Frothing milk is an art. Anyone can take some milk and run it under the steam wand on their espresso maker, but doing it properly can yield some rewarding results. Properly frothed (or foamed) milk will be thick and creamy with a sweet taste.

Here are some tips on how to do it right…

Put your milk into a small stainless steel steaming pitcher. Use one that is appropriate for the amount of milk you’re steaming. The pitcher should about 1/3 to 1/2 full.

Start with the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk. You want to have it low enough that it doesn’t splatter the milk too much and high enough that it creates a froth. Some people advise on moving the tip around, but I think it works better if you keep the tip in the same place and raising the pitcher a bit to keep the steam wand submerged. As the froth rises up you’ll want to move down the pitcher so you don’t burn your precious foam. The process of moving the pitcher down to froth the next layer is called “stretching”

Steaming Milk

Once you’ve got your froth going, it’s time to heat the milk. Hold the milk pitcher so that the steam wand is completely submersed. You want to open the valve enough so it creates bubbles in the milk, and use the steam wand to stir the milk at the same time. Hold the pitcher at a slight angle so the milk spins around.

Temperature and Timing

I don’t use a thermometer at all. Unless you work in a cafe and a customer requests milk at a specific temperature (yes, that happens), I wouldn’t bother. Here’s how you do it by feel. When you are frothing, do it quickly because the best frothing happens when the milk is still cold. Froth until the metal container starts to feel lukewarm and then sink the wand in the milk to heat it. Heat the milk until the the steaming pitcher is almost uncomfortable to touch. You’ll also hear it as the tone of the steaming milk will suddenly drop to a low roar vs. a higher pitched hiss.

That’s about it. There are some tricks that you’ll learn as you’re doing it, but these are the basics. If you have any questions, please ask below in the comment section.

Have fun!