It’s no secret – a luscious latte is hard to resist 🤷♂️
Even as an avid black coffee drinker, I can’t help but appreciate a beautifully crafted cortado, adorned with tulips, unicorns, or whatever the latte art trend du jour might be.
Naturally, an espresso machine with a legit steam wand will significantly simplify the process of frothing the perfect milk.
However, for those who don’t have the budget or simply prefer the compact and portable nature of a standalone frother, I’ve tested five interesting options available today.
This roundup has something for everyone, whether you’re an aspiring barista passionate about latte art or just someone who enjoys a frothy, milky coffee.
|Image||Product Name||Power Source||Features||Price|
|Subminimal NanoFoamer Lithium||Built-in battery, USB-C charging||Special screen for microfoam, two speeds, sleek design||$$$|
|Ikea Produkt Milk Frother||2 AA batteries||Budget option, on/off button, more control over foam texture||$|
|Gogengen Heater and Milk Frother||Plugged-in||Multi-function jug, non-stick coating, sturdy build||$$|
|Circlejoy Milk Frother||Built-in battery, USB-C charging||Large switch, traditional whisking method, impressive design||$$|
|Oartwl Milk Frother||2 AA batteries||More power than Ikea’s frother, basic, less control over foam texture||$|
BEHIND THE TEST
I must admit, I’m not a latte art expert, but using a standard steam wand, I can texture milk, create the famous “vortex” and pour rudimentary tulips and hearts. In this evaluation, I discovered that only one frother, the NanoFoamer, could produce the desired microfoam texture.
As you can see below, my results with the more “traditional” frothers were not impressive if we just focus on the artistic side. However, many of them still tasted perfectly fine.
So if latte art is not a main priority, it’s still possible to benefit from a frother. Remember, that classic drinks such as a cappuccino or macchiato are defined by having thick and velvety foam.
There are also a few advantages to manual frothing that became apparent to me after spending some time with the frothers.
An espresso machine’s steam wand will typically introduce some water vapor into the milk, which is not the case with a manual frother, giving you less diluted and richer milk.
Additionally, a standalone option offers the flexibility to create a latte while traveling, for instance. Also, those who have a fully manual setup at home with a manual espresso maker like a Flair or Robot are the perfect audience for a standalone frother.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk more about the individual products.
THE BEST MILK FROTHERS for coffee IN 2023
Subminimal NanoFoamer Lithium
The Subminimal NanoFoamer stands out from your typical whisk-style frother with its firm stick and special screen that effectively eliminates large bubbles. This unique design makes it easier to create barista-style microfoam.
I tested the upgraded V2, which features a built-in battery that charges via USB-C. In my opinion, always opt for built-in USB-C charging; it makes your life so much easier since you can use your phone or computer charger in a pinch.
The NanoFoamer’s packaging and unboxing experience truly stands out, brimming with clever details and thoughtful touches that demonstrate the company’s attention to design. The quality of the packaging, the layout of the components, and the overall presentation evoke a sense of design-thinking reminiscent of Apple products, where every aspect of the customer experience is meticulously considered and crafted.
During daily use, the steam wand may require a bit of a learning curve, but the company has provided clear instructional videos to guide users through the process; from introducing air to creating the famous vortex.
By following the tutorials and experimenting through some trial and error, I eventually mastered the technique and achieved that coveted “wet paint” texture that baristas often recommend for the perfect froth. It took some practice, but the results were well worth the effort.
I’m no latte art expert, but eventually, I was able to pour tulips and other basic patterns.
The new version of the Nanofoamer for 2023 features two different speeds, which I found useful when frothing a smaller quantity of milk for a cortado.
It also comes with two different screens for varying textures, though I mainly experimented with the finest one.
Overall, the Subminimal NanoFoamer Lithium is pricier than other frothers, but the sleek design and overall experience make it well worth the investment.See more reviews
IKEA PRODUKT Milk Frother
The Ikea Produkt Milk Frother is the most basic handheld, battery-powered milk frother you can possibly find. It just has an on/off button and runs on two AA batteries.
Its lack of power isn’t exactly a selling point, but it does give you a bit more control over the texture of your foam. I actually think that’s better than some of its rivals in this article that are too powerful.
The on/off button is conveniently located, making it easier for you to utilize a sort of “stop/start technique”. This can help eliminate the biggest bubbles and allows a bit more control, when you’re texturing the milk in the jug.
As for the batteries, well, you’re in for some trouble, since the two that are required to power this device are notoriously difficult to insert.
In fact, I had to consult a YouTube instruction to find out how to squeeze them in without damaging the device. That video had more than 90,000 views, which should tell you something!
(Actually, that’s a bit reassuring because it shows that I’m not a complete imbecile when it comes to tech and that Ikea should probably reconsider the design).
Besides that little hiccup, the Ikea Produkt milk frother is a no-frills, budget option that’s suitable for those who want cappuccino-like foam on a super tight budget. But don’t hold your breath for latte art-worthy microfoam. Trust me, I tried.See more reviews
GOGENGEN Heater and Milk Frother
The Gogengen Milk Frother is not just your average frother wand, but a multi-function jug that swirls and froths the milk simultaneously while heating it.
This versatile milk steamer doubles as a hot chocolate maker and can even whip cream or whisk eggs in its “cool” mode.
One significant drawback of this design is the use of a non-stick coating on the interior of the frother. For individuals concerned about the potential health risks associated with PFAS chemicals commonly found in non-stick coatings, this may not be an ideal choice.
The unit’s surprisingly sturdy build connects to a plate for electricity, much like an electric kettle.
But take it from me: this powerful frother can turn your milk into a meringue-like consistency in no time. Based on my personal tests, the simultaneous heating and frothing process offers limited manual control. So, if you’re aiming for latte art consistency (or even a more traditional cappuccino), you’ll probably end up with over-whisked milk.
To wrap it up, the Gogengen Milk Frother is perfect for those who adore frothy milk or cream. Just don’t expect to create any latte art masterpieces with its delicious but ultra-dense foam.See more reviews
Circlejoy Milk Frother
The Circlejoy Milk Frother showcases a clever design, featuring a dual-purpose charging station and stand that connects to a USB-C cable for hassle-free charging. This design detail not only keeps your frother charged and ready for use but also declutters your countertop.
For those who prefer wall-mounted storage, the stand comes with a supplied command strip, making it easy to attach the frother to the wall and have it within reach whenever you need it.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of USB-C, and having most of your gadgets use it definitely simplifies life.
The Circlejoy frother packs a powerful punch. It seems capable of whisking cream or eggs, though I haven’t personally tested that yet.
Operating the Circlejoy frother is actually quite nice, thanks to the large switch on top that you simply press to activate. This design aspect enables users to effortlessly employ the stop/start technique, which helps minimize the amount of air mixed into the milk, resulting in smoother foam.
While the Circlejoy frother boasts an impressive design and outshines many standard whiskers, it still relies on the traditional whisking method, which can make achieving latte art-quality microfoam a challenge. It’s an excellent choice for cappuccino enthusiasts, but those aspiring to be baristas might want to consider investing a bit more in a Nanofoamer for better foam control and consistency.
Nevertheless, I’ll tip my hat to Circlejoy. True to its name, it’s a joy to use.See more reviews
Oartwl Milk Frother
The Oartwl Milk Frother is your run-of-the-mill frother and whisker. Although it packs more power than Ikea’s budget option, this can be a double-edged sword, making it trickier to wield and control.
The on/off button is placed in a somewhat awkward spot, which isn’t ideal. When frothing milk, you want to be able to stop the device without a fuss; otherwise, you might end up with extra bubbles or, worse, a dairy disaster in your kitchen.
Much like the Ikea frother, the Oartwl model relies on AA batteries, which can be a nuisance when you have to keep buying and replacing them.
Honestly, I find it hard to get excited about this frother. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s undeniably basic and unremarkable. I might even lean toward the Ikea version for its more manageable power. That being said, if you’re after a frother that can whip up some cream or concoct bulletproof coffee, this beefier choice might be the one for you.
As for budding baristas, all I can say is: run like the wind and don’t look back.See more reviews
Milk frothers: Going Deeper
Cappuccinos and lattes share similarities as both drinks contain espresso and steamed milk. However, the distinction between them lies in the thickness and texture of the milk foam on top. Cappuccini feature a denser, frothier layer, while contemporary milk-based beverages like lattes and flat whites usually have a thinner layer of finer foam.
At first glance, a three-dollar frothing wand might seem sufficient for the task. However, there’s a caveat: while the wand does aerate the milk, the foam produced might be difficult to manage for latte art enthusiasts.
Some pro tips:
- Always use fresh milk for the best results. As milk approaches its expiration date, it becomes increasingly difficult to work with in the pitcher, even though it may still taste fine. The texture, however, won’t be ideal.
- Avoid overheating the milk – just warm it. Milk starts to change its flavor at 154°F (68°C) as proteins get denatured, resulting in an unpleasant taste. Moreover, creating quality microfoam becomes more challenging beyond a certain temperature.
- Keep swirling the milk in the pitcher after it’s been steamed. This will ensure that the texture is just right when pouring.
- Preheat the mug for a warmer drink. Instead of overheating the milk, simply preheat the mug to keep the beverage hot.
- For the espresso, opt for a freshly roasted blend with a lot of crema. This will create a better canvas for your latte art.
Top-notch milk frothers and steamers not only enable you to craft visually stunning and delicious cappuccinos and lattes but also allow you to treat your non-coffee drinker friends (yes, they do exist) to delightful beverages of their own.
Hot chocolate is the most popular drink that benefits from a quality steamer, while chai also turns out excellent. For vegans or those avoiding dairy, a reliable frother can create Instagram-worthy foam using oat, soy, or other plant-based milk alternatives.
How to heat milk for steaming?
You’ll need to heat the milk. Many people opt for microwaves, as they can provide consistent results once you’ve determined the necessary time to heat a specific amount of milk to around 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).
Another option is to heat the milk on a stovetop, but this method runs the risk of scorching it more easily. A less common yet interesting technique involves placing the milk in a frothing pitcher and setting it on top of an open electric kettle. If you’re preparing manual espresso, you’ll likely have boiling water available for this purpose.
Of course, these steps are not necessary to consider, if you get one of those devices that steams and froths the milk at the same time.
Baristas typically use steam wands on espresso machines to froth milk. These wands use pressurized steam to create microfoam in the milk, which is the key to creating latte art and smooth, velvety milk texture. However, manual milk frothers and electric milk steamers are also popular tools for home use or in cafes without espresso machines.
The best non-dairy milk frother would depend on personal preference and budget. In general, the same frothers that work for regular milk are also suitable for plant-based milk.
A milk frother can be worth getting if you enjoy cafe-style drinks like lattes, cappuccinos, and cortados, and don’t have the budget for a regular espresso machine. Some frothers have the added benefit of heating the milk for you, which can be a time-saver and convenient.
If you don’t have an espresso machine with a dedicated steam wand, the best way to heat up your milk is to use a milk frother with a heating function or a microwave.