What is Frothed Milk?
If you’ve ever wiped a bit of cappuccino foam off your top lip, you’ve had some experience with frothed milk. It’s an essential part of many cafe-style drinks, but just how much do you know about it? What is frothed milk, really?
Here’s all the whys and hows of frothed milk for aspiring baristas or curious coffee lovers.
What is It Then?
Very simply put, frothed milk is milk that has been aerated to create a light and foamy texture. The perfect milk froth for coffee should have a light feel but be firm enough to hold its shape. Bubbles should be visible, but of a consistent size throughout the foam.
The texture and longevity of milk froth will depend on the method you use, whether you heat it, and most importantly, the type of milk you use. The ability to create structure depends on the proteins in the milk, while the fat content provides stability. Whole milk will create a richer foam, while skim milk creates a “drier” milk froth (1).
What is the difference between steamed milk and frothed milk?
The terms steamed milk and frothed milk are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Steamed milk is also aerated, but the bubbles are much smaller. The result is the smooth microfoam essential for lattes and latte art.
Creating steamed milk requires using a steam wand, which heats the milk as it adds texture. Frothy milk can be created using various methods and can be either heated or left cold.
Still confused? Read more on the difference between steamed milk and frothed milk.
What is frothed chilled milk?
Frothed chilled milk is, simply, the milk you don't heat during the aeration process. This usually means using a manual frothing method like a whisk or blender, but some good milk frothers also offer cold froth options. Frothed chilled milk is an excellent topping for iced coffees or cold brews.
There's not much to know about how to froth milk–it's effortless, and you can even do it without any special equipment. You can incorporate air into your milk using a French press, a blender, or even by shaking it in a jar (with a tight lid). Heat it first on the stovetop or in the microwave for warm milk froth.
The only downside to makeshift methods is that it's much harder to control the texture of the resulting milk froth. You'll undoubtedly get bubbles, but you might not get the stiff, scoopable foam that you're used to.
If you drink cappuccinos regularly, you might want to invest in an automatic or handheld milk frother. Both will create cafe-quality milk froth, and the automatic models will heat your milk simultaneously.
Related: What is a cappuccino and what is it made of?
What is frothed milk used for?
The most well-known use for frothed milk is in a cappuccino, but you'll find it on a whole range of espresso-based drinks. The difference between a cappuccino, latte vs macchiato is simply the ratio between coffee, milk foam, and steamed milk (if any).
…the whole idea behind frothing milk is creating a sweet, creamy texture. Heating milk increases its apparent sweetness, but only to a point.
Adding milk foam to a coffee creates added texture and a creamy mouthfeel that regular milk won't provide. The combination of aeration and heating can also make the milk taste sweeter without sugar.
Frothed milk is as straightforward as it sounds. This light and airy foam is essential for many coffee drinks, and you can easily make it at home. Just check that your recipe calls for milk froth and not steamed milk.
The ratio of steamed to frothed milk in a cappuccino is traditionally 1:1. A standard cappuccino recipe calls for 1 oz espresso, 1 oz steamed milk, and 1 oz of milk froth. There’s a variation on the drink known as a bone dry cappuccino, which uses 1 oz espresso and 1-2 oz of milk foam, with no steamed milk.
No, frothed milk can’t be stored as the foam will disintegrate. Even when prepared correctly, the bubbles in frothed milk begin to collapse within 2-3 minutes, so it’s best prepared immediately before serving (2).
No, frothed milk isn’t bad for you–it has the same nutritional content as the milk you start with. If you’re concerned about the fat content or calories in regular milk, you can make frothed milk with skim milk, or milk alternatives such as almond milk (3).
- Blais, C. (n.d.) The Facts About Milk Foam. Retrieved from https://www.ricardocuisine.com/en/articles/food-chemistry/521-the-facts-about-milk-foam
- Grant, T. (2021, January 22). Why does milk foam disintegrate? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2021/01/why-does-milk-foam-disintegrate/
- Krans, B. (2020, March 5). Comparing Milks: Almond, Dairy, Soy, Rice, and Coconut. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/milk-almond-cow-soy-rice