Frothing Basics: Not all milk is the same

Michael Elligett

Milk frothing can be a challenge, especially when you are working with different kinds of milk.  Whether it's for the perfect cup of cappuccino or a delightful latte, frothing technique is pivotal to create that wonderful experience for your customers.


Frothing basics


How do you perfect your milk frothing technique? Not all milk is the same and with consumers opting for different kinds of milk, like  plant-based varieties, you need to be consistent, regardless of what they select to pair with their orders.

First, let’s start with the best practices for frothing your milk:

Use a 12oz/350ml pitcher.

A 12oz or approximately 350ml pitcher is an ideal size to use when frothing your milk. The volume is ideal when creating a large latte and makes it easier for you to handle. 

Furthermore, even the most basic machines will be able to froth this much milk at one time. Do not overfill your pitcher to allow room for the froth.

Start with cold milk and a cold pitcher

Using very cold milk and a cold pitcher gives you more time to work on the milk; lower temperatures also allow for more air to circulate with the milk for more froth. 

You can keep your pitchers in the refrigerator or freezer before using them. 

Watch your wand

Maintaining the cleanliness of your machine’s wand is extremely important. Always keep in mind to purge-wipe-purge. Purge before steaming to avoid getting water into your milk; wipethe wand after frothing, then purge again. Doing this ensures that your wand is always clean and will prevent milk caking on it and backing up into the wand. You do not want spoiled milk clogging your machine.


Over time, you will be able to tell when the milk is ready just by look or feel. However, if you are using a frothing thermometer, it's important to note the milk’s ideal temperature to get that perfect consistency and don’t forget about the lag. 

Milk is at its sweetest from 135-150°F. That’s 57-66°C. The hotter you go, the lower the sweetness gets. Going too hot will scald the milk. Once the steam is off, keep in mind that the temperature will rise about 10°F or 5°C, so stop the steam shy of the temperature you need. If you are not using a thermometer, keep going until the pitcher is almost too uncomfortable to hold.


Finding the ideal position for the tip of your wand is the key to perfecting your technique. If it’s in too deep, you won’t get enough ariaition, not deep enough, and you might get too much air and make a big mess. You also want to be sure to get as much air in as soon as you start frothing while the milk is very cold. 

Adjust the tip of the wand occasionally to incorporate more rips of air. Shut off the steam with the tip still in the milk, wipe, and purge the steam wand. Finally, knock and swirl the pitcher once you are done to get rid of large bubbles if you need to.

Now that we’ve covered the best practices for frothing your milk, it's time to talk about the milk itself.

Know your Milk

Dairy Milk

Full-fat dairy milk is the best milk to work with for frothing. The fat content makes it beautifully frothy with the best consistency and creamy flavour. Other milk with less fat, such as skim or low-fat milk, work fine but tend to break up and dissolve more quickly because of the lower density of fat. 

They also have less flavour. There are also alternative dairy milk like goats milk that is gaining popularity. Goat’s milk has great fat levels and taste and consistency. It can also be a good alternative for those who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.

Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milk has become more and more popular for coffee drinkers due to various dietary concerns and health issues related to dairy. 

According to David Jiscoot, the Marketing Director for Alpro UK and Ireland, “Demand for plant-based coffees out of home has exploded over the past 12 months, with more than half (50.3%) of coffee drinkers now claiming to drink plant-based coffees out of home. Of these people, 54% are drinking plant-based coffees at least once a week.”

Because of chemical differences and differences in the make-up of plant-based milk, first and foremost, you should look into brands that produce plant-based milk specifically made for coffee shops and cafes, commonly called barista blends. These will be better suited for frothing. Almond milk and soy milk are known to take well to frothing and oar milk and coconut milk. Hazelnut milk has also been known to yield good results.

The Coffee

Last but definitely not least, you need to have excellent coffee. Your beautiful frothy milk won’t mean much if it’s poured and served over subpar coffee. Make sure you have robust beans that will carry any type of frothed milk excellently. Find yourself a great coffee supplier who can provide you with the best blends and beans.

Practice makes perfect, so be sure to keep perfecting your frothing technique with different kinds of milk. Experiment with different coffee blends and types of milk as well. This will enable you to make suggestions to your customers who have other preferences and dietary concerns. 

Once you have your technique down pat, you can explore creating latte art. From the basic, pretty swirls and waves to more elaborate designs, you can create whatever you want if you have perfectly frothed milk.

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