I don’t know about other coffee purists, but I can’t quite kick the habit of adding dairy to my coffee. Sure, I’ll enjoy a black coffee every now and then, but the texture and flavor that some creamy, frothy milk adds to an espresso shot just makes it out of this world.
Coffee is one thing, coffee infused with steamed milk blows everything out of the water(hue hue).
Note: Before we get into the best milk frothers, if you really want decadent, and I mean DECADENT cappuccinos/lattes/etc, then add one part heavy cream to two parts milk, and froth that mixture. When you pour your espresso shot into that mixture, you’ll forget that you’re on earth and for those precious few moments, end up in a fantasy land of coffee, cream, and exquisiteness.
Milk frothers abound in most popular espresso machines – a lot of machines have two parts to them, and use the same water you fill in the tank to prepare the espresso shot and inject steam into your cup of milk to really froth it up.
By the way, if you use a microwave and just pour your finely crafted espresso shot into warm milk, please stop(unless you like it that way and you’ve tried it the other way and decided you did not like it).
Simply warming up the milk does not do coffee justice – frothing completely changes the milk’s texture, injects a whole dimension of volume, and results in an amazingly smooth taste. There’s just no other way to enjoy dairy in your coffee.
If you don’t froth, you’re not doing it right.
So how do you go about frothing?
The easy way is to just use the frother that’s built into your espresso machine. However, your espresso machine may not have a frother built in, or the one that it has is terrible, in which case you need to pick up a frother, and fast.
My first espresso machine was an inexpensive machine that produced decent espresso shots but was impossible to use the frother on. I had to fill milk in a tank, insert a rubber pipe, press the steam button at just the right time, and end up with mediocre quality frothed milk.
On top of that, it was a huge pain to clean up – an often forgotten factor of the otherwise glamorous process that is espresso making.
Handheld milk frothers
Assuming your espresso machine’s frother is either terrible or non-existent, the simplest and cheapest way to froth milk is using a a small handheld manual milk frother.
These are devices that have a stiff wire protruding from them, at the end of which is a whisk coil. You insert the coil all the way down into your milk jug, press the button, and the wire will vibrate rapidly, moving the coil and whisking the milk, dissolving more and more air into it to give it that frothy feel.
However, these devices take a long time to froth milk to a decent level, and by the time you get the froth you want, your milk may have gone cold.
If you’re just looking for a quick froth(a little extra texture, but not the kind of heavy, dollopy milk you would see in a coffee shop), then these frothers are quick and dirty solutions.
Electric milk frothers
Electric milk frothers are more elaborate machines which combine heating and frothing into one neat device, so you are left with a cup of hot, frothy, velvety milk.
There are quite a few different models available, as you may imagine, but here are the best of the best. Some are pricey, some are budget, but if you want a standalone, reliable milk frothing solution for your daily/frequent caffeine fix, then you should seriously consider picking one of these up.
Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother
There’s just something about hot dairy that is comforting, filling, and incredibly enjoyable to drink – and the Breville BMF600XL is a hot dairy powerhouse.
Even though it’s the most expensive milk frother on the list, it may be a worthwhile investment because first, it has the Breville name on it, which is synonymous with great coffee and espresso.
The Breville uses induction heating – so it’s actually a two piece unit, where you’d place the jug of milk on the top – so there is only one thing to wash, which has no electrical components in it, so you can just stick it in the dishwasher.
There are two discs(which spin to create the froth) that you can use and are included with the machine when you buy it – one for just making hot milk, such as for a regular latte, and one for extreme frothing, such as for a cappuccino.
The manufacturer even advertises that you could throw some hot chocolate powder into the mixer and you’ll have well mixed, perfectly heated, creamy hot chocolate!
The temperature is adjustable, and whatever temperature you set, the machine will auto shut off once that has been reached.
The only issue, really, with this machine is that it is a little too large and if you are making a single small shot of espresso, then you’ll have to make a lot more milk than you need. But if you plan on using this for entertaining or for couple’s coffee, then there is truly no better machine.
Nespresso Aeroccino Plus
Next up on our list is the Nespresso Aeroccino Plus, which is quite similar to the Breville above in that it bears a solid name, Nespresso, and uses induction heating to heat up the milk.
It also comes with two disks, one for just warming and one for frothing, but unlike the Breville, it does not have temperature control, so you only have options for hot or cold milk.
Cleaning is not as easy as popping it in a dishwasher, but it’s still fairly easy with a quick rinse and scrub and should not take you more than a few minutes.
Whereas the Breville machine was too large, the Nespresso is a little too small for making multiple cups of coffee – though it is ideal for one or two cups, so perfect for couples.
One gripe that many people have about the Nespresso is its reliability – many people have reported their machines dying prematurely, and even though some were able to qualify for a replacement, it’s still an unnecessary inconvenience.
The main reason we’ve listed this machine on our top picks is that the price point is very reasonable for the feature set and brand name you are getting, so if you’re a little strapped for cash but want a feature rich machine, the Nespresso is a good pick.
Epica Automatic Electric Milk Frother and Heater Carafe
The final automatic milk frother we have on our list is the Epica – if you have not heard of Epica, it’s for good reason – it’s a white label company, so they don’t run advertising campaigns or anything of the sort.
In the same way the Nespresso was a budget version of the Breville, the Epica is a budget version of the Nespresso. It’s pretty much identical except that the Epica uses a fitted disk to froth the milk, whereas the Nespresso and Breville use magnets to hold the disk in place.
The magnet is of course more efficient, since mechanical parts tend to get stuck after some time.
There are three settings on the Epica: cold froth, hot froth, and hot milk, depending on what kind of beverage you are in the mood for. For hot milk, it can fit up to 8 oz or one cup of milk.
For frothing, you’ll be at half of that or 4 oz – so essentially you can only do one cup at a time.
Still, the whole process takes little under a minute, so it’s not that bad.
There is a 2 year warranty provided by the manufacturer so even though it’s a lesser known brand, your purchase is protected.
Reviews for the Epica milk frother are overwhelmingly positive, and I think that is a combination of the simplicity of the device(you are giving up some extra bells and whistles), the reliability, and the price – these three factors combined make it the best budget milk frother you can get.
Manual milk frothers
Bellemain Stainless Steel Handheld Milk Frother
If you need to get your frothy fix of caffeine on the road – or prefer putting more of your hands into your creations, then pick up a manual milk frother such as this one by Bellemain. You don’t need to worry about electricity – and washing it becomes very easy.
All you need to do is fill up milk and get cranking for about 2 minutes, after which you’ll have some lovely, thick frothy milk.
The only issue with a manual milk frother is that there is no way to heat the milk, so you have to heat in the microwave and pop it in to get frothing. Otherwise, if you try and heat after frothing, you will lose a lot of the bubbles in the process.
The biggest advantage with a manual frother is the lack of electronics, so less things can go wrong, and the cost, which is a fraction of anything else available on the market.
This frother can do up to 14 oz at once, which is enough for 2 to 3 cups.