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For coffee lovers, milk is an essential ingredient. But unfortunately, milk can be one of the most challenging things to choose from because there are so many types.
The lactose-intolerant or vegan may opt for soy or almond milk instead of cow’s milk, while dairy-lovers might go for whole milk.
All three have pros and cons, but what can be said about milk frothing? What is the best milk to froth? This article will help you decide which type of milk to used to create the perfect foam for your coffee.
Read on to learn more about the best type of milk for frothing.
What is the best milk for frothing? The short answer would be whole milk. However, we’ve tested other types of milk and listed a few that worked and none that did not.
Why is some milk different from others?
Milk has three main components: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Protein is about 3.3% of milk, with skimmed and semi-skimmed milk having a more excellent ratio of carbohydrates and fat. Consequently, their protein content can, in turn, be broken down into two main types: serum (whey proteins) and casein.
The serum contains most of the vital amino acids. They can be coagulated and denatured by heat, which can lend cooked milk a distinct flavor.
On the other hand, caseins form “micelles,” which are disrupted by the injected bubbles when steaming. The molecules then surround the air bubbles, protecting them from bursting and creating foam.
Because of that, the different protein content of different milk affects each milk’s ability to maintain that frothy foam beautifying your java.
Bonus! Whole milk results in a creamier, thicker foam. Skimmed milk results in more foam and larger air bubbles.
Why do certain types of milk foam better than others?
Let’s take a closer look at what occurs when we steam milk. This method entails mixing hot water vapor (250-255 °F, 121-124 °C) into cold milk (40 °F, 4 °C) until it achieves the temperature for a “perfectly steamed latte.” The procedure appears straightforward, but there are other aspects to consider.
As a result, various milk cause varying lengths of steaming time. And it’s critical to get this right: a temperature that’s too high can cause scorching. It also destroys bacteria and denatures enzymes, resulting in curdling (denatured milk proteins clumping together).
It’s not simply steaming time that’s impacted. Varying types of milk require different steaming temperatures because of their different molecular compositions.
The best milk for frothing
Without further ado, here is the best milk to froth. I have grouped them into two: what worked for me and what didn’t.
No doubt, whole milk is the best milk for frothing. Its perfect balance of sugar, fats, proteins, and water ensures you have the best foam.
It is cheap and widely available in most places and the easiest to froth even without a high-quality milk frother. So even if you are not a skilled barista, you will not have a problem achieving the best results with whole milk.
However, if on a diet, be careful with whole milk as it packs a lot of fat and calories. So could you take note of that before frothing it?
1 percent milk: This milk falls somewhere in the midst between Whole Milk and Skimmed Milk. It’s also a fantastic alternative if you want to reduce the fat level of the milk while still producing a semi-creamy froth.
2 percent milk: foams easily and adds a more creamy flavor than non-fat milk.
Tip! The taste and the molecular composition of whole milk largely depend on what the cow is fed and the type of cow it comes from.
Skimmed milk is an excellent alternative to whole milk if you are not looking to sacrifice the incredible creaminess and taste in your cappuccinos and lattes. It contains about 3.4% protein, which is significantly higher than that of whole milk but with fewer carbohydrates and fat.
You get a foamier froth with relatively larger air bubbles with skimmed milk. It is airier because skimmed milk has fewer amounts of fat.
Less fat in skimmed milk also means you get a foam that is not as rich and flavorful as it would with whole milk.
It is easier to froth skimmed milk and a good option for newbies.
Almond milk yields a nice rich foam and stays relatively sweet even at higher temperatures. You will also have an easier time making latte art with this milk. Make sure to choose the best almond milk for the best experience. Califa’s Barista Blend almond milk works for me well. I hope it works for you!
Oat milk is another excellent alternative for frothing. It steams like natural milk and yields a great foam, which unfortunately doesn’t hang around for long as whole milk might. This is because of the lighter protein content relative to the fat in oat milk.
Overall, oat milk is smooth, creamy, sweet, and won’t hinder your latte art throwdown. Order yours today!
You won’t go wrong with soy milk if you pick the right one. The Silk Original milk worked well for me. It yielded a reasonably dense foam with a fantastic creamy texture. However, while the foam is delicious to drink, it was challenging to pour latte art with.
There are some negatives to soy milk, such as that some varieties tend to curdle when exposed to acidity in coffee and hot temperatures.
It will also froth, but quickly lose the bubbles because its protein structures cannot properly support the milk bubbles.
What didn’t work?
You have probably witnessed the rising trend of cashew milk, with some people making cashew milk at home. I tried some store-bought cashew milk and didn’t like the results. The milk yielded a relatively thin foam that dissipated within a minute or two after pouring, and the milk tasted somewhat bitter and flat.
Steaming hemp milk felt like steaming water. It was impossible to get anything akin to microfoam.
I wouldn’t say I liked this milk either. It was terrible!
Lactose-free and organic milk
This does not foam as well as other types of milk. This is because of the pasteurization process used in this milk.
What are the best types of milk to steam? (To make lattes)
- Milk: Non-fat milk, 2% milk, whole milk, organic milk, and lactose-free milk.
- Non-dairy: Soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk
Factors that can ruin a good froth
- Using fresh, cold milk is critical in achieving a good foam.
- Fresh milk should be consumed within 10 days of purchase. If using the milk for frothing, use it within 5 days of purchase to get the best foam.
- Milk should be kept away from light. Therefore, purchasing milk in opaque containers rather than clear ones is better.
- Milk should be very cold. Use milk that has been taken straight from the fridge and start frothing instantly.
- Organic and lactose-free milk is ultra-pasteurized; thus, the proteins in the milk are destroyed and don’t support the milk bubbles in the foam. Avoid these types of milk when trying to achieve a thick foam. They work better for lattes.
- Avoid leaving milk on the counter after use, as this can affect the milk’s freshness. Instead, always put the milk back into the refrigerator when done.
- Always wash your milk container after use.
- Never pour hot milk over ice as bacteria can grow.
- Never re-steam milk once it has been heated. Only steam the amount you are going to use.
- Never pour fresh milk into milk that has already been steamed, as bacteria can grow.
The science of frothing milk
- Fats and proteins in milk are responsible for how well the milk with be frothed.
- The milk’s protein stabilizes the entrapped air and forms bubbles and foam.
- The act of steaming milk is forcing air into the milk while increasing the milk’s temperature.
- If the milk has too much fat, the protein can’t support the bubbles, and the foam will be flat.
- Fresh milk isn’t always consistent and has many other factors that alter taste and froth. These include what the cow has been fed, the type of cow, the pasteurization process, how the milk was stored before it was bought, etc.
- If your milk is not frothing as you please, consider trying another type of milk.
The optimal temperature for steaming and frothing milk
- The perfect temperature for steaming milk on a home espresso machine is between 150°F – 155°F.
- Milk proteins begin to break down and burn around 170°F.
- 160°F is the best temperature for a drink that will be taken to go.
- Always pre-heat your cappuccino and latte cups to ensure the milk keeps the proper temperature.
- Most cafés serve coffee drinks between 155°F – 165°F.
- Different types of milk have different burning points. For example, soy milk will burn before whole milk.
Pro tip! Experiment with frothing your milk until you know what temperature works best for you.
Any milk for your milk-based coffee drinks will greatly impact the taste, texture, and quality of the brew you get. The milk mentioned above options are by far the best milk for frothing. Try them to see which gives you the best milk to froth for you.