If you want amazing lattes at home, you need more than just a coffee maker. Unless you have an espresso machine with a steam wand, you’ll also need a good milk frother to achieve the desired temperature and texture for your milk — and improve your chances at making latte art.
Milk frothers do exactly what their name suggests. They create that voluminous foam that latte aficionados crave. The better the frother, the tighter the particles it creates, resulting in a creamy consistency instead of just air bubbles.
There are two different types of milk frothers: countertop or jug frothers (which can be electric or manual) and handheld models. This story focuses just on countertop milk frothers, which can both heat and froth the milk. If you’re looking for something smaller and more portable, check out our picks for the best handheld milk frothers.
Milk frothers buying guide
Here are some factors to consider when looking for your new frother.
• Types of countertop milk frothers. A manual milk frother is very similar to a French press. There’s a glass or plastic carafe and a lid with a small filter that reaches the bottom of the carafe. You heat up the milk beforehand, pour it inside and start pushing the filter up and down until you get as much foam as you want. It’s inexpensive and simple, but it can be tedious and might not get you the creamy foam you want. Also, you can get similar results with a French press, so if you already have one, give it a try first.
Electric milk frothers, on the other hand, do pretty much all of the work for you and, unlike manual and handheld models, heat up milk as well. Even inexpensive electric milk frothers are able to create thick foam. They’re more expensive than manual and handheld frothers (even reaching the $300 mark), but you can find models starting at around $30, compared to roughly $15 and up for a manual frother.
• Temperature control and options. Some countertop milk frothers are very simple to operate; they heat and froth your milk with the touch of one button. Others allow you to do one or the other, which is convenient if you like to froth cold milk or heat up milk without foam.
More advanced models have temperature settings, so you can choose just how hot you’d like to make the milk. This is especially helpful if you use different types of dairy. While regular milk does best when heated to 170°, other milk alternatives, such as soy and almond, shouldn’t be heated to more than 140° or it might change their taste.
• Capacity. If you have a big family, drink large mugs of coffee or like to entertain your guests with heart-decorated drinks often, you need a sizable milk frother. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, if you live alone and have too big a container, you might end up throwing milk away.
Frothers can range from 120ml (about half a cup) all the way up 750ml (almost three cups), and they all require a minimum amount of liquid to work properly. On some of the larger ones, that minimum might be too much for a single cup of coffee. Keep in mind that the maximum capacity is just for heating the milk; when it’s for frothing, that limit is lower due to the volume of the resulting foam.
• Texture and overall results. There are two types of foam, so to speak. The first is microfoam, which is done with a steaming wand. It’s the result of almost microscopic air bubbles, meaning a very tight foam, and it looks as if the milk has thickened.
Froth or foam, on the other hand, is achieved through frothing. It’s much more voluminous, and it looks and feels more like foam, as you’d expect; however, high-quality frothers can achieve a very thick and creamy texture similar to that of microfoam.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the final result — the amount of foam and its thickness — there’s no easy way to know in advance exactly how a frother will perform. The best way to gauge how a milk frother stacks up is to search for comparisons online, especially if they show the results on video. That way, you’ll actually get to see what the froth looks like, and whether it’s what you want.
Best milk frothers
1. Best overall: Breville Milk Cafe Frother
Capacity: 700ml │ Temperature options: Variable from under 120° to over 170° and cold
For barista-quality results, the Breville Milk Cafe Frother is as close as it gets. Manufactured by one of the most renowned coffee maker brands around and made with polished stainless steel, the Cafe Frother will blend in seamlessly with the high-end appliances in your kitchen. And it should, because at $130, the Breville is not cheap.
It does, however, have everything you need. First, it has a sizable jug that can fit 700ml of milk (approximately three cups). Unfortunately, the minimum required is about 170ml, which is just under a full cup of milk (0.72 cup, to be exact). If there’s just one of you drinking coffee, and you prefer small lattes or macchiatos, this model is probably too big and you’ll end up wasting milk.
It’s easy to handle, as the jug comes out of the base, allowing you to freely maneuver it around the kitchen or the breakfast nook. The container is also dishwasher-safe, so it’s easy to clean up when you’re done.
But versatility is what really sets the Cafe Frother apart. It can heat up your milk, froth it or both, like many electric milk frothers. However, unlike most, it has a temperature dial that ranges from around 113° to 176° Fahrenheit, letting you choose exactly how hot you want your milk to be. This is an especially useful feature for those who drink milk alternatives like soy, almond or cashew, all of which need less heat than regular milk.
As far as the quality and quantity of the foam goes, the Breville is among the top performers. It makes great foam, thick enough to need a spoon to empty the jug. It also has two different frothing discs to alternate between latte (less foam, more milk) and cappuccino (equal foam and milk). Some of the simpler but still high-end models, like the Nespresso Aeroccino 4, can have slightly better results, but the Breville’s versatility is unmatched, especially when it comes to big quantities and alternative milks.
2. Best overall runner-up: Nespresso Aeroccino 4 Milk Frother
Capacity: 240ml │ Temperature options: Hot and cold
Nespresso’s line of Aeroccino milk frothers is probably the best known in the category. While the third iteration left some doubts in reviewers’ minds as to whether it was really worth the money, this fourth model seems to justify its hefty $120 price.
The Aeroccino 4 is fairly simple. It has four modes: one for just heating, one for just frothing, one for heating and frothing, and one for extra frothing. The previous model didn’t have this extra frothing mode, and it seems to be very effective at actually creating more, and thicker, foam.
Along with the Jura Automatic Milk Frother (almost impossible to find lately), the Aeroccino delivers some of the best foam among home-use milk frothers. Unfortunately, also similar to the Jura, the Aeroccino seems to be hard to find online or in stores at the regular price. It was available online from a third-party seller at Amazon at the moment we looked, but for $160 ($40 over its list price).
The Aeroccino offers slightly better results than the Breville Milk Cafe Frother, according to most reviewers, but the Breville’s features give it an edge overall, especially considering the current higher price on the Aeroccino. At 240ml of max capacity for heating, the Nespresso is also smaller than the Breville, and more prone to overflowing (the capacity for frothing is only 120ml). However, it’s more convenient for a single person making small drinks.
Depending on your needs and the prices available at the time you’re shopping, the Aeroccino may be a better buy for you than the Breville.
3. Editor’s pick: Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother
Capacity: 400ml │ Temperature options: Hot and cold
Bodum is well known in the coffee industry for French presses and budget-friendly grinders. When it comes to milk frothers, it’s the same: budget-friendly products that punch above their weight. The Bodum Bistro retails for just under $60 and makes foam that, while not as creamy as higher-end models, can compete with the big names.
With a 400ml of maximum capacity, it’s a good middle ground between the Breville and the Aeroccino. The minimum capacity at which you can effectively froth milk is not specified, however. When it comes to settings, it has three: one for heating and frothing, one for just heating and one for just frothing.
Do note though, that, unlike the Breville, the Bodum doesn’t have temperature control. Bodum says its frother reaches the ideal temperature for milk, but doesn’t specify exactly what that means.
The Bistro has a 4.2-star rating out of 5 on Amazon, yet there are some persistent complaints regarding its durability. While the resulting foam is high quality, keep in mind that this model is meant for light domestic use, and not for an office or commercial setting.
4. Best for low prices: Miroco MI-MF001 Stainless Steel Electric Milk Frother
Capacity: 240ml │ Temperature options: Hot and cold
Most reviewers agree: Miroco milk frothers tend to be great deals, providing quality frothing for very low prices.
This stainless steel model (you can also get it in black), priced at around $40, has a distinctive look and three settings: heating, heating and frothing, and just frothing. It can hold 240ml of milk when heating, though only 115ml for frothing (frothing augments the milk’s volume, so it would overflow if there’s more than that).
Again, the Miroco does indeed make good quality foam. However, when it comes to heating, it can fall a little short. As per the brand, the maximum temperature (the only temperature, really) that the frother reaches is 149° Fahrenheit, which is under the ideal 160° to 170° range for regular milk. There are hacks to address this issue, such as heating it up more afterwards or using it to froth already hot milk. But if you’re very precise about your coffee making, the low maximum temperature and lack of controls might actually be a deal breaker.
5. Best for low prices runner-up: Instant Pod Milk Frother
Capacity: 295ml │ Temperature options: Hot and cold
Small appliance brand Instant has been producing coffee-related products alongside its famous multi-cookers and air fryers. The Instant Pod (yes, you read that right) is a simple milk frother that features the four most important settings and a decently sized 295ml jug, and it produces high-quality results.
It can froth cold milk, heat milk, heat it and froth it, or froth it a little more with the “thick warm foam” setting. It makes great foam, creamy enough to compete with some of the leading names.
At $40 (sometimes on sale for about $30), it sounds like a great deal, but, of course, there are some drawbacks. First, there’s no information at all about the temperature, which can be concerning to those who use alternative milks (again, you really don’t want to overheat soy milk), or just have very specific preferences when it comes to milk temperature.
Secondly, and most importantly, it’s been hard to come by. When we looked it was out of stock on Amazon, and has even been out of stock on Instant’s own website for some time. However, if you can find it, grab it — it’s a good deal.
6. Best manual milk frother: Bodum Latteo Manual Milk Frother
Capacity: 240ml │ Temperature options: None
If you don’t mind an arm workout in the morning, you’ll probably be okay with a manual milk frother. It’s similar to a French press, working by rapidly passing the milk through a very tight screen-like filter. So it’s not a surprise that Bodum, one of the most renowned French press manufacturers, makes high-quality milk frothers as well.
When choosing a manual frother, the main factor to consider is build quality. The Latteo’s carafe is made from borosilicate glass, which is non-porous and heat-resistant. It can be microwaved, and it’s safe to use with very hot milk. (It does have a glass handle and can get very hot, so be careful if microwaving it.) The lid and plunger are made with high-quality plastic, also resistant to heat, and fit snugly into the carafe to make sure the milk passes through the very fine filter. These are the traits that make Bodum’s milk frother a top choice.
Remember, though, the consistency of the foam will not be as good as with an electric frother, and it’ll require significant work. Bodum suggests from 60 to 90 plunges for ideal frothing, which is quite a workout before you’ve had your morning coffee.
More from Money:
The Best Handheld Milk Frothers for Your Money
The Best Coffee Makers for Your Money — and Barista Tips for Brewing the Perfect Cup at Home
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