Real Good Blog.

How to Steam Milk

Apr 22, 2021

Milk is an excellent complement to coffee, mellowing the flavor while bringing out the fruity and floral notes of the drink. It truly is a match made in heaven. That's why drinks ranging from cappuccinos to lattes are so popular.

While you can put cold milk into your coffee and call it a day, steamed milk adds real magic. With a steam wand and some practice, it's easy to make the perfect cup of coffee right at home.

What's the Difference Between Steaming and Frothing Milk?

While some people talk about steaming milk and frothing it interchangeably, there are a few differences. The steaming process adds heat and air to the milk. The air creates small bubbles, giving steamed milk a creamier texture.

During the frothing process, you add heat but keep the steam wand close to the top of the milk, drawing in even more air and creating larger air bubbles. The result is a whipped-looking milk that creates clouds on top of your coffee.

Both frothing and steaming produce a delicious drink, and you might want to try both methods to find your favorite.

What Kind of Milk Works Best?

If you want to steam your milk, the most important factor is freshness. Milk that is closer to its expiration date won't bubble as much.

Beyond that, the best milk will depend on your preferences. If a creamy texture is a must, look for whole milk. If you want larger bubbles, choose skim. Nondairy milk works too, though you will need to be careful since some varieties have a lower heat point. For a creamy dairy-free option, coconut milk and oat milk both pair well with coffee.

How to Steam Milk

A steam wand adds air and heat at the same time, making it the simplest way to steam milk. Many espresso makers have a steam wand attached. You can also purchase one separately. To steam your milk, place it in a metal container. Put the steam wand deep into the milk. If the wand is too high up, you will create froth.

If you don’t have a steam wand, you can use these tricks to steam your milk:

  • Use a French press: Heat your milk between 150 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit on the stove. Then, pour the milk into a French press, making sure the milk is higher than the plunger. Raise and lower the plunger quickly multiple times until foam begins to form.
  • Use your microwave: Find a jar with a lid that closes tightly. Pickling jars and mason jars are ideal. Pour your milk into the jar and tightly secure the lid. Then, shake the jar very vigorously until a froth forms. Remove the lid and put the milk and jar in your microwave to heat it. 
  • On the stovetop: Pour your milk into a pan and heat it gently over low-medium heat. As it warms up, use a whisk to create foam. Use a thermometer to get your milk to between 150 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour the steamed milk over your favorite Real Good Coffee Company brew and enjoy!