How to froth milk on a stove – do you need a milk frother?

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Can you froth milk on a stove? Yes you can. But don’t confuse frothing with steaming. To froth milk on a stove you need a stovetop milk frother or you can steam the milk in a saucepan and use a handheld frother to froth the milk once heated. What you can’t do is froth milk in a saucepan simply by heating and stirring.

Frothing milk on a stove

If you’re going to enjoy a hot cup of coffee with creamy, foamed milk then you’re going to need the right equipment to make your drink. To achieve the perfect frothed milk, an automatic frother will do the job for you.

But you can get equally good results, and some would say a more authentic taste, by heating your milk on the stove and then using a handheld milk frother to apply the all-important foam.

Using a saucepan vs a stovetop milk frother

If you don’t have an automatic milk frother, or just don’t want to use one, a more traditional or authentic way of getting that beautiful foamed milk is to first steam it by using a saucepan on the stove. It’s quick and simple and almost every home has everything you’ll need.

Start by adding your milk to the saucepan. Only measure out what you need but do keep in mind that for smaller portions, there is a risk of the milk scalding so be sure to keep it moving.

Next, heat your stove to a low heat and place the saucepan on while continually stirring the milk to prevent it from burning.

Keep the milk moving so it doesn’t burn

Keep the milk moving until the temperature gets to around 65ºC. Usually this will take just a couple of minutes.

Once the milk is heated (steamed) you can use your handheld frother to make the foam.

You can do this either by removing the saucepan from the heat and then using the frother or, and this is probably the safer option, decant the hot milk into a glass jug or cup and then create the foam with your handheld frother.

Et voila! Your frothed milk is ready and you can serve it with your chosen coffee recipe.

One of the great advantages of using the saucepan method is that you have near perfect control over the temperature. One of the big drawbacks of automatic milk frothers is that they heat milk to a ‘safe’ temperature that simply isn’t warm enough for some of us.

Remember though, when heating the milk in your saucepan it’s super important to keep to a lower heat and gradually heat the milk to avoid scaling it which can happen very easily. But, using a thermometer, you’ll be able to constantly monitor the temperature to get the best results.

How to froth milk with a stovetop milk frother

It is also possible to buy a stovetop milk frother. But many people ask whether it is worth it when you can simply use a saucepan. These tools differ in that they are a jug which is placed onto the heat and feature a plunger that helps to create the froth as opposed to stirring.

One could argue that they’re less work as they’re better designed for purpose and they’ll also work with cold milk so you could get things done more quickly.

Coffee with milk frothed on the stove by the Judge milk frother

That said, they’re far less convenient than an electric frother so if you were going to invest in special equipment, you might take this into consideration.

If you’re going to use a stovetop milk frother you can go wrong with the Judge. This great little device creates thick froth in no time and comes with a 25-year guarantee.

We highly recommend the Judge milk frother.

The pros and cons of using a microwave

If you like the convenience of your microwave then you might find it preferable to froth your milk using this method.

You will need to find a microwaveable milk frothing jug and add your milk into this.

The amount of time you’ll need to zap your milk will depend on your microwave. On the model I use two minutes is the sweet spot but my previous microwave, which was the same wattage, would only take a minute to heat milk.

Experiment to find the best timings for your microwave or use 20 second blasts and check the temperature after each one. If you don’t, there’s a risk of burning the milk and having to start all over again.

When your milk is at least 65ºC, it’s ready to use and once again you can whip out your trusty handheld frother to finish the job.

The clear upside of using a microwave is that it is much quicker and less messy. And this is very much my preferred method when heating milk for frothing rather than trying to froth milk on a stove.

However, there is a very significant downside in that it is much easier to burn the milk as these are powerful machines. For this reason, using this method may involve a little trial and error.

Of course, you can experiment with this and once you figure out the right time to the amount of milk you’re using, you’ll do it with your eyes closed.

Which milk is best for frothing milk for coffee or cocoa?

When it comes to frothing milk for coffee, hot chocolate and other warm drinks, there is no doubt that whole cow’s milk reigns supreme. There are proteins and fats within this milk that give it a delicious creamy texture and these are also responsible for the milk’s ability to retain a much better bubbly structure.

Read: Do you need to use a milk frother?

When you froth whole milk, you will notice that the air bubbles are much smaller and denser compared to low fat milks which produce larger, lighter bubbles.

But not everyone can have cow’s milk whether that’s due to allergies or dietary choices but the good news is that there are some plant based milks which are ideal for frothing.

While a lot of people would argue that almond milk is the best for frothing, there is one that’s slightly better; oat milk.

This plant based milk shares many of the same properties as cow’s milk and has essential fats and proteins that help to create a beautiful, rich foam that’s perfect for your morning cup of coffee.

What’s more, oat milk is incredibly good for you and is bursting with vitamins and minerals including calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D!

There are also a huge range of barista blend vegan milks which produce excellent foam when used with a milk frother.

Hit the hob

Creating a cup of coffee at home that would rival those produced by the best baristas isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have the correct equipment.

But there’s no need to run out to the shops just yet as you don’t always need to have everything you would find in a cafe.

Some swear that milk tastes better heated on a stove rather than in a microwave or automatic milk frother.

And certainly, by using a saucepan on the stove you’ll have greater control over the temperature and the results speak for themselves. So, why not give it a try and take a more traditional approach to coffee making?

On the other hand if you’re looking for convenience and ease of use – the microwave is the winner every time.

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