What Is Steamed Milk? A Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re new to coffee, you may be wondering what is steamed milk. Steamed milk is a type of dairy that’s been heated and frothed up with air. It has a creamy texture and a sweet flavor that makes it perfect for espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. Click To Tweet

So what is steamed milk and why is it a necessary process? In this article, you will learn what makes milk and coffee a perfect match, how to steam milk with or without a steaming wand and common mistakes that beginners make when steaming milk for coffee drinks.

What is steamed milk?

what is steamed milk


What is your favorite coffee drink? Black coffee? Flat white? Latte? Cappuccino? Mocha?

Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee a day, and only a small percentage prefer it black.

Why are milk and coffee such a perfect pair?

The flavors of coffee are enhanced by milk, and it is scientifically proven.

During the steaming process, high pressure from the steam causes the milk fats to expand and foam. The protein helps to keep the air bubbles in place and the sweetness is enhanced by lactose.

Although steaming milk may seem simple, it is not easy.

Want to discover the secret to a barista’s creamy flat white?

Are you looking for other ways to steam your milk without using a steam wand or steamer?

This article will show you how to do both.

What is the difference between steaming and frothing?

There is a distinction between steaming and frothing milk.

The steaming process involves heating the milk and adding air. Microfoam is created by small bubbles in the milk.

Frothed milk, on the other hand, creates large air bubbles which result in a large mound of fluffy foam that sits on top.

There is no right or wrong with either one, and everyone has their preference. If you want a rich, creamy mouthfeel, steaming milk will do the trick.

5 steps to steaming milk like a barista

Although the steaming technique can be slightly different depending on whether you are making a flat white, a latte, or a cappuccino, the basic steps are the same.

what is steamed milk


Step 1: Pour milk into a jug or pitcher

Pour the milk into a metallic pitcher made for steaming. It is important not to use too much milk as it will increase the volume. It is recommended that cold milk be poured just below the V nudge on the jug.

Step 2: Stretch the milk

Next, submerge the steam wand’s tip just below the milk surface. This is when the steam wand starts pulling air into the milk. This is also where the famous hissing sound is heard.

The time it takes to keep the steam wand in place depends on what beverage you are making, but generally, it takes less than 5 seconds. During this time, the milk fat expands to make foam.

Step 3: Spin the milk

Once you have pulled enough air into your milk to stretch its volume, you can move the steam wand further below. You should not move the steam wand too far. Only aim for a maximum of 1/5 inch.

Tilt the jug slightly and look for the “sweet spot” where the milk would spin in a swirl. Once the milk has fully incorporated the bubbles, finish heating to create a creamy texture.

Step 4: Relax and polish

Stop steaming the milk as soon as it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit or is too hot to touch. To get rid of any small bubbles, tap the jug gently and swirl the milk around. It should be shiny and creamy, similar to melted ice cream.

Step 5: Pour

The steamed milk is poured in two phases. The foam on the top is where the espresso should be poured. The final pour creates latte art. It takes a lot of practice to pour a “tulip and rosetta.”

Common mistakes to avoid when steaming milk

The steaming process is not easy, even though it sounds simple. Avoid these common mistakes to get silky foam.

1. Pulling too much

The initial process of pulling air into milk is quick and takes only seconds. If you hear the milk screeching, you know you are pulling air too long. This will cause large bubbles to form and ruin your foam.

Remember: Short and sweet is key!

2. Pulling too late

The magic happens at the beginning, and once the milk has warmed up, it becomes more difficult to create the foam.

3. Heating too much

The ability to accurately determine the temperature of steamed milk is what separates the good baristas and the great ones. The milk becomes too hot and the proteins in it break down, destroying the perfect bubbles and the flavor.

4. Not finding the sweet spot to swirl

The milk will not be creamy if you fail to find the sweet spot which creates a whirlpool.

5. Waiting too long

Make sure you keep moving the pitcher as soon as it is removed from the steamer. This will ensure that the milk foam doesn’t separate.

What are the key ingredients to making perfect coffee milk?

It is important to use fresh and cold milk for the best texture. If you prefer frothy, use skim milk. For creating microfoam, full-fat milk is best.

How to steam milk manually

Are you looking to steam milk but don’t have an espresso machine with a steam wand? There’s good news. There are other ways to steam milk for your morning cappuccino.

We’ll go over some basic equipment and then household tools that can be improvised for steaming milk.

1. Automated milk frother

If you don’t own an espresso machine with a steam wand, this is the second-best option for frothing milk. This option doesn’t require that you heat the milk like the other options. You can choose whether you want your milk hot or cold, and the frother will take care of the rest.

2. Handheld frother

A handheld frother is an affordable option that is simple to use and quick to clean. Be prepared to sacrifice milk texture and not expect latte art. It can produce a lot of froth, but not silky foam.

Simply submerge the frother in milk and turn the frother on. The volume of the milk will increase, creating large bubbles.

3. French press

The French press is a versatile coffee maker that can also froth milk. Pour preheated milk into the French press and use the plunger to create a microfoam.

You can save yourself the hassle of cleaning up if you don’t use too much milk.

4. Stovetop

If you don’t have any equipment, don’t let that stop you from enjoying your coffee. You can make frothed milk on a stove.

Heat the milk gently then use a balloon whisk to beat it quickly until it reaches a frothy consistency. You can also use a hand mixer, but that could lead to a disaster in the kitchen.

5. Microwave

Pour the milk into a mason container with a lid and shake it vigorously before heating it in the microwave. You can also heat the milk first, then use the pulling method where you pour it from one container to the next until you get a frothy consistency.


So what is steamed milk and why is it an essential component of milky espresso drinks at coffee shops? Steamed milk adds a creamy texture and sweet flavor to your coffee. This is what makes lattes and cappuccinos special. Click To Tweet

There are many ways to make milk for your latte, no matter what your barista skills are.

Whatever technique you choose to use, follow these basic tips and avoid common mistakes when making a mocha, cappuccino, or flat white.

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