Milk Frothers Explained in Easy To Understand Terms

How milk frothers work

Milk frothers, these easy to use magical coffee appliances that apparently turns regular people into coffee baristas overnight.

Yes we have all heard of them, and we have all seen them. But how do they really work? What are the things involved in turning a regular bit of milk into that magical looking froth on top of your favorite cappuccino?

If you would like to know the answers to all these questions and more, just keep on reading!

In this article I will discuss:

What is frothed milk?

You probably have seen those deliciously looking Cappuccinos and Lattes being served at any regular coffee shop and restaurant. Some of them had a little layer of white stuff on top sprinkled with a bit of coco. Now that white stuff would likely be frothed milk or cream.

In essence, frothed milk is milk that is aerated. So it has bubbles in it. The size and number of bubbles in the milk depends on how and with what the milk was frothed.

There are “official” recipes for all the different types of coffee where some have milk, some have steamed milk and others have frothed milk, but most people just end up modifying their coffee according to their taste.

Different types of froth

Milk froth, or foam, as it is sometimes referred to, can be created in two ways. One is to mechanically aerate the milk and the other is to steam the milk. Both methods produce froth but they are different in texture and purpose.

Mechanically aerating milk produces froth that has bigger bubbles and is lighter, more fluffy and has more volume.

Steamed milk on the other hand is more dense, creamier and heavier with smaller bubbles. Steamed milk is also used for coffee art where the pros create all sorts of pictures and shapes on top of the coffee.

Whisks and handheld frothers are used for mechanically aerating milk. It can also be done by injecting air into the milk with something like a steam wand, which is also used to steam milk.

The main difference is that with frothing the aim is to get bubbles in the milk and with steaming it is to heat up the milk with the added bonus of having smaller bubbles.

How milk frothers work
Amazing coffee art

The purpose of frothed milk

So, what exactly is the purpose of frothed milk?

Good question, and no, it’s actually not purely for decorations.

Milk froth adds texture to different types of coffee and makes it airy and creamy. It also brings out the taste of the coffee.

The reason given for this is that the small bubbles in the milk changes the surface tension and so potentially allowing more contact between the liquid and your tastebuds.

Steaming, or just general heating of milk, causes some of the natural sugars in milk (called lactose) to break down into less complex sugars and thereby making it slightly sweeter. 

Another reason for steaming milk rather than just heating it is that with steaming the milk it is heated up gradually and scalding is kept to a minimum.

Conclusion

Whether you are new to the coffee game and exploring this magnificent part of kitchen stuff, or you are a pro and probably can’t be taught a thing, one thing is certain: those small seemingly insignificant bubbles in your favorite cup of joe DOES make it better for most!