Adding steamed milk to your at-home cup of coffee adds a special touch. If you want to add steamed milk to your coffee but don’t own an espresso machine with a steam wand yet, you’re likely wondering if there is another way to steam milk.
Ways to steam your milk without a steamer include the following:
- Milk frother
- Handheld Whisk
- French Press
- Mason Jar
Let’s quickly take a look at what steamed milk is, and then we can get into how to steam your milk using the methods listed.
What is Steamed Milk?
Almost all coffee shops add steamed milk to many of their specialty coffee drinks. Essentially, it is milk that has been warmed using a steam wand, typically from an espresso machine. The wand injects a stream of steam into the milk to create tiny micro bubbles, also known as microfoam.
This microfoam will add smooth, creamy textured milk to your favorite espresso drink. If you want to take it a step further and challenge yourself, you can learn how to make beautiful latte art with your microfoam.
Click here to see some essential items and some more fun tools when making latte art.
Steamed Milk vs. Frothed Milk
There’s often some confusion in regard to steamed milk versus frothed milk. Many believe they are one in the same. Although both involve making foam from milk, there are some differences.
Frothed milk creates a dense and fluffy foam while adding a creamy, airy mouthfeel to your favorite coffee drinks. Although you typically heat the milk before frothing, it does not always have to be done.
Frothed milk contains larger bubbles and creates a lot of volume. Cappuccinos are a popular drink that uses frothed milk. To read more about frothed milk, click here.
On the other hand, steamed milk is always heated and creates smaller, finer foam. Adding steamed milk to your coffee will give it a heavier and more velvety texture when compared to drinks containing frothed milk.
Steamed milk is used in drinks such as lattes and mochas.
How to Steam Milk Without a Steamer
1. Using a Milk Frother to Steam Milk
If you don’t own a steam wand, a milk frother is a reasonably inexpensive alternative. I recommend the Bean Envy Milk Frother. This powerful tool is handheld and will create great foam in about fifteen seconds.
Now, as the name implies, it is meant to make frothed milk, so your foam may not be as silky and velvety as you want.
2. Using a Whisk to Make Steamed Milk
Most of us have a simple handheld whisk in our kitchen that is relatively good at adding texture to steamed milk.
First, get a small saucepan and add some of your favorite milk. Reference the table below to see how your preferred milk does at foaming.
Turn on the burner to low heat and continuously whisk the milk until it reaches about 125 degrees Fahrenheit and no hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celcius). Remove the pan from the burner.
The milk should have a light and loose-looking foam on top. You can either spoon it into your coffee or gently pour it into your mug.
3. Using a French Press to Steam Milk
If you have a French Press among your coffee items, you can use it to create foam. Unfortunately, this method will produce more frothed milk than steamed milk as well, but it still makes some nice bubbles and foam.
First, heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave (preferably the stove) and then pour it into the French Press, ensuring not to overfill as the milk will increase in volume.
Next, place the lid on the French Press and pump the plunger back and forth until little bubbles are visible. Lastly, add the foam to your coffee and enjoy!
For our favorite French Press, click here.
4. Using a Mason Jar and Microwave to Steam Milk
Our final method for making steamed milk without a steamer is an old jar and the microwave. Before we go any further, I want to point out that this option is last for a reason. Microwaves aren’t the best way to heat milk as it is tricky to heat it evenly and avoid overheating, but if you aren’t able to try the other options, it will do. Instead, you can heat your milk on a stovetop.
First, pour some milk into a glass jar. Be sure to fill only halfway because, again, the milk will expand when steamed. Then, place a lid on your glass jar and shake vigorously for about thirty to sixty seconds or until you have a nice foam forming.
This process could take longer, depending on what type of milk you use.
You know you are finished when the milk and bubbles almost fill the jar. You can take the lid off the jar and microwave it on high for about 30 seconds. Caution, the milk will rise to the top of your jar. This will give the milk a smooth and even texture. Finally, pour or spoon foam into your coffee.
Best Milk When Making Steamed Milk
Various kinds of milk on the market nowadays fit everyone’s preferences and dietary needs, from dairy alternatives, including skim milk, 1%, and 2%, to your non-dairy alternatives, including almond, coconut, and oat milk.
We all have our favorites, but how do each of these perform when trying to steam milk for our lattes? Look at the table below to compare how some more common milk types create foam.
How Steam Wands Work
Unfortunately, nice espresso machines with steam wands cost quite a bit of money, but that’s for a reason. They are great devices to make your favorite coffee drinks with perfectly steamed milk every time. Let’s take a look at how the steamer on these machines work.
To begin, gather your favorite cold milk and a stainless steel pitcher. This will allow you to feel how warm it is on the outside of the jug. Pour some milk into the jug, but be sure never to fill past the max line on the pitcher.
When you steam milk, its volume increases, so if you pour the milk above the “max line,” there’s a good chance your pitcher will overflow with foam and milk.
To make the bubbles in the milk, you are essentially injecting air into the milk. When using a steam wand, the tip of it is placed on the surface of the milk. The pressure of the steam coming from the wand brings air into the milk. The more air injected into the milk, the more bubbles you will have.
As the tip of the steam wand is in the frothing pitcher, hold the pitcher at a slight angle. Once the wand is in the milk, turn it to full power. When enough foam is created, raise the pitcher a little to stop the creation of more foam. Once the foam is made, you want to focus on the texture of the steamed milk by whisking it.
Our favorite higher end espresso is the Breville Espresso Machine for under $650, while our favorite budget friendly option would be the De’Longhi Stilosa Espresso Machine for under $130.
How to Make Latte Art with the Steamed Milk
Even though an espresso machine may be the easiest way to make coffee with perfect latte art, it isn’t a necessity. The options discussed earlier will allow you to create latte art masterpieces without spending hundreds of dollars on an espresso machine.
Latte art is typically only done to various specialty drinks, like flat white, cappuccinos and lattes.
Creating those beautiful coffee art designs in your coffee will take some practice, so don’t give up if it doesn’t turn out quite right your first go around.
Some Tips to Help you Get Started
- Hold the coffee mug and tilt it slightly away from you.
- In the other hand, hold your steamed/frothed milk about an inch above your mug and pour the milk in near the top/center. Be sure to pour slowly and steadily.
- Move milk container closer to mug and tip a bit more to slightly speed up your pouring.
- Gently move your hand back and forth to create a zig-zag pattern with milk.
- Bring the coffee mug to an upright position, slow down your pouring, and raise the milk container about an inch.
- You’re finished!
You don’t have to go to your local coffee shop to enjoy your favorite coffee beverage. Be your own barista.
When wanting to add steamed milk to your drink, a steam wand will always be your best option. But if you are willing to sacrifice the more silky finer bubbles for larger frothier ones, then all the options discussed here are great.
Check them out and enjoy your next cup of foamy coffee.