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A typical question among inexperienced home baristas is about the difference between frothing and steaming milk. This can be confusing for newcomers to the world of coffee making, as they may not yet be able to see the peculiarities of these two processes. Milk is milk. The way it is prepared highly matters and is used for different types of beverages.
What is the difference between frothing and steaming? In this brief overview, MilkFrotherTop will explore the two main techniques of how to prepare this dairy product for coffee-based drinks. Which option is better? What is the right equipment to use?
Milk Frother Definition
Steaming and frothing (or foaming) are similar processes to some extent.
In the world of baristas, a “frothed” product is classified as “dry,” in its definition. This means that it is lofty, lighter, less watery, and holds its shape due to its foamy texture.
It is very easy to create this type of froth. You should add air to the fluid using a frother, a steam wand, or similar devices.
Any closed container, which can be shaken, will do, for example, a blender. One more life hack is to use your French press.
The best way to make large foam is to buy a handheld frother. This appliance is compact, easy to use, and clean. Most models are portable and run on batteries.
If you have extra space on your counter, opt for the stovetop type of frother. These electric appliances are more powerful and offer more operation modes. They are a little more expensive than handheld devices, but they work with one press of a button and have an automatic switch-off function.
What Is Milk Steamer?
In this technique, milk is exposed to pressurized steam, and it mainly retains its liquid consistency. Steam heats and texturizes the dairy product simultaneously.
It heats the lactic sugar and breaks down the fats. As the liquid is equally stirred, the bubbles, which are created, are uniform. They are often called “micro foam.” It has a velvety and silky texture. When we pour it into a cup, it has a reflective shine.
A steam wand can be used to heat and make foam in your beverage.
Milk Frother vs Steamer: Usage Guide
In the battle of milk frother vs steamer, both devices go head-to-head.
They are actually the same thing, but frothers are usually equipped with 2 whisks – one for frothing and one for steaming. Both appliances are multifunctional and can be used for making beverages other than milk-based drinks.
Let’s see what are the techniques for milk processing are used in these machines.
Preparing Foamed Milk
To make a frothed dairy product and create foam, you need a small amount of milk (either cold or hot), as then its volume will be increased 2-3 times.
Just start mixing or shaking the product to develop its texture. Due to rapid movements, the fluid becomes aerated and turns into foam. After the process, you may notice that your liquid is split into the two separate layers. One layer is milk, and the other is thick foam with large bubbles.
When you pour this product into your coffee, the foam will stay on the top of your drink and will not dissipate. It is soft and spreads quickly. When you taste the beverage, you will be able to feel this separation of layers.
You can prepare both types of milk using the same equipment. The frothed one should be more aerated. No matter if you use a manual or automatic frother, the fluid should have an even texture.
If you use a steam wand, position its tip near the surface of the liquid. This way, you can continuously add more air, as if you were stretching the milk. When the volume of the product increases, lower the jug, so that the end of the steam wand is held below the surface of the liquid.
Useful Tips for Milk Frothing
- Not all types of milk are able to create a large amount of foam. It is better to use cold milk, because it gives a better froth which lasts longer. If you need it hot, try to keep it within 140-150°F (60-65°C).
- Frothing works great with skimmed and non-fat dairy products. It gives a very light foam, which unfortunately will not stay for long. If you need creamy froth, the best variant is whole milk. It gives a thick and heavy foam and retains it for a long time. Non-fat products are not as flavorful as whole ones. The 2% product is good for frothing and for forming larger foam.
- To get tasty and high-quality froth, clean the steam wand before making a beverage.
Cooking Steamed Milk
Steamed milk has a heavier texture, and it is less lofty than foamed milk. The technique which is used to prepare it is different and is not based on aeration.
Just hold the tip of the steam wand right under the surface of the liquid. Position it in such a way so that you can create a vortex in the pitcher and make the product spin. This will help heat the fluid evenly.
Tilt the jar, so that both the lactic product and the foam can mix and produce a smooth texture. Steaming develops flavor and texture, while frothing creates thickness and body. This kind of milk is always hot, and if you need cold foam, it is impossible to do so with a steamer.
Useful Tips for Steamed Milk
- It is important to know that you should use cold milk. This ensures that it will not boil immediately while steaming. The liquid should not be boiled or overheated, because it will affect the taste of the beverage.
- Normally, you need 20-60 seconds to get a high-quality product. It depends on the equipment that you use – a steamer, a wand, or special attachments which go along with your coffee machine.
- Check the temperature of your dairy product – it should not go over 160°F (70°C), otherwise, it loses its sweetness. If this temperature is exceeded, the proteins will denature, and you will fail to produce micro foam. Use a calibrated thermometer, which indicates the temperature of your lactic product.
- Between 150-160°F (65-70°C), the drink will be full of lactose, which is known for its sweet delicious taste. Stop steaming when the liquid gets 135-140°F (55-60°C). The temperature may continue rising on its own.
- Any kind of milk can be used in this technique, but whole milk is better than skimmed milk.
Drinks Based on Steamed or Frothed Milk
Coffee houses serve a variety of beverages, which contain either steamed milk, frothed milk, or a combination of them both. Here are the most popular coffee choices, which you can order or make at home.
|Cappuccino||Traditional||1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 frothed one (foam). Has 3 layers, served in a glass.|
|Wet||1 shot of espresso plus creamy milk with no foam.|
|Bone Dry||1 shot of espresso with all foam and no milk.|
|Dry||1 shot of espresso with more foam and little milk.|
|Caffe Latte||1/3 espresso, 2/3 steamed milk, 1 cm of foam (with latte art on top).|
|Macchiato||1 shot of espresso topped with froth. Stronger than cappuccino.|
|Café Au Lait||Resembles Caffe Latte, but it is a little weaker. 1/2 double strength coffee, 1/2 steamed milk.|
|Mochaccino (Caffe Mocha)||Made as a latte or cappuccino with chocolate syrup or cocoa powder.|
|Caffe Marocchino||Espresso plus steamed milk and cocoa powder.|
|Flat White||Resembles Caffe Latte, but with a different ratio of milk and espresso. 2 shots of espresso plus foam. Served in a 160 ml tulip cup.|
|Frappe||Iced coffee covered with foam.|
|Café Miel||1 shot of espresso plus steamed milk, honey and cinnamon.|
All these beverages contain the three basic ingredients. The key distinction between these coffees is in the proportion of espresso, steamed milk, and frothed milk. Some drinks may have an extra topping or are flavored with syrups.
To choose the appliance that you need for making your favorite coffee, try to determine which milk state you want to get. If you love drinks with a proper milk texture and micro foam, opt for a steamer. If you like to get dense froth to add it to your beverage (either hot or cold), buy a frother.
We hope that the two ways of milk processing are clearer now. Just choose the brand of your device and enjoy marvelous coffee drinks of your own.