One question we get asked a great deal is whether frothers heat milk. The answer is yes. And no. Let me explain. Some milk frothers do heat milk. These are the electric or automatic frothers. You pour the cold milk into the container and choose the ‘heat milk’ setting. We’ll talk about this more shortly.
Some manual frothers can be put into the microwave to heat the milk and stovetop models, as you’d expect heat the milk by being placed on a hob.
But, the most common type of milk frother is the handheld variety. And that certainly cannot heat milk. Which won’t come as a great surprise considering there isn’t anywhere to hold the milk.
What’s the best temperature to heat milk for frothing?
You have to be so careful when heating milk. If it gets too hot or it boils the milk will burn. It will taste horrible and you won’t be able to froth it.
This is why the recommended temperature for heating or steaming milk for cappuccino and other frothy coffees is between 60 and 65 degrees centigrade. You could go up to 70 degrees if you like your milk hot. But certainly no more.
There is a caveat here of course. You’re not always going to want warm milk.
However, some baristas will go into an apoplectic rage if you suggest cold milk for cappuccino for instance. Others swear you have to heat the milk first. It should also be noted that the mere act of frothing will add some heat to the milk.
It does of course depend on which drink you’re making. But, and we can’t stress this often enough, when you do warm your milk make sure you don’t overheat it.
The best way to ensure this is to use an automatic milk frother to do the job for you. Or, if you’re determinedly old school, you can use a milk thermometer.
Why do we froth milk?
You eat with your eyes first, goes the adage. Eat, in this instance, applies to both food and drink. Though the flavour is an obvious factor, the way coffee, as well as other drinks, is presented goes a long way in ensuring that the person drinking it will enjoy it.
One of the easiest ways to make coffee look, and taste, good is through foaming. You’ve probably seen the different designs in which your coffee is presented to you at your favourite coffee shop. What if I told you favourite could do exactly that, all by yourself?
Yes, you can. All you need is a milk frother. Milk frothers are responsible for the endless cups of wonderful looking and of course tasting frothy Italian style coffees such as cappuccino and latte.
Basics of milk frothers
Before knowing the different types of milk frothers, it is paramount that you first understand how milk frothers work.
A milk frother aerates the milk in the coffee by stirring the coffee quickly. The air introduced into the mixture causes the milk to form lather on top.
Depending on the type of milk and the type of milk frother you use, the frother can range from light to dense.
This process in its entirety affects the way the coffee will taste. It gives the coffee a creamier taste, while also giving it a sumptuous aroma.
Which milk makes the best froth?
It’s an easy assumption to make that one type of milk is very much like any other when it comes to using a frother. But this isn’t the case.
Most often, the type of milk used in the frother will determine the type of frother you will want to use.
Whole milk, which is full fat, creates a thicker and creamier foam when it is frothed. Semi-skimmed doesn’t froth very well but can be used.
Non-dairy and vegan alternatives, such as almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk can of course be heated, but you will find that it hardly froths at all.
However, if you do want to use vegan milk there is now a wonderful range of barista blend vegan milks which have been specially created for use with milk frothers.
Whichever milk you use for your Italian coffees be careful to not overheat it. The easiest way to guard against spoiling your milk by burning it is to use an automatic milk frother.
The best frother to heat milk
As we’ve already mentioned the best, and more or less only option to heat your milk in a frother, is an automatic device.
They look like a cross between a jug, a kettle and a blender. They come in different sizes of course but some have enough capacity to make enough warm milk for multiple cups of coffee at once.
Most have three different settings – heat milk, cold foam, hot foam. You simply press a button and off you go. Two minutes or so later you’ll have perfectly heated or frothed milk.
Apart from coffee, the electric milk frother can also be used to make other milk-based drinks such as milkshakes, hot chocolate, and even matcha tea.
If you’re interested in shopping for a new frother to warm your milk we’ve included some of the best-selling frothers on Amazon below.
Why you don’t always have to heat up the milk to use with frothy coffee
Even though it is recommended that you heat your milk before your froth it, you don’t always have to.
To make a nice cup of coffee with the right flavour and the right amount of foam, the milk needs to be a certain temperature.
If your milk isn’t hot enough, the froth will not be sweet. If you heat the milk excessively, you will scorch it, and this will make the milk not taste good enough.
Have fun experimenting. And don’t forget – yes you can use a milk frother to heat your milk.
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