They aren’t the most popular or common types of milk frother but coffee lovers who use stovetop frothers absolutely swear by them. And, if you want a more authentic, creamy rustic Italian style foam you can’t go far wrong with a stovetop frother. Well, you can but hopefully after reading this article you’ll know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.
But let’s start with the basics. In case you’re new to the wacky world of stovetop frothing let’s take a second to understand what these devices actually are and what they do.
What is a stovetop milk frother?
It’s exactly what it sounds like. You pop the frother (the device is basically a jug with a plunger) onto the stove or hob to warm milk. When the milk is heated you pump the plunger up and down to create the foam. The result is a surprisingly thick froth.
Stovetop milk frothers are simple to operate, very effective and fun to use. Yes, you must manually froth the milk, but it just adds to the authentic charm of heating the milk for your coffee or hot chocolate on the hob in the old-fashioned way.
So, that’s what it is. But how do you use it?
Our top 8 tips on how to use a stovetop milk frother
1 – Remove the lid
Although the lid on your frother may be metal the plunger mechanism is plastic. Heat and plastic don’t go well together. But it’s amazing how many people make the mistake of leaving the lid on when they put their frother on the stove.
When heating the milk treat your stovetop frother as a saucepan. Use it without the lid. This also has the advantage of you being able to see the milk as it heats up.
I know it’s stating the obvious but if you don’t remove the lid prior to heating the plastic will melt and at best you’ll be left with a molten mess floating in the milk. At worst you could have little flames.
2 – Don’t overheat the milk use a thermometer
Burning the milk will spoil your coffee. It could also eventually ruin your frother. Burnt milk will leave a residue on the base of the jug which is hard to remove. The other thing about overheating the milk is that it makes your coffee taste horrible and bitter. Which is probably more important.
To avoid overheating you can use a milk thermometer. It’s an inexpensive bit of kit that is really useful. When heating milk you want to be looking for a temperature of around 65 degrees. However, the advantage of using a stovetop frother over an automatic model is that you can push the temperature a bit higher. Just don’t go too high.
If you haven’t used a milk frother thermometer before it’s pretty easy. We show you how in the video below.
3 – Don’t pump the plunger like The Hulk
The most frequent complaint from users about stovetop and manual milk frothers is that the plastic plunger is easy to break. But it really isn’t. Yes, if you go all Godzilla or Incredible Hulk on the thing it will break. But you don’t have to.
Steady smooth plunging without too much pressure is perfectly sufficient and within 30 seconds or so you’ll have a lovely thick foam. You don’t have to go hell for leather.
If you’re careful and use the plunger correctly the frother will stand the test of time.
4 – Use a cloth or tea towel to hold the lid
When you remove the jug from the heat, be very careful. The handle will be cool enough but obviously you always need to take care when removing anything from a hob.
When you’re ready to begin frothing, replace the lid. You need to push the plunger with one hand and hold the lid with the other to keep the jug stable.
Once placed back on the jug the metal lid will become hot so always use a cloth or tea towel to protect yourself. The plunger itself won’t get hot so you don’t have to worry about that.
5 – Use whole milk
Whole milk makes the best foam. There is a load of science behind this which is way above my head but basically the more fats in the milk the better it froths.
You can use semi-skimmed milk (or 2% milk), but the results won’t be quite as good but more than acceptable.
At this point vegans and those following a healthy diet are throwing up their hands in despair. No need.
All milk will froth but to varying degrees. However, if you want to use a plant-based milk and hanker over a rich texture you should use barista blend milks.
These are still vegan but have been developed to foam better than other plant-based milks. You can buy this milk online or your local supplier should also stock it.
6 – Don’t overfill the jug
Remember frothed milk doubles in volume. The capacity of your frother will vary according to its make but you only want to make enough milk for one cup at a time. Two maximum. Don’t overfill as when you froth and the volume of milk increases you’re likely to have a milky river flowing out of the jug and along your kitchen counter.
By the way, when you’ve finished frothing, wait 30 seconds, and then tap the base of the jug on the countertop. This settles the foam. Pour out the milk using a knife or spatula to hold back the foam. Then top off the milk with the froth from the jug. Call that tip 6.5.
7 – Have a heat resistant surface ready
Naturally enough your stainless-steel jug will be hot when you remove it from the hob. To prevent scorch marks on your countertop, have a heat resistant surface ready on which you can place the jug for frothing.
I use a wooden chopping board but a cork tile or something similar would do just as good a job. Just make sure it’s flat so there’s no chance of the jug slipping or falling over.
8 – Check your hob
Be warned that most stovetop milk frothers WILL NOT work on induction hobs. A gas hob or an electric stove with a traditional heating element is fine. However, an induction hob may fail to ‘recognise’ the jug.
Some manufacturers do say their frother will work on induction hobs but sometimes the results are inconsistent. If you have an induction hob and want to remove all risk, I recommend using another type of frother.
So, there you go. Enjoy your stovetop frothing and if you haven’t already tried one of these great little devices you should check them out. They don’t cost much; the best ones are surprisingly effective, and they are fun to use. What more could you want?
If you’re looking for a new stovetop frother I high recommend the Judge milk frother. It’s brilliant at making froth and it comes with a 25 year guarantee. You can read our review here.
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