One of the questions we are sometimes asked is ‘does a frother make your milk hot’? And yes, a milk does heat milk and it does this because warm milk is easier to froth and makes a far richer foam than cold milk. However, not all milk frothers heat up milk. Only two of the four types do so.
A handheld milk frother is the most popular type and certainly the most recognisable. And most coffee lovers will associate this device which looks like a mini kitchen whisk as a frother. But handheld frothers don’t warm the milk.
So perhaps the question we should be asking is ‘which frothers make your milk hot’?
Which frothers warm up milk?
If you want a frother to heat your milk you have two choices: either an electric or stovetop frother.
Electric milk frothers
These are the jug / kettle like machines which plug into mains electricity. They are fully automatic, which unsurprisingly is why they are often referred to as automatic milk frothers. They usually have three pre-set functions which you choose by pressing a button.
They will make hot foam, cold foam, or just warm milk. If you want a frother to heat your milk these are by far the easiest and most convenient ones to use. The more sophisticated (in other words, expensive) frothers such as the Severin models can have up to 13 pre-set programmes but for many coffee lovers a basic electric frother will do the job. If you want to warm milk and to froth it as well an electric frother is the type you need.
What about stovetop frothers?
Stovetop frothers do warm up milk. But as the name suggests they do this by placing them on a gas hob or electric ring. They usually don’t work on induction hobs.
It is a bit more messing around than using an electric frother. You must keep an eye on the milk to make sure it doesn’t overheat, and it takes longer to warm the milk. And, once the milk is heated, you then create the froth by pumping the plunger on the lid of the frother.
You can find out more about how to use a stovetop frother here.
The advantages of these frothers
Whichever frother you choose to heat your milk – and honestly, I would recommend an electric frother over a stovetop model simply for the convenience – you save time. But more so if you use an automatic frother. This is simply because it heats the milk while creating the froth. It’s not two separate operations like with a stovetop frother.
Don’t overheat your milk when frothing
If you overheat your milk, it will burn and ruin the taste of your coffee. And, by overheating the milk you break down the protein. This means it won’t froth very well and the foam will quickly collapse once poured onto your coffee.
The ideal temperature is around 65°C with a maximum of 70°C. When you froth your milk at this temperature you should get a thick long-lasting foam. Most automatic milk frothers have an automatic cut-off at around 65°C though some like the Severin SM3587 have different temperature settings.
So, is a milk frother the same as a milk steamer?
Technically no. A steamer heats the milk and doesn’t create foam (although there will be a thin layer of microfoam). By contrast a frother heats and foams the milk.
The key difference is that frothed milk sits on top of the coffee base while steamed milk mixes with the coffee. You’ll know this from when you add milk to instant coffee.
To be honest the two terms are often used to refer to the same thing. When most people refer to a milk steamer, they are talking about a frother.
As we’ve discussed, an electric frother will both heat and foam your milk. But what other options do you have for heating and foaming milk if you don’t have or want an electric frother?
What’s the best way to heat milk without a frother?
The traditional method of heating milk is on the stove. I’m sure we’ve all got memories from when we were younger of impatiently waiting for a saucepan of milk to warm up for a cup of hot chocolate.
But heating milk in a pan is time-consuming, inconvenient and it can be tricky to get the temperature just right without burning the milk. A far easier way to heat milk is in the microwave.
The microwave has several advantages over the saucepan method. Firstly, the milk is heated evenly. Sometimes in a saucepan the bottom layer of milk is heated while the rest remains tepid. And of course, a microwave is so much more convenient.
Simply pour the milk into a suitable jug and press a button and sit back while Chef Mike does his job. Depending on the power of the microwave you’ll have nicely heated milk in under two minutes.
It may take a little experimenting before you find the ideal heating time but once you do, you’ll get perfectly heated milk every time with no mess and no fuss.
What about making froth?
Once you’ve heated your milk you then need to froth it. You don’t need an electric or stovetop model but the other two types of frother are ideal. Choose from either a handheld or manual frother.
If you’ve never owned a milk frother before I’d highly recommend a handheld model. They are super-simple to easy, easy to clean, very affordable and they can do other small jobs in the kitchen.
Handheld frothers are typically battery powered and they are amazingly powerful. The best models like the Zulay Milk Boss or Bonsenkitchen will whip up thick creamy foam in around 30 seconds.
You can see how easy they are to use and how effectively they froth milk in the video below.
But I also mentioned a manual milk frother. And these too create fantastic foam from your freshly heated milk. They require you to put in a bit more effort in that (like a stovetop model) you make the foam by pumping a plunger up and down.
Again, these frothers are easy to use and I must admit are a bit of fun too. I use a Bodum Latteo and absolutely love it. You can see this frother in action in this video.
Why consider a handheld or manual frother over an electric one?
Cost. Simple as that. Although there are other advantages too. Let’s dig into them.
Let’s talk about price first. And while this may not be an all-important consideration for you, we all like to think we’re getting great value for money when we buy anything. A milk frother is no different.
A premium top of the range handheld frother will set you back around £15 ($20) and a manual frother is only slightly more expensive. Both types are easy to use, simple and quick to clean and will store nicely in a drawer or cupboard.
If you’re the type of person who likes to pick up and appliance and get cracking straight away, you’ll enjoy a handheld frother. You literally pick it up and press the button and away you go. The disadvantage of course is that you must heat your milk first.
Let’s wrap this up
To return to the original question and the whole point of this article – yes, a frother does make your milk hot but you must use either an electric or stovetop frother. Of the two I would recommend an electric frother all day long. It’s more convenient and not only heats your milk but froths it at the same time.
If, however, you don’t mind heating your milk in the microwave I would suggest you buy a handheld or manual milk frother. Whichever you choose, our top recommended milk frothers can be found below. Be sure to read our in-depth reviews if you need information on any of the frothers we recommend.
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