Updated: Feb 8, 2021
A lot of good research has been done on steaming milk for espresso based beverages in the cafe and is worthy of its own post. There is a plethora of information on this topic for professional baristas - for example this excellent video - An SCAA Symposium lecture by Thom Huppertz on the science of milk foam (23:05 minutes). However, there isn't much info on this topic to help the Indian home coffee enthusiast who wishes to recreate the Starbucks experiences but considers an expresso machine to be a bit of handful for home use.
In addition, there are certain milk use habits in India which are not that helpful in creating that tasty creamy latte at home.
Milk Issues to take note of
The issues important from an Indian perspective (which many Indians might find shocking or controversial) backed by solid research & science are as follows:
1. For best taste and thick creamy froth, use fresh cow whole milk. It will give better results than UHT(reconstituted) or Buffalo milk. Fresh skimmed milk (<1% fat content) tastes the sweetest although the foam may have large air bubbles than whole milk. High fat content in milk beyond 4% is not good for milk frothing and overall taste.
2. If you buy fresh pasteurised milk from a reputed/reliable brand, you do not need to boil it again at home. Doing so will not only reduce its shelf life, but will also permanently degrade its taste.
3. The optimum temperature of milk for best taste as a hot beverage is 65°C (within a 3-5°C margin)
Now that we have the milk basics out of the way, lets look at popular products in the market for frothing of milk at home.
Milk Frother 101 - Electric Milk frothers vs Manual Milk Frothers
Electric milk frothers froth as well as heat the milk, usually with some preset options. Technically they are of two types - induction based spinning disks vs DC motor operated spinning disks. The prices vary from $200 to $50. Some of well known ones are from Breville (Sage in UK), Aeroccino by Nespresso, Aerolatte, Capresso (Jura), WMF and Krups etc. The cheaper ones are usually relatively lesser known brands from China.
Image: Breville The Milk Cafe Frother
Manual milk frothers are either battery operated with spinning disks or French Press style with plungers. Some popular battery operated ones are made by Aerolatte, Hario amongst others. Cheaper options which are pretty much similar in terms of results are from Ikea and about a zillion other Chinese variants.
Image: Aerolatte Professional
Dedicated French Press style frothers are made by Bodum, Bellemain amongst others. But the good news here is that any French Press can be effectively used as a milk frother. In fact it is generally a well known fact that very consistent milk frothing results can be easily obtained with a french Press. There is not much user control in electric frother and the battery operated ones can be a hit or a miss, and have a steeper learning curve to get the technique right.
Image: Bodum Latteo Milk frother
Suggested milk frothers which can be purchased in India (as of Nov 2020)
Manual frothers (Battery Operated)
Hario CZ-1 Milk Frother, "Z"
Aerolatte To Go, Milk Frother
IKEA Milk Frother
Milk Frother & Warmer (Electric)
VERO Milk Frother
Nettare Vento Milk Frother
The Kettlery Electric Milk Frother
To read part-2 of this post click here