Steamed Milk vs Frothed Milk: What Every Coffee Lover Should Know

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Steamed Milk Vs Frothed Milk

Steamed Milk vs Frothed Milk: Are you puzzled about the difference between frothed milk and steamed milk? You’re not alone. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are distinct. Understanding the difference is crucial for mastering the perfect latte or cappuccino at home. Let’s dive into the details!

Steamed Milk vs Frothed Milk

Why Do We Steam or Froth Milk?

Before diving into the specifics, let’s discuss why we froth or steam milk. Both techniques involve foaming milk and altering its texture. By adding air to milk, either through frothing or steaming, you achieve a lighter body and creamier mouthfeel. When heating milk simultaneously, such as with a steam wand, you also enhance its sweetness and richness.

This blend of sweet flavor and creamy texture complements the natural chocolate, nut, fruit, and caramel notes often found in coffee, which is why milk-based coffee drinks remain popular.

What Is Steamed Milk?

Steamed milk is created using a steam wand, which injects steam into the milk. This process heats the milk, breaks down the fat, and forms tiny air bubbles, known as microfoam, essential for latte art. According to Professor Thom Huppertz, milk proteins provide the structure to stabilize these bubbles.

When steam is introduced, milk proteins quickly cover the air bubbles, providing stability and resulting in an ultra-creamy texture. This milk has a consistency similar to house paint but feels light and smooth on the tongue.

The classic drink showcasing steamed milk is the latte, consisting of one-third espresso and two-thirds steamed milk, often topped with a thin layer of milk foam. Other popular drinks with steamed milk include the cortado and latte macchiato.

How to Steam Milk at Home

To try steaming milk at home, you’ll need an espresso machine with a steam wand, cold milk in a pitcher, and some practice. Follow these steps:

  1. Place the steam wand tip just under the milk surface in the pitcher.
  2. Angle the wand to create a swirling vortex.
  3. The swirling ensures even heating and aeration.
  4. Continue steaming until the milk reaches the appropriate temperature, about 140-150°F (60-65°C).

With these tips, you’ll be able to create perfectly steamed milk for your coffee drinks, achieving that smooth, velvety texture right at home.

What Is Frothed Milk?

Frothed milk, like steamed milk, involves adding air to change the milk’s texture, but the similarities end there. The air bubbles in frothed milk are much larger, creating a lighter, voluminous foam that seems to dissolve on the tongue. Baristas often refer to frothed milk as “drier” because it contains more air and less water.

If you’ve seen the foam layer on a cappuccino that extends well over the brim of the mug, you’ve experienced frothed milk. It can hold its shape impressively.

How to Froth Milk

Frothing milk doesn’t require steam, making it easier for home baristas. You don’t need an espresso machine with a steam wand; a simple milk frother will do. Here are several methods to froth milk:

  1. Manual Frother: Use a pump-style frother to introduce air into the milk.
  2. Electric Frothing Pitcher: These devices froth milk at the push of a button.
  3. Hand-Held Frothing Wand: A battery-operated wand that whisks the milk into a froth.
  4. French Press: Vigorously move the plunger up and down to incorporate air into the milk.

For those with an espresso machine, you can use the steam wand by holding the tip just at the milk’s surface to create a foamy vortex.

Ideal Drinks for Frothed Milk

The classic cappuccino, which is one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third frothed milk, is the perfect drink to sample frothed milk. A macchiato, featuring a dollop of hot milk froth, is another excellent choice.

Does Type of Milk Matter?

Yes, the type of milk affects the texture, taste, and structure of your foamed milk due to the ratio of fats to proteins. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 1% or 2% Milk: These offer a good balance of protein and fat, making them easy to foam and providing a rich texture.
  • Non-Fat Milk: High in protein, it foams quickly but lacks the creamy mouthfeel due to the absence of fat.
  • Whole Milk: Deliciously rich, but requires more skill to foam properly.
  • Half-and-Half: Can be steamed for a breve but won’t produce a light, airy foam.
  • Plant-Based Milks: Look for “Barista Version” labels that contain added fats and stabilizers to mimic the texture of dairy milk. Oat milk is particularly popular for its neutral taste and creamy texture.

The Verdict

There’s no competition between frothed milk and steamed milk; both are essential for various classic drinks. A skilled barista can make either, but for home use, frothed milk is easier to achieve without professional equipment.

  • Choose steamed milk for creamy espresso drinks like lattes, latte macchiatos, or cortados.
  • Choose frothed milk for lighter espresso drinks like cappuccinos or macchiatos.

Understanding the differences between frothed and steamed milk will help you master a variety of coffee drinks at home, ensuring you enjoy café-quality beverages anytime.