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Steamed Milk: How to Make a Foamy Latte [Plus Stovetop Guide!]

Let’s imagine that you’re an utter coffee newbie, someone who, just yesterday, graduated from packets of instant coffee to real coffee beans. You’re playing in the big leagues now. Instead of just thinking about how much sugar you’re going to add, now you’re hearing phrases like “French press”, “dark roast”, and “steamed milk”.

Wait… did that barista just say steamed milk? Do people cook the milk before they add it to their coffee? Is boiling milk a new trend?

Before you get overwhelmed just take a deep breath. Read on to see just what is meant by steamed milk and how you can make it at home.

What Is Steamed Milk and Why Should I Want It?

I’ll be the first coffee lover to tell you that a lot of coffee terms are inherently confusing. However, this isn’t the case with steamed milk, it plainly tells you exactly what it is – milk + steam.

If you’ve ever had a cappuccino or a latte at your local coffee shop, then you’ve had steamed milk before. Steamed milk is what is created when you introduce high pressured steam (typically from a latte machine) to milk.

The steam creates a foamy layer of tiny milk bubbles that improves the taste, mouthfeel, and appearance of the coffee.

Steamed milk is what coffee artists use to create those picture-worthy lattes that are so popular on Instagram. In terms of taste, we all know that sugar caramelizes when it is heated and this happens to some extent when the steam is introduced to the milk. This improves the overall sweetness of the beverage.

How Do the Pros Do It?

Baristas and coffee aficionados will have some of the best coffee related equipment at their disposal. After all, how can they do their job or express their true passion if they don’t have the best tools on hand. This means that for them, steaming milk and making a perfect latte will be easy for them because they will have a respectable espresso machine.

Any decent espresso machine will have a steam wand; a long and thin pipe that can deliver a continuous flow of steam. The deeper the steam wand goes into the cup of milk, the thinner the layer of milk bubbles will be. So, if you want a mountain of foam, then all you need to do is keep the wand right at the top.

Is Stovetop Steaming Possible?

If you don’t have a fancy espresso machine then don’t worry, you can still make your very own fancy lattes at home if you have a stove, a whisk, and a saucepan.

It isn’t as easy as just waving as (steam) wand and having it done instantly like magic but it isn’t rocket science either!

The Steps

  1. Measure out the milk that you’re going to need. It is recommended that you add a little extra since some will create the foam.
  2. Set the stove to a medium-low heat, pour the milk into the saucepan and place it on the stove.
  3. Stir the milk continuously while it heats up. Continuous stirring helps to prevent burning or scalding the milk, while also ensuring that the heat is distributed evenly.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the stove once the milk starts to steam.
  5. Now, whisk the milk. Do it slowly to create steamed milk for your latte. If the milk is whisked too fast, then the foam will be too large and thick.
  6. Pour it over your coffee and enjoy!
making steamed milk using a steam wand on an espresso machine

How Else Can I Make Steamed Milk?

There are a few other ways that you can make your own steamed milk at home, here are two of them.

Pop It in The Microwave

If you thought the stovetop method was simple, then this one will surprise you. All you’re going to need is a glass jar and a microwave.

Put the milk in the glass jar and cover it with the lid. Next shake it vigorously until it becomes frothy. Then, take off the lid and put the jar of milk into the microwave. Once you’ve heated it to your desired temperature then just take it out and pour it into your coffee.

This method is quick and easy when you have no other alternatives. However, it is worth mentioning that you’re not going to the same level of texture, taste, and mouthfeel that you would get if you sued the stovetop method or a steam wand.

Get a Milk Frother

Milk frothers com in various size, shapes, and configurations but their general purpose is the same.

They range from handheld frothing wands like the Powerlix Battery Operated Handheld Milk Frother to pricier options like the Breville BMF600XL that automatically heat and froth/steam the milk. Check out our list of “Top 10 Frothers on the Market”.

Pour it Perfect

Whether you’re trying to create latte art or you’re making a simple cup to enjoy, having a good pouring technique is essential.

Overall, it is recommended that you pour the steamed milk evenly and slowly. If a good mixture is something that you value, then it is also recommended that you incorporate a steady circular motion.

latte art with steamed milk

If you want to try your hand at latte art, then you’re going to have to bring your pour closer to the coffee’s surface. The layer of milk that you introduce with the closer pour will have a harder time incorporating into the coffee. This will create the distinct white contrast that you need to write your name or draw a heart.

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