As an ex-barista, I can say that getting your foam right is equally important as getting your brew right. The trick is finding the right frother for your needs. I will help you with that.
In this guide, I will tell you all about:
- Types of milk frothers and how they work
- The five best milk frothers on the market
- How to choose the right frother for you
After you make your choice, check out our guide on how to use a milk frother so you can start making foamy coffees at home!
Why Invest In A Milk Frother?
You’re mistaken if you think you must visit a coffee shop for a good coffee. You can make an extraordinary cup of Joe without leaving your house. Of course, you must invest a bit. After getting a coffee machine of your choice, the next item on the list of essentials is milk frother.
Getting the best milk frother might not be your priority if you rarely make milk-based coffees. However, a good frother is necessary if you love lattes and cappuccinos. Just think about all the money you will save by preparing these fancy drinks at home.
With a milk frother, you can make a variety of coffee drinks:
- flat white
- chai latte
- hot chocolate
…and many more!
Plus, most milk frothers can make cold foam to prepare summer coffees such as iced latte, iced americano, or cold brew.
Types of Milk Frothers
When choosing the milk frother, a good place to start is getting acquainted with different types of milk frothers.
Handheld Electric Frothers
A handheld electric frother is the simplest type of milk frother. Almost every household has this helpful kitchen gadget, so you’ve probably seen it around.
This type of frother is very straightforward. It usually features a single button, so you won’t need much time figuring out different settings. Some models feature exchangeable whisks, offering different types of wands to achieve different textures and consistencies of your drink.
The handheld electric frother is easy to clean and maintain. Usually, it requires only a quick rinse with hot water.
Some handheld frothers are powered with an electric cord, while others are battery-powered. It’s up to you to choose which one suits you more. The ones powered by rechargeable batteries are an excellent choice for traveling and outdoor activities.
This frother is usually cheap but less durable than some professional frothers on our list. So, don’t expect wonders from this machine. It doesn’t offer much customization or temperature settings.
Jug/Container Style Electric Frothers
Jug or container electric milk frothers make perfect foam without much effort from your side. The process is automatic: you pour the cold milk in, choose your settings, and the frother will do its magic.
Jug frother usually has a large capacity, so it’s an excellent choice for households with multiple coffee enthusiasts. And each time you use it, you will get consistent results thanks to the automated process.
When it comes to customization, this type of frother offers different settings, from froth texture to temperature. Also, you can heat or froth other liquids besides milk, such as hot chocolate, chai, or even soup.
Jug frothers are more expensive than other types because of the high-quality results they deliver. Another downside is that cleaning and maintaining it is more involved because it has more components than other types of frothers.
Manual Frothers (Hand Pump Style)
A manual milk frother resembles a pitcher or a plunger (think of a French Press), which gives it a somewhat retro look. And it works in retro style, too – without electricity.
Manual frother consists of a steel or glass container, a plunger, and a mash screen. You create the foam by vigorously pumping the plunger, which incorporates the air inside the milk.
The cleaning isn’t complicated, but it still requires effort since you must wash a few parts. Still, you can pop them into the dishwasher and skip the manual cleaning since no electricity is involved.
The most significant disadvantage of this type of frother is its lack of customizability. You can make only one type of foam, and you must pre-heat the milk. The process is also much more involved since you must manually pump the plunger.
Steam Wand (Common In Espresso Machines)
Steam wand doesn’t come as a standalone milk frother but as a part of espresso machines. This type of frother makes a perfect thick foam, but it might take some time to master it. Getting a grip on the nuances of the process takes time, so don’t be annoyed if you don’t do it immediately.
Steam wands froth milk with, you guessed it, steam. The heated water inside the machine creates the vapor and sends it through the steam wand and out through small holes at the top of the wand. This steam warms up the milk in the pitcher and creates the foam.
New superautomatic espresso machines come with automatic steam wands, making the process easier since you don’t need to try so hard to make the perfect foam. However, manual steam wands still deliver better results.
Although steam wands make the best foam possible, they have a couple of downsides. First of all, it takes real effort to froth the milk properly. If you don’t do it right, you will end up with hot milk instead of foam.
Another downside is that steam wands can only heat the milk, so you can’t make cold foam. Lastly, they only come as a part of espresso machines, so it’s a way more expensive option if you already have a coffee maker and need a frother.
If you need recommendations for espresso machines with steam wands, check out our guide on the best coffee machine with milk frother.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Milk Frother
Apart from these main types of milk frothers, every model within the type offers some features you should consider before buying. Let’s go through each of them individually.
An important feature to consider when buying a milk frother is its capacity, or the amount of frothed milk it can produce in one round.
If we consider the main types of frothers, jug frothers usually have the largest capacity. At the same time, they handle the large capacity in the best way. Here is what I mean.
Nothing stops you from frothing a large amount of milk with a handheld electric frother. However, the more milk you try to froth with it, the less quality foam you will get. On the other hand, jug frothers are designed to make great foam regardless of the amount of milk.
Manual frothers can handle larger capacity, but usually it’s smaller than jug frothers, and the foam doesn’t have the same quality.
Lastly, steam wands can froth large amounts of milk if you get a large enough pitcher. Still, handling large amounts will require more skill.
Most frothers allow you to make hot and cold foam, except steam wands. However, with jug frothers, you do that with the push of a button. It lets you tweak the temperature more precisely and choose your preferred setting.
Handheld frothers require that you heat the milk beforehand. So, if you want a precise temperature, use a thermometer. The same goes for manual frothers.
The build quality of your frother is essential for several reasons. First, it’s responsible for the frother’s durability. Stainless steel frothers are usually the best choice because they’re hard to break and (in the case of manual frothers) are dishwasher-safe.
Manual frothers are usually made of stainless steel or hard glass and are quite durable.
Handheld frothers have a sturdy whisk, but they’re overall less durable than other frothers. The body is plastic, and since it’s much cheaper than other types of frothers, it’s not really built to last.
Jug frothers are usually sturdy. But because of the digital settings, they’re more prone to malfunctions than manual frothers or steam wands. Also, some have plastic parts that are more prone to breaking than stainless steel.
However, high-end jug frothers come with high-quality plastic, making them more durable.
Regarding cleaning, stainless steel is much easier to clean and sanitize than plastic. Plus, it’s heat resistant, so you can be sure it won’t leak harmful chemicals into your drink when exposed to heat.
The speed of your frother is an important factor to consider if you usually have busy mornings and want to have your cuppa as fast as possible.
If we consider different types of frothers, jug frothers are the fastest. They can whip up the foam in a matter of seconds. Frothing with manual frothers requires much more time since you need to pump the plunger until you get the desired foam.
Handheld frothers and steam wands fall somewhere in the middle.
Jug frothers are the most expensive. Still, you can find some budget variants for around 20 bucks. If you are searching for the cheapest frother, a handheld frother is your guy.
You can find those even for a couple of dollars. But these are not very durable, nor do they make satisfactory foam. Manual frothers are more expensive than handheld frothers but still affordable.
Of course, steam wands come with espresso machines, which are the most expensive of all. But professional baristas swear by them, and for a reason. Investing in an espresso machine with a steam wand is a step toward professional coffee making.
Ease of Use
If you are searching for a simple frother that you will master without much effort, manual and handheld frothers are for you. There is not much customization, and they are pretty straightforward.
Jug frothers offer different settings; you might need time to dig into them. However, these frothers are automatic, so once you learn how to tweak the controls, the rest is a piece of cake. That said, some jug frothers have more intuitive controls than others, but they aren’t too complicated overall.
Steam wands are not easy to use, especially the professional ones. Automatic steam wands would be a better choice if you are a beginner since they don’t require a special skill.
If you usually prepare your coffee in the kitchen, the power source is probably not a problem. However, consider alternatives if you want to take your frother on to go.
Most frothers require a power source, except manual and battery-operated handheld frothers, which you can take anywhere.
Top 5 Milk Frothers In The Market
I thoroughly researched the market and picked the best milk frothers out there. Let’s take a look.
Breville Milk Cafe (Best Overall)
The best milk frother on the market is Breville Milk Cafe. You can see that it’s sturdy and durable just by the first glance at its sleek stainless steel body. It features a detachable jug you can remove and wash in a dishwasher.
The bottom part has a temperature control knob that’s very intuitive and lets you choose how warm your frother will be, from 100 ℉ to 180 ℉.
What I like most about this frother is its capacity. Breville Milk Cafe can fit 25 oz of liquid, which is enough for preparing about 3 cups at once. Plus, you can choose between latte and cappuccino frothing discs, depending on the type of foam you want to get.
On the downside, these outstanding features come at a price, so this frother is one of the most expensive on the market.
Nespresso Aeroccino 4 Refresh (Best Automatic Milk Frother)
This is an upgraded version of the famous Nespresso Aeroccino 4. It comes with most bells and whistles you could ask from an automatic milk frother. You can choose the temperature from cold foam to hot milk and hot foam.
The controls are as straightforward as possible, with a single button for every setting. It doesn’t have a vast capacity: 4.2 oz for the foam and 8.4 oz for heated milk. However, it makes up for that with the quality of frothy milk.
Depending on your preferences, it delivers a silky latte or airy cappuccino foam. Still, I prefer a slightly larger capacity since this is only enough for a single serving.
Instant 4-in-1 Milk Frother (Best Electric Budget Pick)
Instant 4-in-1 Milk Frother is one of the most affordable jug automatic frothers. And it offers a lot for the price. First, you can choose between four temperature settings: cold foam, warm foam, thick warm foam, and warming without foaming. The controls are intuitive, with two buttons to choose, stop, and start the programs.
This frother is plastic, so it’s not as sturdy and durable as stainless-steel frothers. Plus, the design makes the cleaning a bit hard since only the lid and whisk are dishwasher safe. Still, if you rinse the jug immediately after use, you shouldn’t have any problem.
Fino Milk Frother (Best Manual)
Fino milk frother has a large (14 oz) capacity, but it doesn’t require much more than a simple jug since it’s manual. That means it has a small footprint and doesn’t take up much space on a countertop.
It’s almost entirely stainless steel, except for the mesh on the plunger. That makes it sturdy, durable, and easy to clean since it’s dishwasher-safe. Unfortunately, this type of frother can’t heat milk, so you must do it beforehand.
Still, it’s suitable for different types of milk, from whole milk to non-dairy milk, such as oats and almond milk.
ElitaPro Double Whisk Milk Frother (Best Handheld Milk Frother)
ElitaPro offers the best features you could ask from a handheld frother. What I like the most is that you can choose between cord and battery power, according to the occasion. That’s great if you want to take your frother everywhere you go.
The whisk on this frother is stainless steel, so it’s durable and dishwasher-safe. After use, you can simply pack the frother into your kitchen drawer and forget it’s there. And the best thing – it’s cheap! You definitely won’t break the bank with this one, so it’s an excellent option for those on a budget.
Maintenance and Care
One of the most important factors that influence the longevity of your milk frother is proper care. That means cleaning the device regularly and using it properly. Each type of frother requires different care, so follow the instructions for handling your model.
A few general tips you should follow are:
- Clean your frother thoroughly after every use.
- Protect the device from dust and scratches when you’re not using it.
- Don’t overfill the frother. Respect the recommended volume of milk you should use.
- If you face any problem, call customer support before you try to fix it.
To Sum Up
A milk frother is an essential tool for home baristas. There is no reason to spend so much money on lattes and cappuccinos in cafes when you can easily enhance your cup of coffee at home. You just need to choose the best milk frother for your needs and preferences.
And when you get your machine, check out our article about creative things to do with a milk frother and unleash your inner artist!
Can You Use A Milk Frother To Make Hot Chocolate?
Yes, you can use some milk frothers to make hot chocolate. Automatic jug frothers are an excellent choice for that.
What Is The Most Popular Model Of Milk Frother?
Breville Milk Cafe is one of the most popular milk frothers, as we discovered in our extensive research. It’s durable, has a large capacity, and has tons of settings to choose from.