How To Steam Milk At Home

How To Steam Milk At Home

When you watch those minimum-wage kids at Starbucks working on your cappuccino, don’t you often wonder to yourself how long it takes to learn how to make the milk all fluffy like that? They must put them through some kind of course or intensive training program where the masters of the Italian coffee making art sweat bullets passing on the secrets of centuries past to their students, all carefully hand-picked for their potential of a decades-long future in the business – right?

Wrong. Here’s what it comes down to.

1. Put the tip of the steamer into the milk and turn on the steam.

2. Slowly lower the pitcher until the tip is near the top of the milk and giving you a delicate foaming action.

3. Don’t boil the milk.

That’s all! That’s it! You’re making steamed milk just like the baristas of old, and now you’re ready for that? I’m only doing it for the summer’ job at the Corporate Hell Cafe!

Well, not quite. I mean, there is more of an art to steaming or frothing milk than the three steps above, but if you’ve invested in a coffee maker (and you should) so you can make home cappuccinos, then the big three pointers will get you 90% of the way there. To get really GOOD at the milk steaming frothing game, you’ve got to use your senses.


You’re looking for a fluffy foam to happen, not just bubbly milk. Take it too far and your foam turns into clumps. Find the middle ground!


After a handful of tries, you should be able to hear when your cappuccino machine is making the right pitch as it steams your milk. To muffled = too deep. Too loud = not deep enough.


The sweet spot in steamed milk is not static. It moves around as the milk gets foamier, so you have to learn to move with it. Up and down, shake it around, blast those bigger bubbles and protect the smaller ones. It’s a dance, you’ve just got to go with it.


Ultimately, the finished product will tell you if you’ve hit the nail on the head or not. And if you haven’t, heck, try again! It’s always fun to consume your failures :)

Alternatively, get one of the Milk Frother below (some cost as little as $8).


  1. we have many coffee shops in my little burg in Iowa. The worst has to be a Starbucks because their coffee is bitter roasted and then not well made. I love those mom/pop shops that make a little cup of heaven each morning for me.

    Thanks for the tips on making my own foamed milk. I can now make my oen cup of heaven at home!

  2. I agree with BKM, last time I got to starbucks I ended up with dishsoap as well! It is unbelievable how there are so many informative coffee websites, which tells you in detail how to froth milk, and yet those people who is actually working in the industry still do not know how to make a decent coffee.

  3. 2% is best for forming foam; better than skim or whole. Nevertheless, whole milk tastes better and has more nutrition. If a person needs to lower their fat intake for health reasons, it’s good to know that good micro-foam can make even lowfat milk taste wonderfully sweet. The lactose in milk is a form of sugar and heating and foaming it really brings out the sweetness of the lactose. Soy products are usually sweetened with sucrose. Besides sweet lactose, soy also lacks significant calcium, so that’s added as calcium carbonate (Tums) along with some vitamins. The solubility and digestability of those forms are probably not as good as that of the nutrition in milk.

  4. The problem is those kids at Starbucks don’t know how to steam milk. In fact, this very thing is one which Howard lectured every single one of them on last year in (video) person. Howard gets it. A whole lot of the baristas don’t get it. What I get, is dishsoap!

  5. You’ll get a better foam if you use a non fat skim milk rather than your full fat whole milk. If you really can’t stand skim try 2%, but honestly the texture you get from a good steaming will cover up for the sleight difference in taste you may (but probably wont)taste, especially if you are adding something to the milk after.

  6. Use cold, full fat, milk. Put the steamer wand only submerged in the top of the milk, to the side of the jug to create a whirl pool effect. Turn the steam onto FULL. Use your hand to feel the bottom of the jug – until it is too hot to touch. If milk smells like marzipan then you’ve burnt it! (Steamed too long). Create smooth, bubbless, “cream” topping to create real cappaccino and latte art. Let the jug stand for 30 seconds or so – this will allow the “cream” to form/bulk up more. Visit utube for lots of videos showing you how.

  7. when i steam milk i cant get it to foam, it just bubbles and and stays watery. what am i doin wrong? what do i need to do different?

  8. Hey Ada,

    Check out Ebay. There is one member that sells them: kiwi-in-newyork. Or search “stove top cappuccino”

  9. Hi Ada Suzer, I know just where to get what you’re looking for! In Selfridges in London, we have one and are looking to buy a new one on since the rubber ring that seals the steam in has cracked… However, this is a great milk steamer and the milk gets so fluffy it tastes like whipped cream! Good luck!

  10. Dear writer,
    You are so great in making coffee! I have some trouble in making the coffee at home. I bought the fresh milk and full cream milk to try at home to make capuccino. I try to get the milk foam same as on the internet but it doesnt because too watery.I can see their milk are high concentration, is it they mix up something inside?
    Coffee too, my coffee coming out from espresso machine is watery, but why they can make it like creamer?
    Thanks and pls give me some advice.
    From Neo

  11. I’m looking for a stove top milk steamer, not one of those plunger foamers….. but the ones where the steam shoots out like a jet engine taking off…. I used to have an old-fashioned one, but can’t find them anymore. Any info of where to get it would be appreciated. Thanks.

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