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Frothed milk — we love it! That deliciously sweet, airy cap of milky goodness is the distinguishing feature of cappuccino, and one of the reasons that many cappa lovers make the trip to the corner coffee shop to get their daily dose of froth. Lighter and sweeter than whipped cream, perfectly frothed milk for cappuccino floats atop the crema and slowly infiltrates the espresso below. It’s neither dry and stiff, nor wet and gloppy, and most baristas will tell you that it takes a great deal of practice and skill to achieve on a consistent basis.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have the time or patience to deal with a steam wand and all the fussy timing and temperature control, you’ll find dozens of milk frothers on the market that will help you make perfect milk froth for your cappuccinos and other milk drinks. Before you shop, there are a few things you should know about frothing and steaming milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
Steam for Lattes — Froth for Cappuccinos
While you’ll find a lot of differences of opinion about the difference between a latte and a cappuccino, it all boils down to the milk. Both of them start with a shot of espresso. For a latte, you add about the same amount of milk that has been steamed to a temperature of 150 F and top it with a thin layer of milk foam. For a cappuccino, you froth the milk to build a thicker head of foam, so there is less milk and more foam.
The purpose of a steam wand is two-fold. It heats the milk and injects air into it at the same time. The end result when it’s done properly is hot milk that has been whipped to a thick, velvety foam that you can spoon and scoop up. It isn’t, however, the only way to heat and froth milk for your cappuccino and latte drinks. Here are some of the other options you can use, from cheapest (free, even!) to the super-deluxe luxury model.
Froth on the Cheap
If you’re in a pinch and want foam for your latte or cappuccino, all you need is a glass jar with a cover and a heating source. Fill the jar about 1/3 full of milk — the less fat the better for frothing. Screw on the cover and shake it until you have a jar full of milk froth. You can use it as is, or heat it up in the microwave or in a pot of water on the stove. Just remove the cover before heating to avoid an explosion. It does take a bit of work, but you’ll get thick foam once you get the hang of it.
About $10: Norpro Glass Froth Master
The Norpro Glass Froth Master is one of the easiest types of milk frothers to use. You simply pour in the milk to the fill line, put on the cover, and pump the handle until your milk has the right degree of froth to make you happy. You can start with hot or cold milk, and use any milk from skim to half & half, including soy milk. All it takes is about 20 seconds of vigorous pumping to whip up 2 cups of delicious, thick froth that’s perfect for topping cappuccinos. One of the nicer features of the Norpro milk frother is the rubber base which helps stabilize the frother while you’re pumping the plunger up and down. Clean up is a breeze. Just rinse immediately after use with hot water, and give it a through wash with dishwashing liquid and a glass sponge when needed.
About $20: Aerolatte To Go Milk Frother
Among the most popular milk frothers on the market are these battery-operating whipping wands. Aerolatte makes several versions of these battery-operating milk frothers including one that sports cow spots and this lovely version that comes with its own carrying case. The Aerolatte to Go Milk Frother runs on two AA alkaline batteries, making it the ideal coffee accessory to take along with you to the office or when you’re traveling. It’s even easier to use than a manual frother. Just submerge the whisk in your cup of milk and turn it on. The Aerolatte milk frother will double the volume of your milk in about 20 seconds. The foam is thick enough to do a stand-in for whipped cream, whether you start with hot or cold milk. Made of plastic and 18/80 stainless steel, the Aerolatte is durable enough to stand up to years of use. Expect to replace the batteries every couple of months. The Café Luxe Stainless Steel Milk Frothing Wand is similar to the Aerolatte. The Cafe Luze makes amazingly fluffy froth and cost less than $20 read more here: Café Luxe – Best Milk Frother and Foam Maker
Under $50: Froth Au Lait Frothing Unit
If you want a milk frother that will heat up your milk as well as whip it up into a delicious lather, the Froth Au Lait Frothing Unit is your baby. The Froth Au Lait uses a heating element in the base of the pitcher to heat milk while it whips. It offers two different whipping arms — a whisk for making thick, rich cream for cappuccinos and a paddle for steamed milk with less froth. You simply put in the whipper you want to use, add milk, cover and press the on-off switch to whip your milk into a delicious lather. You can also whip your milk without heating it if you prefer. One of the outstanding features of the Froth Au Lait Gourmet Milk Frother is the capacity. Unlike many other frothers which can only handle a couple of ounces at a time, the Froth Au Lait Gourmet frother can whip up to 16 ounces of whipped, thick velvety milk foam at a time — ideal if you’re making cappuccinos for a crowd.
Under $100: Nespresso Aeroccino Plus
The Nespresso Aeroccino Plus milk frother is the next step up if you’re looking for a convenient, reliable milk frother. Like the Froth Au Lait, it will heat milk or froth either cold or hot milk with the touch of a button. The pitcher of the Aeroccino lifts off the base heater unit and has a non-stick interior to make it easier to clean. It has a 130 ml (just over 1/2 cup) capacity for frothed milk and a 250 ml capacity if you just want hot milk with a little foam. It’s strongest points are that it’s quick, quiet and easy to use — and it makes incredibly rich, velvety foam to top your cappuccinos in about 1 minute.
The Deluxe Option: Krups XL2000 Milk Frother
Convenience, quality and good looks — could you ask for more? The Krups XL2000 Milk Frother not only does a wonderful job of frothing and heating milk (and hot chocolate), it looks great while it’s working. It features an all-around pouring rim, brushed stainless exterior and polished aluminum interior. The Krups milk frother will make milk foam for cappuccino, frothed milk for lattes or hot milk for cafe au lait or hot chocolate. Simply fill with your desired milk to the indicated fill line, put the cover on and press the button. Your frothed milk will be ready in 1 to 4 minutes, depending on the option you chose.