Coffee takes on many forms, and one of the most favorite ways to drink coffee is with milk. Some people prefer the taste of it while others like the milk’s ability to cut the acidity of coffee. But just pouring plain, cold milk into a cup of coffee is a bit boring. On the other hand, learning how to use a milk frother at home can add a whole new dimension to your coffee drinking experience.

How to Make Milk Foam with a Frother

When learning how to use a milk frother wand, the first question to address is this: what is a milk frother?

A milk frother is a key instrument in creating gourmet coffee drinks that have foam on top. Whether for a cappuccino, latte, or another similar coffee beverage, the same fundamental principle is at work for frothing milk.

The basic purpose for the frother is to agitate the milk, introducing as much air as possible into the milk. This process creates small bubbles within the liquid which change the texture, making the milk airy, light and larger in volume—otherwise known as “frothed” milk.

Several options for milk frothing devices are available. Whether using a fancy, commercial grade frother attached to a very expensive espresso machine or a handheld electric whisk, the goal is the same: using agitation to introduce air and turn milk into a foamy, light topper for a coffee drink.

Reasons and How to Use Milk Frother for Coffee

When considering the uses for a milk frother, of course, the most common use is for making coffee drinks. Popular coffee beverages like cappuccinos, lattes, and flat whites all require a device and a knowledge on how to use a frother wand to create frothed milk.

When frothing milk for coffee, it is important to understand how much frothing is necessary for each type of drink.

  • A cappuccino requires lots of frothing to create a large amount of foam in the milk. When the frothed milk is poured into the coffee, the goal is to get about two thirds foam to one-third milk.
  • For a latte, the goal is what is referred to as microfoam. The desired effect is milk that is heated but only contains a small amount of foam (made up of very tiny bubbles) on the top of the milk.
  • A flat white should have foam that is much the same consistency, and as for a latte, there is simply less of it.

Basics on How to Use Milk Frother on Espresso Machine

The milk frother on an espresso machine uses steam to heat the milk simultaneously and foam it. When properly frothed, the milk is foamy.

Even if you don’t desire foam in the drink itself, foaming the milk slightly (incorporating air into the milk) adds sweetness to the taste. Milk that has not been foamed tends to feel flat and dull compared to frothed milk.


Espresso machines have a steam wand attached which is used for frothing and heating milk. For a cappuccino, the milk is frothed until the foam is double the volume of the original milk.

For a latte, the milk is steamed to create a much smaller amount of foam, but still, the result is a silky, textured milk that is sweeter and more complex than ordinary milk.

To get the best milk from an espresso machine frother, you’ll want a stainless steel frothing pitcher. The size can be chosen based on the amount of milk to be frothed. Whatever the size of the pitcher, generally you want to fill the pitcher about one-third full (in order to leave room for the milk to expand as it foams).

When learning how to use a frother and froth the milk with an espresso machine, it’s important to balance the amount of foam while not overheating the milk. This is because the flavor of the milk will alter if heated beyond 160 degrees F. Special milk frothing thermometers can be purchased for this, but any kitchen “quick read” thermometer will work just as well.

In many professional establishments, the milk is frothed by feel, although some places use thermometers to ensure the right temperature. For someone just beginning it’s a good idea to use a thermometer until you get a sense of how hot properly frothed milk feels.

How to Froth Milk with a Frother


Step 1

  • To froth milk, begin by filling the frothing pitcher to the appropriate level, inserting the steam wand into the milk, and then turning on the steam frother. If you activate the steam before inserting the wand into the milk, it will blow milk all over when you do insert it.

Step 2

  • Once you’ve turned on the steam, tilt the pitcher slightly towards yourself and position the wand towards the side of the pitcher. Allow a few seconds to pass while the milk begins to swirl within the pitcher.

Step 3

  • Once the milk is swirling in a whirlpool effect, slowly lower the pitcher, causing the steam wand to rise towards the surface of the milk. As the wand reaches the top of the milk, you will begin to hear a “chirpy” or sputtering sound from the steam exiting the wand.
  • By keeping the wand in this position (right near the surface, but still submerged entirely in the milk) you promote more agitation and aeration of the milk and do not need to move the pitcher around at all to accomplish the right texture of frothed milk.

How to Make a Cappuccino with a Milk Frother

Making a cappuccino begins with first pulling a shot of espresso. Once accomplished, fill a stainless steel pitcher one-third full with cold milk. Using non-fat milk is the easiest to use if you’re looking to achieve the most foam. However, it lacks the flavor that comes from whole milk.

Step 1

  • Steam the milk as you would for a latte (above).

Step 2

  • Aim for maximum foam–usually, you want to double the volume of the milk. You can accomplish this best by allowing the steam wand to rest just below the surface of the milk so that as the milk is agitated, air is continuously introduced from the surface as well as the steam.

Step 3

  • Create foam and heat the milk to approximately 160 F, then immediately pour the foamed milk into the coffee. A good tip here is to pour rapidly. If you pour the steamed milk slowly, it is likely to cause the foam to float on top in the pitcher while all the milk itself pours out beneath the foam resulting in all the best foam being left in the pitcher, instead of in your coffee.

How to Froth Milk with a Hand Frother

A manual (or hand) frother is an alternative option for frothing milk if you don’t have access to an espresso machine with an attached steam wand.


One convenient aspect when learning how to use a handheld milk frother is that it can be utilized with either cold or hot milk. If you are making a hot cappuccino or latte, however, it is important that you warm the milk before frothing.

Step 1

  • To operate the frother, put the milk into the frother but do not fill to more than about one-third of the container so as to leave room for the foam that will be created.

Step 2

  • Return the lid and plunger to the top of the frother container. Pump the plunger handle up and down quickly and the milk will begin to aerate. As the milk is frothed, you will feel the pressure start to change, letting you know that the milk is being foamed.

Step 3

  • From time to time remove the lid to check the foam consistency and level of milk froth in the container. Once the desired level of foam is achieved remove the lid and pour the milk into your coffee.

How to Make Hot Chocolate with a Milk Frother

Making hot chocolate with a milk frother is accomplished by going through the same steps as is required for frothing milk (whether using a steam wand attached to an espresso machine or using a hand frother).

Step 1

  • Incorporate a scoop of powdered drinking chocolate into the milk. (If using a hand frother be sure to warm the milk first before adding the drinking chocolate powder.)

Step 2

  • Follow the instructions in the above sections. You do not need to stir the powder and milk together as the frothing process will accomplish this for you. Once the milk is heated and frothed, you will have a rich and creamy chocolate drink to enjoy.

How to Make a Tea Latte with a Milk Frother


Many tea powders and chai powders are available for purchase to make a tea latte.

Step 1

  • Add the powder (or syrup) to the milk and then froth with either a steam wand or hand frother until you’ve reached the desired amount of foam you want.

Step 2

  • Follow the same steps listed above for making hot chocolate with a milk frother.

An alternative way of making a tea latte is to brew a cup of tea with a tea bag. If using this method, it is recommended to make the tea slightly stronger than you typically would enjoy it. Then, once your milk is frothed with the steam and or manual frother, pour it into the brewed tea.

Extra Tip: How to Froth Milk at Home without a Frother

While the easiest way to achieve frothed milk for coffee or tea is to use a tool designed for that particular purpose, you can learn how to froth milk without a frother.

Step 1

  • Simply pour milk into a jar with a lid.

Step 2

  • Cover the jar with the lid, and shake it vigorously for 30 seconds.

Step 3

  • Remove the lid and microwave the milk for 30-45 seconds. This procedure will achieve a frothed milk that can be used to enjoy in coffee drinks or other beverages.

How to Clean a Milk Frother


Different types of milkfrothers will have different moving parts and means of frothing the milk. But in all cases, cleaning the frother is a critical part of an ongoing use.

If you aren’t consistent in cleaning your frother, you can anticipate a decline in the quality of your frothed milk over time (as well as a risk of germs and unfortunate smells).

Whatever frothing tool you use, it is important to dismantle the parts and clean them with warm, soapy water.

If your device for frothing milk also heats the milk, it’s important to clean the steam wand immediately after each use. This can be done by simply blowing some steam through the wand in short bursts after each use. It is still important to regularly dismantle the parts you can and soak/wash them.

When cleaning your milk frother do not use scouring pads or aggressive cleaners. Typically just soaking and rinsing the tools in warm water is sufficient to get the device clean.

It is essential to know how to use a milk frother as this is a fantastic way to make your coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and teas much more interesting and great tasting. Whether manual or automatic, frothing milk can be a fun activity to take your beverage from boring to fabulous with just a little bit of milk and air.

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