When talking about milk frothers it can become a little confusing as there are four different types to choose from. Which one is best for you depends on the volume of coffee you drink, the time you have available and how hands or hands off you want to be in the whole coffee making process? To discover which type of milk frother is best for you needs a bit of a deep dive into your coffee making habits. You’ll then be able to choose which type of milk frother is best from these alternatives:
But first, let’s look at those options and clear up any confusion about the different types of milk frother.
Handheld milk frothers
The most popular and undoubtedly the type that most people would identify as a milk frother. Handheld milk frothers (also known as milk frother wands) are for the most part battery powered though you can find USB powered models.
However, most handheld frothers take two AA batteries, are around 20-25cm in length and feature a hard plastic body which houses the battery compartment and on / off switch, along with a stainless-steel shaft and whisk head.
These are very simple little appliances, but the best models work extraordinarily well. Despite being battery powered they are very powerful and can create a thick foam in around 30 seconds.
But there is a caveat here. The standard of build quality and reliability varies greatly. The top of the range handheld frothers like the Zulay Milk Boss and Bonsenkitchen are solidly built and will last years. The Milk Boss even comes with a lifetime guarantee.
At the other end of the scale are the very cheap almost disposable frothers which while they will only cost a couple of pounds, or a few dollars will quickly stop working.
Happily, though, the best handheld milk frothers like the two I mentioned above will only set you back around £15 ($20) and are fantastic value for money.
You can see why many coffee lovers think handheld models are the best type of milk frother and are so easy to use in the video below.
Manual milk frother
If you want to have fun while you’re frothing, this type of milk frother is the best. I love my manual frother. It makes lovely thick foam, and it does it very quickly.
There is a downside here of course. And the clue is in the name.
A manual milk frother is exactly that. You must physically make the foam. You do this by pumping the plunger for 30 – 40 seconds. Now, this isn’t exactly hard work.
But my wife has a touch of arthritis and using a manual milk frother is too painful for her. If you have arthritis or weak wrists, then please don’t buy a manual or a stovetop frother. You’ll be much better off with an electric frother which we’ll discuss shortly.
But, for those of you who can cope with a little physical action in the kitchen these frothers are fun to use. And they really do make surprisingly thick foam. You can see the frothing process in the video below.
The drawback with a manual frother, as with the handheld models, is that you must heat the milk separately. But this isn’t the case with the two types of milk frother which we’ll discuss now.
Automatic electric milk frothers
When it comes to deciding what type of milk frother is best many coffee lovers will opt for the electric models. Otherwise known as automatic milk frothers the advantages of these models is apparent from the name.
Once you pour your milk into the jug and select your setting everything is done for you. Even the most basic automatic model will have three pre-set functions: hot foam, cold foam, and heat milk.
The more sophisticated models will have extra programmes for hot chocolate, vegan milk, protein shakes and more. The Severin SM 3587 has an amazing 13 pre-set programmes for you to choose from.
For most of us though the standard models with hot and cold foam or heating milk options will be sufficient. In those cases, your milk will froth in around 1 to 2 minutes. The big benefit of this type of frother is that the foaming and warming of the milk is done in one place and at the same time.
Stovetop milk frothers
The least common and therefore least popular when people think about what type of milk frother is best, stovetop models won’t usually figure high on the list. However, don’t discard them out of hand.
Let me firstly explain exactly what they are.
They look like a manual frother. But the jug or carafe is heat resistant. To use the frother you remove the plastic lid, pour milk into the jug, and heat it on the hob. It will take between 2 to 5 minutes to heat the milk. The jug is then removed from the hob, the lid put back on and the foam is created by pumping the plunger up and down.
Fans of these frothers claim the foam is much creamier and more authentic than that produced by other types of frother. And I must admit that now and again I do like to use my Judge manual frother.
But there is obviously more time involved in making the foam and there is a lot of faffing about. It’s much easier to heat milk in the microwave.
But if you hanker for that back street Italian taste then it may be worth giving a stovetop milk frother a go. They aren’t expensive sitting between the price of a handheld and electric frother.
What type of milk frother is best for you?
Now we know what the different types of frother are, which is the best for you. You may have already made up your mind after reading the rest of the article. But let me sum up which model I think suits different people.
Handheld forther is best for:
- People in a hurry.
- If you don’t want to spend much cash.
- Want an easy to use, easy to clean device that is instantly ready.
Our recommended handheld frother: Zulay Milk Boss
- Looking for convenience.
- Regular frothy coffee maker.
- Don’t mind spending more (3 – 7 times more than a handheld model).
Our recommended automatic frother: Severin SM3587
- Don’t mind putting in a little effort.
- Want really thick foam.
Our recommended manual frother: Bodum Latteo
- You don’t mind taking your time.
- Happy with the extra faffing around.
- Want a more ‘authentic’ coffee making experience.
Our recommended stovetop frother: Judge JA90