A good milk frother is a nice coffee accessory. If you haven’t used one before, you may be wondering, “Why is my milk frother so loud?”
Your alarm goes off, and you blink your eyes open in a daze. You stagger out of bed, yawning, and make a beeline to your espresso maker to brew that first energizing cup of the day. You carefully measure out your coffee and water just like the instruction manual said, followed by your milk, which you pour into a separate pitcher.
Smiling in anticipation, you move the pitcher into position to crank up your steam-powered milk frother—only to be scared witless when it erupts in a horrible shriek that sounds like something out of a horror movie.
Usually, a milk frothing machine produces a gentle hum as it whirs milk around. However, a steam wand is much louder as that’s the sound of steam aerating the milk.
A screaming steam wand may be alarming, but it’s sometimes symptomatic of a minor error in technique.
You’re probably dunking the tip a little too low in the milk, preventing it from getting as much air as it needs to work its magic. Read on to learn how to hush it up and improve your espresso game in the process.
What’s Causing That Awful Noise?
To understand why your previously unproblematic milk frother is suddenly wailing like a banshee, it’s necessary first to know a little bit about how these gadgets work.
On a conventional espresso machine, the milk frother (also known as a steam wand) is fitted with a special tip designed to inject superheated steam into an awaiting pitcher of milk. This steaming action accomplishes two things—it warms the milk to ensure that the resulting beverage is nice and hot and fills it with thousands of tiny bubbles.
The second part of this process is known as “aeration.” Skillful aeration creates that rich, frothy texture that’s so crucial for drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. It’s also what brings out the full flavor of the milk for better-tasting coffee.
Here’s the hitch: if the frother is submerged too deep in the milk, it effectively becomes cut off from the air and therefore can’t aerate properly.
Instead of incorporating air into the milk gradually, it keeps on spewing hot steam, which becomes trapped beneath the surface of the liquid. There, the pressure builds and builds until it finally bursts forth with a piercing screech, not unlike that of an old-fashioned tea kettle coming to a boil.
How to Fix A Loud Milk Frother
Resolving a loud milk frother is easy. You usually don’t need to replace your machine or scour coffee Reddits for troubleshooting tips. Simply adjust your steaming technique.
Anytime your milk starts making a sound like a train wreck in progress, chances are what’s happened is you’ve plunged the steam wand in a bit too low. Simply lower the pitcher about an inch, and the cacophony should stop.
For future reference, start with the tip of the wand just below the surface of the milk and let it run for a few seconds before gradually taking it deeper. That way, you can ensure the milk is thoroughly aerated and ready to steam to a smooth, foamy finish.
As long as you don’t let your frother linger in any one position for too long, you’ll froth milk more efficiently and quietly. The result should look like silky wet pain. The process should sound much quieter than a steam wand if you own a milk frothing machine.