One of the most important elements of many coffee-based drinks is a nice foamy milk. But this is not easily achieved without the right equipment. A milk frother being the obvious solution. Which is why most of us opt to purchase a milk frother but if you don’t have one, there is another way.
Many of us will have a French Press in the back of the cupboard. There can’t be many of us who haven’t enjoyed making coffee with a press. And they are always a popular gift so the chances are a friend or family member has presented you with one at some point.
The French press is an appliance used to ‘press’ coffee grounds using a plunger but it can be put to good use for frothing milk. That said, it surely can’t be as good as a tool that is designed specifically for this purpose. Let’s find out!
Milk frother vs French Press: A comparison
Let’s start with the humble milk frother. This appliance comes in many different forms from sophisticated frothers built into a coffee machine to small handheld devices commonly found in domestic kitchens. In any case, the milk frother is designed to, well, froth milk.
The most common frother are the handheld devices. Similar to a whisk, a handheld milk frother uses a beating motion to whip the milk into a foamy consistency. They are typically powered by batteries and around 20cms long and make the job of frothing milk much quicker and far less effort.
On the flip side, a French Press is a tool that was designed for the purpose of brewing coffee. These common kitchen items may be referred to by many names including the cafetiere, coffee plunger and coffee press, but they’re all one of the same.
The French Press is operated by brewing coffee grounds in hot water and then lowering the plunger down into the liquid. The fine mesh covering of the plunger allows water to filter through, leaving any coffee granules behind for a fresh and easy cup of coffee.
But with this plunging action, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that you could also use this device to give milk a frothy texture. Now while this is true, and using a French Press will mean that you only need to purchase one piece of equipment, there are plenty of downsides to it.
Why is a milk frother the best appliance to use to make frothy coffee?
A milk frother is a bespoke tool that is designed with the sole purpose of frothing milk. You wouldn’t buy a packet of coloured pens to paint your living room wall, even though they would, in theory, be capable of achieving a similar result. The same can be said for using a French Press to make frothy milk.
When you use your milk frother, you have the simple advantage of being able to pop the frother into the liquid and allowing it to work its magic. If you opt to use a French Press, you’re having to do a lot of the hard work yourself, which can be pretty exerting.
The level of resistance that you experience when using a French press is obvious. Moreover, you must consider the time it takes to get the same result when compared to using a milk frother.
Most importantly though there is no comparison when it comes to the quality of foam produced by the two devices. It’s horses for courses.
A milk frother will produce a dense and very rich foam. Foam made in a French Press won’t be as thick or luxurious.
Which is better value; milk frother or French Press?
When it comes to discussing the value of each of these items, they certainly both have their worth. One of the advantages of using a French Press is that you are able to make both the milk and coffee in the same container whereas a milk frother can only froth milk.
That said, you have to consider that, when making both ingredients in your French press, this cannot be done simultaneously.
Finally speaking, both items come in around the same price. A decent handheld milk frother will set you back anywhere up to £20 and your French Press could cost between £15 and £30.
Of course, there are cheaper and more high-end versions of both but in essence, neither will break the bank.
We would recommend opting to invest in both. This way, you are able to make your coffee and milk at the same time and each item will present its value in the way it is intended to be used.
But if for any reason you’re stuck without a milk frother and are craving a cappuccino here’s how to use your coffee press to make foam.
How to make froth with a French Press
If you do need to make frothed milk in a French Press, you’ll be glad to know that you need nothing more than your press, some milk and a microwave. However, you should keep in mind that the press must be microwave safe in order to do this, so be sure to check this before beginning.
It is widely accepted that whole milk froths better than skimmed so if you can, we would recommend going for this option.
Just add this milk to the French press and pop it in the microwave until it begins to simmer. If you cannot use the microwave, it is possible to simmer the milk in a pan on the stove top.
Next, attach the plunger to the press and begin moving it up and down. You will need to be somewhat vigorous but it doesn’t have to be at super high speed. In any case, make sure that you firmly hold down the lid to avoid any spills.
You will notice that the milk increases in volume within about 30 seconds, so it isn’t a lengthy process. That said, it is much slower than using a dedicated milk frother.
How to make cappuccino and other foamy coffees by using a milk frother and a French Press together
While a French press might not be the very best option for making frothy milk, it does make an incredible cup of coffee.
Using these two tools in conjunction with one another is sure to leave you sipping at a delicious cup of fresh coffee all from the comfort of your own home. Let’s take a look at what to do:
- Begin by adding your coffee grounds to your French Press and pouring in some hot (not boiling) water.
- Allow the coffee to steep for a few minutes before plunging the press down to filter the liquid.
- If you prefer something a little sweeter, feel free to add a syrup of your choice to the coffee at this point.
- Pour your coffee into your favourite cup and allow it to stand while you use your milk frother to bring your milk to a beautiful foamy texture.
- Now simply add your frothed milk to the top of your coffee and sprinkle with your choice of cocoa powder.
Want to know how to make the perfect espresso in your French Press? Read this article.
Milk frother vs French Press – the verdict
A milk frother is an incredibly handy tool to have if you are a coffee lover. That said, if you ever find yourself caught short, it is possible to use a French Press.
However, we would always advise investing in a milk frother as this makes the best foam. It’s also much more convenient than faffing around with a French Press.
This article contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure notice for further information.