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Frothed vs Steamed Milk: What’s the Difference?

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frothed vs steamed milk

Lattes, mochas, cappuccinos all have something in common, besides being delicious espresso beverages. They’re all made with hot milk.

However, when it comes to coffee beverages not all hot milk is alike. There’s frothed milk and steamed milk. The truth is, that the minor differences between them, result in 2 completely different drinks. Let’s find out more!

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Frothed Milk

Frothed milk is made by aerating milk, meaning adding air bubbles. The aeration process is what makes foam, or froth. Making frothed milk at home is actually fairly easy.

It just requires a milk frother. Some are handheld. With those, you have to heat the milk separately before frothing, unless you want cold froth.

There are also electric milk frothers that heat and froth the milk for you and have temperature settings for hot, warm, or cold froth.

The purpose of frothing milk is to achieve a certain texture. It adds a creamy, airy mouthfeel to drinks. Good quality foam should be dense and fluffy.

Foam is essential to drinks like cappuccinos. They are 1/3 foam and wouldn’t be considered a cappuccino without it! Froth can also go into cold drinks, like an iced cappuccino, giving a cold drink complexity and texture.

Steamed Milk

Steamed milk is different than frothed because it doesn’t receive aeration, and if it does, it’s significantly less.

Typically, steamed milk needs to be made with a milk steam wand. These are present on all coffee shop espresso machines and on some models you can purchase for your home.

Milk that’s been steamed can create a multitude of drinks. This is what’s put into drinks like lattes, mochas, and hot chocolate. There isn’t a lot of texture provided by steamed milk, but it does still make drinks creamy and smooth.

Steaming milk can create microfoam. Though the word has “foam” in it, doesn’t act like the frothy foam in cappuccinos.

It makes the milk slightly aerated creating very small air bubbles in the steamed milk. This makes milk heavier and can make the texture a little airier. Microfoam is used in drinks like flat whites. The slightly heavier microfoam pours better than regular steamed milk. This is the reason microfoam is used to create latte art.

–> See our comparison of the most popular standalone milk steamers of 2020 here.

steamed milk

Image credit: GFDL, Wikimedia


Both steamed and frothed milk offer coffee drinks a creaminess, but frothed milk offers much more foam and texture.

Steamed milk is more widely used in a variety of coffee drinks, while frothed milk lends itself specifically to foam filled beverages. These are the differences between frothed and steamed milk. Now you have more coffee knowledge to use next time you order a frothed or steamed milk drink!

Header image credit: mp1746, Pixabay