease of use
- Price and how often you will be using it
- How easy it is to clean
Continue reading to discover electric devices that will both froth and steam milk for your morning coffee.
If you’re eager to improve your morning coffee game like we are, we have some suggestions for you:
3 Best Milk Steamers You Can Buy
When it comes to milk-steaming devices, you get lucky as many of them have multiple settings and can froth milk too.
Here are three milk steamers that are 2-in-1 steamer and frother at the same time.
1. Miroco Stainless Steel Milk Steamer
Drinking cappuccinos, lattes, and other milky coffees at home is a dream of every coffeeholic.
With devices like the Miroco Milk Steamer, this dream can easily become a reality.
This electric device is compact but very functional. It heats and froths the milk in less than 2 minutes.
Here are some more features:
- The Miroco Milk Steamer operates in silence.
- It is made of high-quality stainless steel.
- It can make both hot and cold milk foam.
2. VPCOK Milk Frother and Steamer
If you’re looking for the best of the best, this VPCOK Milk Frother and Steamer is absolutely a product you should consider.
Not only does this device look very sleek and modern, but it makes anything from lattes to macchiatos at the touch of a button.
Here is why it is so good:
- High-temperature-resistant shell to prevent burns
- One simple button for use
- Compact, convenient, and easy to clean
3. EPLIANS 4 in 1 Electric Milk Frother and Steamer
This EPLIANS 4-in-1 Milk Frother and Steamer is an affordable yet multifunctional device that will transform your mornings with delicious foamy coffee.
Here is why this milk steamer is worth a purchase:
- It has a convenient design with an ergonomic handle.
- It can create foams of different consistency.
- For being so compact, this device still has a large capacity and can warm around 300 mL of milk.
3 Best Milk Frothers You Can Buy
Getting a cup of coffee with perfectly frothy milk from a coffee shop every day may be tiring. Not only for you but also for your wallet.
Additionally, if you are a true coffee lover you may want to indulge in the coffeemaking ritual and do everything yourself every once in a while. If this is you, then check out these milk frothers.
1. PowerLix Handheld Milk Frother
PowerLix handheld milk frother is a battery-operated tool that you can use to make froth for your favorite coffee.
If you are just getting into milk-based coffee, starting with this frother that is high-quality and easy to use is a great option.
Here is why PowerLix is a good choice:
- It will foam the milk within 20 seconds.
- It is portable and easy to store.
- PowerLix handheld frother is made of stainless steel and has a powerful motor.
2. Breville Milk Frother
If you want a fancier milk frother that you will keep on your kitchen counter and admire, go with the Breville milk frother.
While this device is on the expensive side, the price is justified by its high quality and great features:
- You can control the temperature.
- It comes with two discs – ‘latte’ and ‘cappuccino’. Both provide foam of different textures.
- Being dishwasher-safe, this milk frother is quick and easy to clean.
3. Nestle Nespresso Milk Frother
This milk frother is a good choice for those who are looking for an automatic frother that will make foamy milk without any complicated steps.
All you have to do is to pour the milk into the frother and press the button without adjusting any other settings.
Nestle Nespresso milk frother is not dishwasher-safe. However, there are other points that make this device worth it:
- It can froth milk both hot and cold.
- It froths non-dairy milk perfectly.
- The one-touch operation makes it easy to use this frother. Hold the button for 1 second to prepare hot milk or froth hot milk. Hold the button for 2 seconds to froth cold milk.