Don’t worry: we’re here to clarify. Keep reading to learn what separates steamed from frothed milk (think: heat) and how your favorite espresso drinks are made!
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Frothed milk is made by aerating milk, meaning adding air bubbles. The aeration process is what makes foam or froth. The purpose of frothing milk is to achieve a certain texture. It adds a creamy, airy mouthfeel to drinks. High-quality foam should be dense and fluffy.
Foam is essential to drinks like cappuccinos. They are 1/3 foam and wouldn’t be considered cappuccinos without it! Froth can also go into cold drinks, like iced cappuccinos, giving them complexity and texture.
Making frothed milk at home is actually fairly easy. You can use a jar or whisk, or purchase a dedicated milk frother, some of which are handheld. Because basic frothing doesn’t involved heat, you’ll have to heat the milk separately for hot drinks like lattes.
There are also electric milk frothers that heat and froth the milk for you and have temperature settings for hot, warm, or cold froth.
Steamed milk is different than frothed because it’s always hot and produces finer, more delicate foam, called microfoam. Though the word has “foam” in it, it doesn’t act like the frothy foam in cappuccinos. Steaming makes the milk slightly aerated, creating very small air bubbles. This makes the milk heavier and gives it a velvety texture.
Steamed milk is a key component of a multitude of drinks like lattes, mochas, and hot chocolate. It makes drinks creamy and smooth, and the microfoam is used to create latte art.
So what’s the difference? Frothed milk has more volume, with significant amounts of foam. Steamed milk is heated and more delicately aerated, producing small amounts of microfoam. Steamed milk is also more widely used in a variety of coffee drinks, while frothed milk lends itself specifically to foam filled beverages.
Now you have more coffee knowledge to use next time you order a frothed or steamed milk drink!
Header image credit: mp1746, Pixabay