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What are my options for milk frothing? From what I can tell, baristas just use part of the "big coffee machine" (please excuse my rookie terminology; my national drink is tea :D) and don't have a separate device for it.

I'm only an occasional coffee drinker, so I don't want to invest in something that costs $100 just to froth milk.

A full answer with all the possible answers ranging from perfect but expensive to inferior but cheap would be best.

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They aren't just frothing the milk, they're also stretching the milk. Stretching it is what gives a latte its unique texture (though the micro bubbles add to that). If you want a good latte, focus first on stretching it - you can use a small whisk to get air into the milk if need be.

You want a small stainless steel pitcher, most look like this:

pitcher

Put 2/3 of the amount of cold milk you actually want in your latte in that, then put it on a heat source (small burner is okay). Hold your hand around the pitcher while it heats, and use the other hand to stir the milk. You can also use one hand and just swirl the milk around in the pitcher - do what feels comfortable, just keep the milk moving.

As soon as the pitcher becomes just less than too hot for your hand, pull it. Swirl it around a little bit and look inside. Does the milk have a kind of gloss to it similar to Elmer's glue (or any other paste you used in school)? If not, Put it back on the heat for 20 - 30 seconds, swirling it as you do. Once it's got that gloss, and the milk has expanded a bit, it's stretched properly.

An electric burner is ideal for this, but there are also metal overlays for gas burners that just provide a hot surface.

At that point you can use a hand whisk, or any number of the frothing gadgets that you can find in any cooking store (brick-and-mortar or online).

You can, of course, just froth the milk, but what you're essentially doing is aerating it. That's fine, it's going to make a tasty drink, but it might fall short of your expectations if you don't stretch the milk as well. The process is what makes the milk and the coffee fall in love and give birth to a latte.

The steam wand on espresso machines heats the milk and adds the air, giving you a lot more control over the process. However, this will work almost as well.

Tips:

  • Don't ever let the milk get close to simmering. It'll burn very quickly.
  • Use the handle if you have to put the pitcher back on the heat (as naturally, you took it off because it was approaching too hot to hold)
  • You want to get the milk in the coffee as soon as possible once it has that gloss. Don't let it cool down too much while frothing (work fast)
  • It's going to take some practice

Total for this would be about $15 for the stainless steel pitcher, $10 - $15 for the frother, so all total around 30 bucks. You could use a sauce pan, but it's much harder to gauge how hot the milk is if you do, and much harder to control when you pour.

  • 1
    This is also a great way to make hot chocolate. Pouring properly stretched milk into a chocolate syrup, or cocoa powder you dissolved in a bit of hot water (essentially a syrup) is always yummy. – Tim Post May 3 '15 at 16:20
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They sell tiny triple-A battery frothers on Amazon for under ten dollars. You can also find them at a kitchen supply store. They look like a wire with loops on the end that spin when you flip the switch/press the button. Put it in your hot milk, and froth it as much as you like.

As for what cafe's use, their espresso machines will have a module that does it for them.

  • Thanks for the answer. To clarify, are you saying that this is the only option? My question asked "what are my options?" and I can't tell whether you've only given one because a) there is only one, b) there is only one viable one or c) you misread the question. Some clarification would be great, thanks! :) – starsplusplus Apr 30 '15 at 14:00
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okay,the easiest way to do that is by taking some coffee(decoction or the refined coffee powder) and sugar in your cup. If you have taken ground coffee and sugar- then the next step would be to add little amount of room temperature water. Don't add to less that you see a hard glob and don't add too much that it becomes runny. If you're adding decoction ,then skip adding the water.

Now,all you do is take a spoon and start beating the mixture in the cup-just like you would beat eggs for omelettes. The color will lighten up- it goes from dark coffee brown to muddy brown.Also it attains the consistency of whipped cream but slightly fluid. Then add hot milk. Stir with a spoon,the froth comes up and voila you have your frothy coffee !!

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I have discovered that for just frothing you can also use a French Coffee Press. Pour in some hot milk so that it at least covers the bottom part or "filter" in the press. When you have done that, put in the sliding filter and just start to slide it up and down for 20 times or so. That will froth the milk. Might be enough for you.

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If you own a french press - that's really all you need to froth milk. Heat up your milk on your stove in a pot, add it into a clean french press, and then push and pull the plunger quickly until your milk is frothy. It's not perfect, but the texture is nice.

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