What Is a Steam Wand in an Espresso Machine?

In this article, we explain what is a steam wand in an espresso machine?

What Is A Steam Wand In An Espresso Machine
Steam wands are attached to serve as the arm in a metal pitcher to froth the milk

Many automatic espresso machines include a steam wand that forces steam into milk, creating a hot, foamy texture for a latte or similar hand-crafted drink. 

Steam wands are attached as an arm and froth the milk in a metal pitcher to create your favorite espresso-based beverage.

A steam wand is a great tool that’s attached to most espresso makers. If you’re in the market for an espresso machine, pick one with this feature so you can create the best frothy, steamed milk drinks, like your local coffee shop.

The Steam Wand for Beginners

an espresso maker machine
Steam wands are simply attached in most modern espresso makers to make delicious foam very easy

Creating delicious foam is easy with a steam wand. It’s a simple attachment in most modern espresso makers, automatic machines, where the steam wand is easily moved to steam your milk, which creates foam with a bubbly texture, resulting in a thick, rich foam.

To use the steam wand effectively, you’ll need a metal pitcher, often included as an accessory with your espresso machine. Most kitchen and appliance stores offer these mini milk-frothing pitchers, or you may find them in specialty coffee shops, either in-store or online.

Learn how to use an espresso machine.

Different Types of Steam Wands

There are two main types of steam wands, the standard, commercial-grade steam wand with small pin-holes and the Panarello wand, ideal for beginners.

Pin-hole Steam Wand

This type of steam wand is the best option if you’re new to using an espresso machine and creating latte art. It’s a wholly enclosed wand, with several tiny holes in the nozzle, at the bottom of the wand. From these pin-holes, hot, high-pressured steam shoots out just beneath the surface of the milk in the pitcher.

The motion created with this steam wand spins the milk quickly to force air to create bubbles, which makes a smooth, foamy drink with a pleasant, creamy taste.

Panarello Steam Wand

Panarello steam wands are popular in smaller coffee and espresso machines. They are automatic frothers that operate with a button and quickly inject air into the milk to make the frothing process easy for beginner baristas. You’ll find these types of steam wands attached to less inexpensive, automatic espresso makers.

I found this wand creates thick, frothy milk that’s perfect for cappuccinos. They are straightforward to use so that you can expect great results every time. These wands are made of either metal or plastic tubes with tiny air holes at the bottom of the wand’s nozzle. Air-intake holes further up the wand are forced through the bottom and into the milk to create the creamy, textured froth.

The Best Milk Options for Steam Wands

a bottle of milk with a coconut at the side
Coconut milk provides a pleasant, mild taste and is the best milk option for your steam wand

Ideally, the best option for preparing your cappuccino and lattes is whole milk. It contains the perfect balance of sugar, fat, water, and protein to create an excellent foam. I found this type of milk works well for most espresso-based drinks, though you’ll get some great results with a few non-dairy alternatives too.

Many cafes offer a variety of dairy substitutes, including cashew, hazelnut, almond-cashew blend, and rice milk. Coconut milk provides a pleasant, mild taste, which provides a similar consistency as dairy milk. Soy and almond milk are also popular options for vegan espresso drinkers who want to experiment with different flavors and textures. If you like this post, you might also be interested in learning about the best coffee for DeLonghi machines.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.