Woman frothing milk with a steam wand on a white espresso machine

HOW TO USE A MILK FROTHER

Milk frothers come in many shapes, sizes and styles and allow you to create a range of specialty coffee drinks in your own kitchen. Learn about the different types of milk frothers from handheld to automatic and how to use them. Skip the coffee shop and create your own customized coffee drinks just the way you like them with the best milk frother for your recipes.

Once you’ve mastered the milk frother, learn how to make the best cup of coffee at home.

WHAT IS A MILK FROTHER?

A milk frother is a kitchen tool used to transform milk into thick and silky foam and microfoam. Frothed milk is usually added to coffee and espresso to make cappuccinos, lattes and more. Milk frothers can be powered by hand, battery or electricity and come in many shapes, sizes and styles including handheld, pitcher-style and espresso machine steam wands.

WHAT DOES A MILK FROTHER DO?

Milk frothers aerate milk, creating tiny microbubbles that lend a light and creamy texture to milk while increasing the overall volume. Various techniques used while frothing result in different kinds of foam from velvety smooth textures for lattes to fluffy foam for cappuccinos. Depending on the type of milk frother, it may aerate through agitation by pumping or whisking milk vigorously, or through rapidly moving hot steam.

MILK FROTHER VS STEAMER: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

The main difference between a milk frother and a steamer is, of course, the use of steam. Milk frothers without steam use agitation to introduce air into milk. Some electric frothers feature a heating element that also warms the milk. The result is usually a light and airy foam. A milk steamer on the other hand, uses heated, high-pressure steam to both heat the milk and aerate at the same time. The foam created by a steamer tends to be finer with microbubbles that create a glossy sheen throughout the milk body.

TYPES OF MILK FROTHERS

The most basic type of milk frother is a manual model which resembles a french press and requires you to rapidly pump a  plunger. A milk frother wand is a handheld milk frother that usually features a disc or round whisk on the end and can be electric or battery-operated. An automatic milk frother is activated at the touch of a button and often looks like a compact kettle or cylinder with a heating element and a whisk inside. Steam wands are milk frothers usually attached to espresso machines for an all-in-one device. 

KitchenAid brand offers an automatic milk frother attachment for it’s semi-automatic espresso machines that offers the advantages of a steamer and the convenience of automation. The programmable dosing and a variable micro-foam adjuster allow you to adjust the milk amount and texture to match your taste and preference.

Black espresso machine with milk frother attachment and drinks

HOW TO FROTH MILK

For most types of milk frothers, remember to only fill your container about ⅓ full. Frothing milk increases the volume significantly so make sure you leave enough room. Since frothed milk is usually added to hot beverages, you’re probably wondering: do you froth milk hot or cold? The answer is always use cold milk when frothing. When milk is heated, fats and proteins can break down and lead to less stable foam. Since any kind of frothing will add a little heat (even manual frothers use friction), it’s best to start with cold milk as you begin to aerate. 

Most battery powered or electric milk frothers are easy to operate, typically starting and stopping at the touch of a button. An espresso machine steam wand is usually activated by switching to steam mode. This type of milk frother can yield silky, delicious results and is a more hands-on method of crafting your favorite espresso drink.

Follow the steps below for frothing with a steam wand:

Hand pressing steam mode button

SWITCH TO STEAM MODE

Many residential semi-automatic espresso machines will feature a mode switch for brewing espresso, steaming and sometimes for pouring hot water. Steam mode will begin heating water to the right temperature and switch the outlet source to the steam wand.

 Hand pouring milk from a jug into frothing pitcher

ADD MILK TO YOUR PITCHER

Fill a pitcher about ⅓ full with cold milk. Make sure to use cold milk straight from the refrigerator just before you begin to froth and steam.

Hand pressing start button

PURGE THE WAND

You may need to release some built-up water in the wand before it begins to steam. If so, angle the wand towards the drip tray, then activate the steamer to collect the water. Once it turns to steam, deactivate the steamer again.

Hand raising pitcher to steam wand in order to froth milk

INSERT THE STEAM WAND

Submerge the tip of the steam wand into the milk to steam and foam. To create light and fluffy foam, angle the pitcher and keep the steam wand just below the milk surface. To heat and steam, submerge the wand further into the milk, tilting the pitcher to create a whirlpool. This helps circulate the milk for even heating and creates tiny microbubbles.

Hand pressing steam mode button while frothing and steaming milk in pitcher

CREATE DESIRED AMOUNT

Froth until desired level of foam and

temperature is reached, then remove the pitcher from the steam wand and deactivate it.

TAP OR KNOCK THE PITCHER

Tap the pitcher on the counter a few times to knock out larger bubbles. If desired, swirl the pitcher to mix in the foam and microbubbles for a uniform result. If you are making cappuccino or another beverage that calls for dry foam, skip swirling to keep the foam on top from mixing in.

Person attaching automatic milk frother to KitchenAid® espresso machine

If you’re looking for a simpler way to heat and froth milk, the KitchenAid® Automatic Milk Frother Attachment is a great option. It’s compatible with the KitchenAid® Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines and effortlessly heats and froths milk for delicious lattes, cappuccinos and more, all with just a few simple controls. It can be purchased separately, or bundled with the espresso machine.

Person pouring frothed milk into a cup of espresso to make a latte with espresso machine on counter.

HOW TO MAKE A LATTE WITH A MILK FROTHER 

Steamed and frothed milk play a major role in creating the perfect latte. A latte is ⅔ steamed milk mixed into ⅓ espresso plus a thin layer of micro-foam on top. To make a latte with a milk frother, you’ll concentrate on aerating the milk body, rather than on creating voluminous foam. You may have more control over this if you use an adjustable automatic milk frother or a steam wand. Here are some tips on how to make a latte with a milk frother:

PULL YOUR SHOT (OR SHOTS) OF ESPRESSO

Brew the espresso first if you want to follow the steps for a traditional latte or create latte art. Pouring the milk into the espresso allows you to sink it into the espresso while keeping the crema intact or create designs on the surface for a latte as beautiful as it is delicious.

SET UP YOUR FROTHER

If using an espresso machine steam wand or frother, switch the machine to steam mode and purge the wand. If using a standalone frother, set it up according to the device’s directions.

ADD COLD MILK

Fill your pitcher or container about ⅓ full with cold milk. To eyeball this, fill the milk up to the bottom of the pitcher’s spout.

Close ups showing how to use a milk frother steam wand

FROTH SOME MILK FOAM

Lower the tip of the steam wand or milk frother to just below the milk’s surface with the pitcher tilted, and turn it on. Allow the wand or whisk to create a thin layer of foam on top while the milk is at its coldest.

STEAM THE MILK

If using a steam wand, submerge the wand almost to the bottom while tilting the pitcher and hold until the desired temperature is reached (usually around 145 °F). Make sure there is a visible whirlpool, or rolling, to ensure the heat is circulating and large bubbles are being broken up. If using a handheld frother, you’ll also lower it into the body of the milk and move it around slowly as you create froth.

KNOCK AND SWIRL

Gently tap the pitcher bottom on the counter a few times to knock out large bubbles. Then swirl the milk to help evenly distribute microbubbles throughout for a velvety body.

POUR MILK INTO ESPRESSO

Hold your cup at an angle and begin by pouring from a height of 4-6 inches to sink the milk beneath the crema while creating some turbulence to mix the milk and espresso. You can do this all the way to the top, or spoon on the last bit of frothed milk for a clean layer of milk foam on top. 

If you want to create latte art, lower the pitcher as the cup nears ⅔ full and pour the remaining ⅓ with the spout nearly touching the surface. You can wiggle and move the pitcher around at this stage to create contrast for hearts, swans, tulips and more. Follow our guide to latte art to learn how. Explore other types of espresso drinks you can make with a milk frother including cappuccinos, flat whites, frappés and more with our guide to espresso drinks.

TIP: Lattes call for an even, smooth texture throughout the milk rather than loose foam. The milk should be glossy and resemble wet paint when finished frothing. This will create a silky texture throughout the entire beverage, in contrast to something like a cappuccino that features a defined, thick layer of foam floating on top.

Stainless steel espresso machine on counter with cappuccinos

HOW TO FROTH MILK WITH THE KITCHENAID® AUTOMATIC MILK FROTHER ATTACHMENT

The Automatic Milk Frother Attachment allows you to create a range of results with just a few steps. Create smooth, glossy milk with microfoam for lattes and cortados, or thick foam for cappuccinos and macchiatos. The Attachment simply connects to KitchenAid® Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines, replacing the steam wand. Once attached, follow these steps for consistently delicious results:

Close up of controls on the KitchenAid® Automatic Milk Frother Attachment

CHOOSE YOUR FUNCTION

Turn the Function knob on the front of the attachment to the Froth Milk setting or the Hot Milk setting. If Frothing, rotate the Froth Level Adjustment knob on the top to increase or decrease the amount of foam. The froth level can be adjusted throughout the automatic frothing cycle by rotating the

Froth level adjustment knob.

 

Hand selecting steam mode button

SELECT STEAM SETTING

Turn on the Espresso Machine and toggle the Mode button to select Steam. Toggle the Dose button to 1 or 2 (1 for less milk and 2 for more milk).

Hand pressing start button

START THE CYCLE

Place your cup below the portafilter and milk dispenser. Press the start button on the Espresso Machine to start the cycle.

 

 

WHAT MILK FROTHS BEST?

A smooth and creamy espresso drink is possible with many kinds of milk, including non-dairy plant and nut varieties. Each type of milk will bring unique flavors and textures to your latte as you steam, froth and mix in your favorite ingredients.  However, the results will vary depending on a number of factors like fat and protein content, viscosity and technique used.

  • Frothed Whole Milk: This is the ideal milk for frothing with a great balance of fat, sugar and protein. Whole milk will create a thick, velvety result but will take a little longer to achieve more voluminous foam for drinks like cafe macchiatos and cappuccinos. 

  • Frothed Skim Milk: With less fat, this type of milk will froth quickly and create larger bubbles. You can knock out too-large bubbles by tapping the pitcher after frothing. 

  • Frothed Cream Milk: While you can froth and steam cream or flavored coffee creamers, the high fat content may prevent the lighter foam needed for some espresso beverages. Cream will work better for drinks like cafe au laits and lattes. 

  • Frothed Almond Milk: Almond milk has a higher fat content than some other non-dairy alternatives. This makes it a good choice for steaming and frothing and will yield similar results to using 2% milk (which is somewhere between whole and skim). This is also a good non-dairy option if you’re making latte art because the foam tends to be stable.

  • Frothed Soy Milk: Soy milk will also yield a nice light and airy result when frothing. Use soy milk for options that call for drier foam.

  • Frothed Oat Milk: Oat milk will froth up creamy and slightly sweet but should be used and consumed quickly as the bubbles formed may be less stable.

EQUIP YOUR KITCHEN WITH THE BEST MILK FROTHER FOR YOUR COFFEE RECIPES

Create rich and creamy cafe favorites in your own kitchen with a milk frother. Shop KitchenAid® espresso machines with a steam wand to hand craft lattes, macchiatos, mochas and more. Or create light and silky milk foam at the touch of a button with the KitchenAid® Automatic Milk Frother Attachment. Looking for other coffee tools? Shop the entire coffee collection to find whatever you need for your perfect cup from grinders to cold brew coffee machines, or explore gifts for the coffee and tea lovers in your life.

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