The 3 Best Espresso Thermometers of 2018

Updated on January 17, 2018
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Paul's passion for making and consuming coffee extends back over thirty years. An extensive traveler, he currently lives in Florida.

Most people who are serious about their coffee would like to make their beverages like true baristas.  The quality of the coffee and the brewing process play a big part, of course, but efforts need to be made to also get the milk just right too.
Most people who are serious about their coffee would like to make their beverages like true baristas. The quality of the coffee and the brewing process play a big part, of course, but efforts need to be made to also get the milk just right too. | Source

I've learned from experience that making the perfect latte or cappuccino is not is not just about the coffee brew, the milk has to be just right too.

Getting the temperature of the milk right can be difficult. If you heat it too little, it won't have the correct consistency, heat it too much and it will become burned.

The best way of ensuring that the milk has reached the ideal temperature is through the use of an espresso thermometer. A temperature between 150ºF and 155ºF generally works best. Go above above 170ºF and the milk will be scorched.

My 3 Best Espresso Thermometers

  • The Norpo 5981: Affordable and Easy
  • The Rattleware: Reliable and Durable
  • The CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read: Perfect for a Smaller Pitcher

I explain my selections in detail below.

To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions.

— Hugh Jackman
The Norpro 5981 Espresso Thermometer is accurate, attractive and won't take up too much of your drawer space. The dial has a red area to let you know when your milk is at the right temperature. .
The Norpro 5981 Espresso Thermometer is accurate, attractive and won't take up too much of your drawer space. The dial has a red area to let you know when your milk is at the right temperature. .

The Norpo 5981: Affordable and Easy

When it comes to value for money, the Norpro 5981 is difficult to beat. I used one for over a year before losing it in a relationship breakdown.

Attractive and functional, I found this device to be perfect for use with milk frothing pitchers.

Below are my pros and cons for the Norpro.

Pros

  • The clip that enables you to fasten the thermometer to pitcher is very handy.
  • The dial is around 3/4 inch in diameter, with a very visible colored zone to let you know optimum temperature (somewhere around 150-160F or 65-72 C is generally accepted to be the ideal temperature for a perfect latte foam).
  • Generally speaking, very straightforward and easy to use.
  • Old style spring style thermometer so no batteries required.

Cons

  • Needs to be hand washed to avoid damaging it.
  • Needs to be re-calibrated, if it goes off. Not a difficult procedure but sometimes necessary.

Different Types of Milk

The easiest milk to create foam with is the nonfat version. It doesn't taste as luxurious as fattier milk types, however.

You can make foam with 2% milk very easily, and your beverage will be a little creamier than the nonfat version.

The most difficult milk to foam is whole milk, but you will get a fuller flavor beverage, thanks to the higher fat content.

The Rattleware 5-Inch Easy Steam Thermometer is perfect for medium and large sized pitchers.  It has a long clip to hold the thermometer firmly in place and the dial is very easy to read, with green and red zones, as well measurements in both F and C
The Rattleware 5-Inch Easy Steam Thermometer is perfect for medium and large sized pitchers. It has a long clip to hold the thermometer firmly in place and the dial is very easy to read, with green and red zones, as well measurements in both F and C

The Rattleware: Reliable and Durable

I use a Rattleware thermometer nowadays. I find it easy to use, there are red and green zones on the dial, so it's difficult to go wrong. (Green zone equals just right, red equals burned milk!)

My pros and cons.

Pros

  • I was born and raised in England and appreciate the measurements being in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
  • It works well with the larger pitcher that I use nowadays.
  • It's NSF approved.
  • Feels solid and durable.

Cons

  • Mine needed re-calibration on arrival, probably due to being shaken up during shipping. (There are calibration instructions on the sleeve.)

How to Calibrate a Thermometer

During transportation, the thermometer can get shaken up, causing its accuracy to suffer.

Calibrating it is generally easier than it sounds.

The easiest way is generally to dip it in boiling water and use a pair of pliers or a spanner to turn the nut (typically at the bottom) to calibrate the thermometer to boiling point.

(You can also calibrate it using ice too and adjusting it to freezing point.)

After that it's ready for use!

Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it's hard to go back to sleep.

— Fran Drescher

Top 5 Latte-Making Tips!

The steam wand should be inserted into the milk diagonally and remain just below the surface to allow more air to be drawn in.

Create a rotational flow in the steam pitcher when frothing, like a small whirlpool.

The ideal temperature for the milk is between 150ºF and 155ºF, go over 170ºF and it will burn.

If you don't have a thermometer, cup your hand beneath the pitcher, remove when it's too hot to touch.

Aim to make small, light bubbles (known as microfoam) rather than larger, soapy ones.

A Brief History of Coffee

According to legend, coffee first came to the attention of people in the Ethiopian highlands in the 9th century, when a goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his animals became more lively when they ate the berries from a certain plant.

The truth of the legend is difficult to assess, but we do know that coffee originated in that region of the world and by the fifteenth century it was cultivated and imbibed as a drink in southern Yemen. By the sixteenth century coffee drinking had spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

Coffee houses, known as "qahveh khaneh" started to spring up in cities across the Near East. People would drink coffee, socialize and talk, enjoy music, watch performances, play chess and catch up on the latest news of the day.

By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe. There was some suspicion and controversy over the dark drink, however, and there were calls to ban the beverage, until Pope Clement VIII condoned its use in 1600.

Coffee houses sprung up in England, France, Germany, Austria and Holland, and quickly becoming centers of social activity and interaction. Artists, brokers and merchants would meet there. In many places, women were banned from coffee houses at this time.

Coffee arrived in New York (then known as New Amsterdam) in the mid-1600's, and just as with Europe, coffee houses quickly began to appear everywhere. Tea was still the most popular drink, however, until the colonists rebelled against a heavy tax imposed on tea imposed by the English in 1773. After that, American loyalty switched to coffee.

Demand for coffee continued to grow. For centuries the cultivation and trade of the dark bean was controlled by the Arabs, but in the late 1600s the Dutch got hold of some young seedlings and began cultivating crops on the island of Java.

Coffee cultivation continued to spread around the world. By the finish of the 18th century, it had turned into one of the world's most profitable export crops.

I don't know how people live without coffee, I really don't.

— Martha Quinn
The CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read is an ideal device for use with a smaller frothing pitcher.  It's easy to read and accurate dial won't get in the way of your wand and the CDN IRB220-F won't take up too much space in your kitchen drawer.
The CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read is an ideal device for use with a smaller frothing pitcher. It's easy to read and accurate dial won't get in the way of your wand and the CDN IRB220-F won't take up too much space in your kitchen drawer.

The CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read: Perfect for a Smaller Pitcher

The CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read is perfect for a smaller milk frothing pitcher, I used one when I was living alone and making smaller amounts of frothed milk for my coffee.

My pros and cons.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • I've tried it for making yogourt and it worked just great.
  • I've seen complaints online about the size of the dial, but I've found it easy to see when milk reaches right temperature.

Cons

  • The clip worked well for a year or so, but became a little loose after repeated use.
  • Needs calibrating occasionally (not difficult but may put some people off)

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Paul Goodman

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