I've been passionate about making and drinking coffee for over thirty years, and if you are anything like me, you will know that a good cup of coffee is not purely about brewing the beans.
Getting the milk right is just as important if you want to make the perfect latte, cappuccino, or hot chocolate. Making great foam doesn't necessarily require any great skill or experience provided you have the right equipment.
Important factors to remember are that:
- A thick, creamy, and longer-lasting foam will transform your cappuccinos, upgrading them to coffee-shop standards.
- An excellent milk frother will enable you to create gourmet-quality beverages in the comfort of their own home, without having to pay coffee-shop prices.
- Handheld devices are often more affordable and very easy to use, but electric versions can also usually keep the froth hot or cold after whisking automatically, and they also function as a pitcher for serving.
The Two Main Types of Frother
Frothers generally below to one of two types.
These usually take the form of a small body used to grip the device and hold the batteries and motor, plus a stem and whisker. The device works like a small propeller, whisking the hot milk into a foam.
The best handheld devices are often made from stainless steel to give them a stylish appearance and durability, as well as make them easier to clean. Handheld frothers are usually much more affordable than electric versions. They also take up less space in your kitchen.
These take the form of pitchers with an electric motor, which drives the whisking automatically. They have a number of advantages over handheld devices.
For one thing, they are usually less messy and time-consuming than handhelds. You also don't have to transfer the foam to a separate pitcher after you have created it, as the device acts as a vessel for the foam.
Electric versions will often keep the foam hot for you after creation. They are also typically made from stainless steel for an elegant appearance, durability and cleaning ease.
With handheld frothers you may have to also buy a separate pitcher too, but with the electric version frother and pitcher are effectively combined in one.
The Top Handheld and Automatic Milk Frothers
Here are 2 handheld and 2 automatic frothers that I recommend.
- The Kuissential Slick Froth: Inexpensive and convenient
- The Bonsenkitchen: Powerful and Sturdy
- The Epica Automatic: Quick and quiet
- The Secura Automatic: Affordable and easy to operate
I give my reasons and experiences in detail below.
The Kuissential Slickfroth: Inexpensive and Convenient
I bought a Kuissential Slickfroth 2.0 a few years back to replace the Aerolatte that I had been using previously. I found it superior frother, even though it actually cost me less money.
Although I almost always use an automatic around the home, I often use the Kuissential when I go traveling. It's a very affordable handheld model, powered by 2 AA batteries, and creates the creamy foam required for lattes, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate.
Here are my pros and cons.
- Looks and feels great.
- Easy to operate, reaches full speed very quickly.
- Cleaning is straightforward, just dip it in soapy water and rinse.
- Very affordably priced (typically less than 10 dollars online).
- The power button can sometimes stick a little after multiple uses. Not a big issue for me as I still feel I've got my money's worth, even if I will eventually have to replace it.
The Bonsenkitchen: Powerful and Sturdy
The Bonsenkitchen electic milk frother is a powerful favorite handheld that's built to a much higher standard the average prodiuct. I used one in my work office for a couple of years and found it great for foaming up milk for my lattes.
I move the whip up and down as it's spinning to get the froth. It's best if you only use it with a reltively small amount of milk (2-3 ounces) and you do have to be careful not to over-froth.
- Powerful frother with a high speed of rotation.
- I've used it successfully for coffee, latte, hot chocolate, milk shake, even as an egg beater.
- Well built and sturdy. The stainless steel shaft and whip aren't going to break in a hurry.
- Attractive and stylish appearance. I love the feel of it too.
- Easy to use and clean, can wash in mild soapy water with the whisk moving, or run it under fresh water.
- As with most if not all handhelds, it's easy to bend the shaft accidentally if you aren't careful.
The Epica Automatic: Quick and quiet
I have an Epica Automatic in my work office. I use it mainly to create milk foam for my lattes and cappuccinos, but it's versatile enough to be used for iced drinks too. There are three settings, providing the option to make hot froth, cold froth, or hot milk.
- Stainless steel construction makes it a solid, stylish and easy to clean frother.
- It's simple and intuitive to operate.
- Quick and quiet.
- Durable and reliable, I've had mine two years and still works as well as the first time I used it.
- As with the Secura, you need to be careful that you don't overfill, or the milk will spill over and create a mess.
- Cleaning is easy if you do it straightaway, but is more challenging if you let the milk dry up.
The Secura Automatic: Affordable and Straightforward to Operate
After several years of messing around with handhelds, I decided it was time to get an automatic. Even if you are experienced at using a handheld, it's just so much easier to press a button and get perfect foam every time. I now only use a handheld when I'm off traveling.
After experimenting with different electric frothers, I settled on using a Secura Automatic as my main machine in the home.
I've listed the main pros and cons of it below.
- Consistently perfect foam created with just a press of a button.
- Straightforward to operate.
- Nice look and feel.
- Stainless steel outside and nonstick interior make it easy to clean, both inside and out.
- Compact design makes it simple to store when not in use.
- It does have a tendency to overflow even if I overfill it just slightly. The max line marker could be more visible.
- It pours fine, but could be better.
- It makes enough froth for a couple of cappuccinos, that's fine for my wife and I, but may be too little for some people's needs.
Achieving the Correct Temperature
Heating the milk to the right temperature can be tricky. If the milk isn't hot enough, it won't be at the correct consistency, if it gets too hot, it becomes scolded.
The most accurate way to get the temperature right is to use an espresso thermometer. The ideal temperature for frothing is around 150ºF to 155ºF, above 170ºF and the milk will taste burned.
© 2014 Paul Goodman