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What is the best milk to use for frothing?

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Dean Cartwright

18th Mar 2022

4 minutes for reading

What is the best milk to use for frothing? It’s a question we’re often asked and the answer varies. Is your priority delivering a rich, creamy coffee? Or do you need a delicate, long-lasting foam for latte art? This article will help you choose the ideal milk for your needs.

Let’s start with a little bit of science

The first step in answering the question, ‘What is the best milk to use for frothing?’ is to understand exactly what is going on when you froth milk as a barista.

Whether we use a steam wand or a whisk, frothing involves forcing water and air into the protein structure of your milk. The protein chains react by forming bubbles. At low temperatures, these bubbles simply swell and collapse under their weight. However, at high temperatures, fats begin to melt and form layers that prevent the larger bubbles from forming. the result is a stable foam.

Protein naturally breaks down with temperature and over time, so using fresh, refrigerated milk will give you the best results of all.

What is the best milk to use for frothing when you want a rich, creamy, sweet coffee?

Following the science, the higher the protein and fat content, the thicker and richer your foam will be. This is especially important for drinks, such as cappuccinos, that demand a thick foam. Milk with a high fat content also feels smoother on the tongue and tastes sweeter. Therefore, whole (full cream) dairy milk is often preferred for a creamy, tasty cup of coffee.

The main downside to full cream milk is that the fat molecules are heavy. This starts acting against the foam’s stability, causing it to break down much sooner than with lower fat milk. This makes whole milk less suitable for latte art.

What is the best milk to use for frothing when you want a delicate, long-lasting foam for perfecting latte art?

As you reduce the fat content of your milk, the quality of the foam created changes. On the one hand, you won’t be able to whip up that thick, creamy texture you can with full fat milk. On the other hand, you will find that the foam is easier to manipulate and more stable.

Therefore, using semi-skimmed and skimmed milk will make it much easier for you to practise your latte art.

Of course, there is an elephant in the room! What if your guests are vegan or lactose-intolerant?

What is the best milk to use for frothing when your family or friends are vegan or lactose intolerant?

Fortunately, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives that you can use to create a rich and creamy or stable foam.

Oat milk is the most similar in fat and protein content to cow’s milk. For a thick and creamy foam, this is likely to be your best option. However, the high water content makes oat milk foam less stable than cow’s milk, so your foam won’t last that long.

Soy milk is one of the most popular non-dairy alternatives for baristas, because it strikes a nice balance between creaminess and stability. Since soy milk holds its shape very well, it is a great choice for latte art.

Almond milk is thinner but also gives you enough stability for latte art purposes. It also provides a sweetness that can compensate for the lack of protein and fat.

Avoid coconut milk though, as this doesn’t whip up well at all.

In all cases, aim for a barista-specific variety. These have a higher protein content for forming those crucial bubbles.

Getting hold of the right equipment

Now that you know what type of milk will meet your needs, you need to ask yourself the question, ‘Do I have all the equipment I need at home?’

Unless your coffee machine has a built in steam wand, you can either use a hand-held electric whisk or a manual whisk to froth up your milk.

Either way, we also recommend you invest in a good quality frothing jug. These are designed specifically with the barista in mind. For example, they are made of teflon or stainless steel, and include a narrow spout for latte art.

Click over to our range of frothing jugs to find one that meets your needs.

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