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Steamed milk without an espresso machine?

The turn in the weather has me craving all sort of steamed milk drinks: matcha with steamed milk, hot chocolate, steamed milk with green or black tea, steamed milk with torani syrups, cafe au lait, the list is endless.

The thing is, I don't need or want an espresso machine. Most of the steamed milk drinks I like don't even involve espresso.

Do the stovetop milk steamers work? Or is there another alternative?

I've had a wand like this, and it just doesn't do a good enough job:
http://www.amazon.com/Trudeau-Tirra-B...

I don't think a frother like this will be good enough either, since I didn't like the wand:
http://www.amazon.com/Trudeau-Stainle...

Maybe this?
http://www.amazon.com/Froth-Au-Lait-M...

The one I'm interested in looks like a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, but has a wand for steaming milk. Has anyone tried it?

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  1. We have a Bodum wand frother (it's got a circular whisk-type thing on the bottom which might work better than the wand you link to). I love it and think it works perfectly for my taste. Just pour a little milk in your mug, warm it in the microwave and froth away. And I like a lot of froth. The second frother you link to is similar to one I have tried. It was a major pain and took so long to froth that it was impossible to keep the milk warm, plus the frothing contraption on ours (Bodum, I think) broke. Not a good gadget, IMO. I can fully recommend the Bodum wand if you decide to give that type another try.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Procrastibaker

      Do you froth the milk after it's been warmed, or do you froth it and then warm? I've tried both methods with varying degrees of success. I also don't own a microwave, but I can heat milk on the stove. Maybe I'll give Bodum's wand a try; I tried a cheaper version and wasn't happy with it.

      1. re: Pei

        I heat it before, but not for very long-- maybe 20 seconds. We just got a microwave after a decade or so without (small kitchens-- didn't seem worth the space); about the only thing I use it for is warming milk and/or coffee and melting butter. I tried foaming with cold milk and it didn't work well, but based on the poster below's comments on McGee I probably should try again...Oh, and I use 2% Let me know if you try the Bodum-- hope you like it!

    2. This device makes some of the best foam I've ever tasted, and it is effortless to use. It is not inexpensive, but if you're serious about foam, this is your machine.

      https://secure.nespresso.com/precom/a...

      6 Replies
      1. re: btnfood

        The video demo on this site is great! Is it available in the US? My very low tech, cheap frothing device is a wire whip. I heat my milk in the microwave for 50 minutes, then whip the heck out of it before I pour in the coffee. It is not a firm foam, but at least it gets me out of the house in the morning.

        1. re: Jane917

          I got to see this item at a trade show a few months ago. I was told that it's available here in the U.S. through the Nespresso website and their boutiques.

          1. re: Jane917

            You must mean 50 seconds, not minutes, in the microwave.

          2. re: btnfood

            I have read on some of the cooking blogs that the aeroccino is the best at frothing milk. btnfood - you are right - cheap it is not - around $81. Williams Sonoma is supposed to have this in stock this month. I plan on going to check it out and have them demo one for me.

            1. re: btnfood

              awesome machine... just got it and cant stop making coffee to mix with the wonderful foam...

            2. Before I bought an espresso machine (for espresso), I had good success getting hot, frothed milk without any fancy equipment. Technique was key to success. One disclaimer: the froth I made was not microfoam which I can get using a steamer.

              I highly recommend Harold McGee's segment on milk foams to get some intuition on technique, but here's the gist:
              1. whey proteins stabilize the foam, and since most reduced-fat milks are fortified with protein, go with this if you're looking for more foam (although I usually use whole milk for better flavor)
              2. hot milk doesn't hold foam well so be careful not to overheat.

              McGee has a general "recipe" for foaming milk with out steam.
              I just tried a version of it -- 1/2 cup 2% cold milk in a 1 c glass jar, shake hard til volume doubles (30 sec), microwave for 30" et voila! beautiful, foamy steamed milk. Out of curiosity, I tried another 30" of heating and the foam bubbled out and collapsed... so a larger jar is recommended just in case!

              To make a flavored drink with this, try: 1 part warm frothy milk and carefuly stir in 1 part hot double concentrated milky beverage (like hot chocolate).

              Off to clean my microwave!

              1. Thanks for the responses, everyone!

                I think what I might actually do is get a cheap espresso machine--I'm eyeing the Mr. Coffee ECM line, around $30 at Target. I figure the stovetop Bialetti milk steamer I used to see was $50, a lot of these Bodum gadgets are $20, so I might as well give the $30 machine a shot.

                I'll report back after the shopping's done! Definitely going somewhere I can return it if I hate it...

                3 Replies
                1. re: Pei

                  If you haven't already bought a machine, you might see if you can find this Mr. Coffee pump espresso maker. It's a little more than the one you're looking at, but the pump makes a big difference in terms of getting good steamed milk. I bought mine about 2-3 years ago at Fry's for around $60 (despite the description, I've always used loose grounds, not a pod).

                  http://www.mrcoffeestore.com/product_...&.

                  1. re: Pei

                    Oh, please don't! I was so disappointed with my cheap machine. I complained every time I used it and ended up with a quality one for Christmas. Worth the money for a good one if you want good drinks. Course, you posted this quite awhile ago... What did you end up doing?

                    1. re: oceanwave76

                      Long-belated update: I used a friend's cheap Krups for awhile, realized it was piece of ****, and held out for a real espresso machine. This year was the magical year, and I now own a Gaggia Classic! slickdeals.net for $312 all inclusive.

                      I spent an additional $50 or so on accessories like a better tamper, a pitcher, some espresso cups, and a bag of beans, and I'm good to go. I've been getting GREAT espresso using the Gaggia paired with a Hario manual ceramic conical burr grinder, and the milk is getting to be pretty good with some practice!! Thanks for checking in!

                  2. I bought a $29 smoothie maker from Target. It's basically a plastic bowl blender with a tap at the bottom. They added a sort of "musher" that you can insert in the top opening, after you twist the cap, to mush ice and fruit around. It makes great smoothies of all kinds and is powerful enough to crush ice. But what I like about it is I can add milk, non fat milk, hot or cold, and whiz it into a froth like you wouldn't believe and then let the proper amount out the tap at the bottom for my concentrated coffee made by my AeroPress. With non fat milk, porbably because of the milk solids, it makes a great frothy batch for a really big cup of coffee. So it didn't cost much, makes frothed milk (and soy milk by the way) and makes shakes and smoothies of all kinds. Great for hot chocolate too, frothing Mexican style up like you wouldn't believe. Look for one at Target - this is what it looks like on Amazon, althought it isn't available -

                    http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-SJR...
                    Seems to be avilable here -
                    http://www1.epinions.com/pr-Back_to_B...

                    Hope this helps.

                    1. I have the aerolatte - a $20 wand that works great so long as the milk is the right temp. About 50 sec in the microwave for 8 ou (as others have said) is good to start.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Produce Addict

                        I also have the aerolatte, and it works fine. I have ordered (off ebay) the Bialetti Mukka Express, that makes your coffee and your steamed mild all at once on your stovetop. I will let you know how it works. Should be great for camping and traveling.

                        1. re: Jane917

                          Can you tell if the Mukka Express can be used just to steam the milk without the coffee? I usually only drink green tea lattes or chai tea lattes but wasn't sure if this would work and how much milk you can actually heat up in one go. If you can let me know your thoughts, I would greatly appreciate it before making the purchase.

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: g7a4ld

                            No, you can't just steam milk in it. If you are willing to put tea in the filter (and water in the bottom) it would work...(the taste of the tea is definitely not the primary factor in masala chai.)

                        2. re: Produce Addict

                          I have the aerolatte too - and I absolutely love it. It did take me a little while to get the hang of getting the foam that I wanted. I remember when I first bought it a couple of years ago I wasn't too impressed at first and kind of wrote it off as another junky gadget that doesn't live up to the hype. But for some reason I started playing with it again about a year ago and finally figured it out. What works for me is heating my milk in a tall glass beaker-type pitcher in the microwave for a minute and a half. (Every microwave is different - this is what works for me). I usually use either 2% or whole milk. I get awesome foam and I use my aerolatte a few times a week now.

                        3. jane917:

                          I just got a Bialetti Mukka and am surprised how well it made a complete capuccino with nicely frothed milk (my other espresso/capuccino maker is an Olympia).

                          I do think you need to study the instructions and do it a few times, so don't get frustrated. Most important: make sure it's screwed together really firmly!

                          Also, the milk frother valve is pressurized, so be sure it cools down before disassembling.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hellgate

                            my better half loves, dry, dry, dry cappuccinos. would this be a good product to buy for him?

                          2. Hello All,

                            I am also looking for a sperate machine that will steam milk. I do not need an espresso machine because I do not drink coffee but I would like a wand type thing that I can just steam milk in to create flavored milk. Any suggesstions...

                            1. -----

                              Has anyone tried the Hamilton Beach drink mixer? (Probably the oldest shake/soda mixer known in the USA).

                              Back when I was a little munch-kin ('60s) my granny used hers to blend in marshmallows into hot cocoa that mixed up rather rich and foamy. Generally there was 3 or 4 of us so the large SS mixing cup I am sure was a huge help.

                              The cocoa was made in a saucepan but I am sure a microwave can be used to heat up the milk and etc..

                              -----

                              1. I have the Aerolatte, they sell it at restoraton hardware and also a version at ikea. It is basically a mini battery operated whisk. I heat my milk on the stove for a minute or so, tilt the saucepan and whip along the sides. Makes a hearty froth that lasts.

                                oops- i see that it has been mentioned above. anyway, you can get them for super cheap in the marketplace section of ikea.

                                1. ditto on the cheapy ikea frother. i DO drink coffee but don't always want foam, but when i do it's quick and easy. and maybe i'm extremely low tech, but i just heat/steam milk on the stove.

                                  1. i just use a cheepo milk frother (got it for 5.99). heat the milk for 1 min. (works with my microwave...my guess is you'll have to experiment with yours to get it warm enough but not warm enough to burn it. and if you dont have a microwave the same could be used for a stove...not sure how long it would take though...)

                                    after it is warm enough use the frother untill the bubbles are quite wee. (it takes me a long time using mine because mine isn't that powerful).

                                    and there you go! perfectly acceptable frothed milk without a steamer or 80$ devices!

                                    hope that helped:)

                                    1. We love the Nespresso Aeorchino Automatic Milk Frother! It's a bit pricier than the options that others have listed at $80, but it's fantastic.

                                      You can buy it at Williams-Sonoma: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                      1. Also, this might help even more, I found it online at this web address
                                        http://www.1st-line.com/machines/home...

                                        HANDS DOWN - NO CONTEST - the stove top steamers are the best all around milk steamer. the quality is the exact as of restaurant cappuccino machines (which are hooked straight to water lines and have a continuous heating for pressure). These replicate that for their very nature (like a tea pot), rapidly boiling water and regulated pressure, a control trigger, and there you have it!

                                        It took me over 10 years of trying stupid nespresso machines and silly wand devices, to find it at Broadway Panhandler in NYC, but unfortunately they do not carry it anymore. Our friend Paul one that he purchased from Two for the Pot (?) in Brooklyn and the nozzle was too short, so it did not work as well.

                                        Using the one we like (link above) has a trick to it, here are my tips:

                                        - Start the steamer on the heat as you prepare your stove top espresso, by the time the espresso is done the steamer will be ready to froth (or slightly before, its all in the timing so it doesn't seem laborious
                                        )- Bring the water to a boil such that there is steam forcefully coming out of the nozzle before steaming (not limply, forcefully, this guarantees there will be enough steam to steam and froth all of the milk),
                                        - The trigger handle must be turned away from the flame or else it will melt or be too hot to handle which sucks
                                        - Then you must have patience to learn the proper technique for frothing, but anyone who has the patience to use a stove top espresso maker will surely have patience for the steamer and learning it as well.
                                        - oh one more thing - the nozzle should be cleaned right after frothing as to not let burned milk glop up the nozzles.

                                        My only wish is that it would be made of steel.

                                        All the best,
                                        Jackie

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: jaxx222

                                          We have been using a Bialetti tuttocrema stovetop milk frother for more than 12 months. It's just a teflon coated jug with a double sieve froth attachment. We also have a Krups espresso machine with auto-frother (milk siphon with adjustable steam). They come in small and large sizes. (?2 cup vs 1 cup). Certainly the 2-cup version is a bit more hard work if only one cup of milk in it. Ours has a slight (barely visible wall thickening at the level mark for 2 cups - which may or may not be a design feature).

                                          Easy as pie to make superlative thick foam. Heat milk until it skins - which is about 80-85degC. Harold McGee says optimum temp is 65degC plus, but we find that is too cold for the coffee. Pump the frother vigorously.

                                          Easy to clean. Highly recommended. Only complaint is my wife thinks detergent residue from cleaning is tasteable, but I can't taste it. Working on using less detergent for cleaning.

                                          Compared to using a single boiler home espresso machine, I find it quicker and easier to put the milk on first, (grind beans,) make espresso, add milk. No waiting for the steam chamber to heat up or cool down again.

                                          1. re: cheongi

                                            The only problem with your stovetop frother is it doesn't heat the milk enough. Properly micro-foamed milk should be between 150* and 155*, not the temperatures you quote in your post.

                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                Where are my reading glasses?? I should have seen that. No wonder his milk was scalding.

                                            1. re: cheongi

                                              Have just acquired the small size Bialetti tuttocrema (2 cup version) in New Zealand. (site photo is wrong - shows the large size model)
                                              http://www.tablepride.co.nz/cs/prodDe...
                                              It does not exist on Bialetti's web site http://www.bialetti.it/uk/catalogue/s... but does on a few New Zealand online stores. The large one is called "6 cup". Practically, the small version does one cup and the large one 3 cups at a stretch. Both sizes have a very flat mound as an internal level mark about 1/3 the way up which is not documented in the instruction manual but very definitely palpable and visible on both models.

                                              I find that full cream milk makes better foam than skim/trim/low fat, contrary to most opinions using steam wands. (Milkshakes always had better foam with more cream.) No problems foaming any sort of milk from any starting temperature.

                                              There should be no problems with not getting the milk hot enough ever, as one can easily boil milk on stove. Barely there to medium surface skinning seems the best simple temperature guide to me. The more scientific could use an infrared (non-contact) food thermometer or electronic thermometer.

                                              Home stovetop Bialetti frother does a much better job making luscious microfoam than 90% of bought coffees with frothy milk. Truly - one has to experience luscious microfoam to know how bad the bought ones are.

                                          2. Sorry tis long...Coffee and foam are laughably important topics.

                                            I must preface my post by saying that I am a trained barista and managed an 8-12kg coffee per day cafe for a couple of years (7 years ago) and importantly that I am NOT up to speed with any of the home-foaming devices around today. But here are some tips that most people I have come across don't know (including almost EVERYONE who works at Starbucks or any other coffee chain...)

                                            In my experience, many people I have come across around the world (and especially those who really think they know their coffee) generally don't have a clue what they are talking about. Their opinions about why a particular coffee (or foam) is or isn't good is solely a subjective one. Fair enough, but on a site like this where most people know their cookware I hope that some degree of objectivity comes into it.

                                            Foaming milk.
                                            1) Lower fat is easier to foam as pointed out above. Full-cream tastes better, but good technique (oh, there is a technique) should more than make up for this.
                                            2) For the BEST results, cold milk (straight from the fridge) should always be foamed in a COLD steel (metal) jug. This is especially important for full-cream milk as it takes longer to increase its volume compared to low-fat. In the cafe, I'd be making several coffees a minute but every coffee was made from cold milk straight from the fridge in a cold jug also from the fridge. (We had an open fridge in the bench and lots of jugs). Milk was never reheated.
                                            3) The jug should be large enough to make enough for at least one extra glass than you need...see next point. Always use more milk than you need if you want the best foam.
                                            4) The nozzle of wand should NEVER get close enough to bottom of the jug to 'squeal' (or make any noise that isn't the gentle chirping of the milk as it swirls around the jug). This will cause a hot-spot and burn your milk and recondense the steam adding water to milk.
                                            5) Never EVER move the jug up and down while you are foaming (if you are a hack or like particularly light foam that will have no taste and unfulfilling texture and that can be molded, then go ahead BIG MOVEMENTS!). The nozzle should be just below the surface near the spout of the jug. Angle the jug so that the milk swirls around in one direction (not as drastically, but similar to when you whisk an egg). You will need to make adjustments to the position as the volume of the foam increases. As a general rule the nozzle should just be submerged. You want to listen for chirping as the tip of the nozzle becomes quickly exposed whilst the milk is swirling. These 'chirps' should be about 1/4 of a second and you'll get a handful every couple of seconds if you are doing it correctly (it takes PRACTICE).
                                            6) Temperature. Ideally, should be hot, but not so hot that you can't drink it right away. This is not tea and should not be approaching boiling. We generally used thermometers at the cafe. About 63.5-65 degrees celcius. You should be able to serve your coffee in a glass and hold the glass in the palm of your hand reasonably comfortably. (It will feel hot though).
                                            7) If you did all this, you should have foam that looks like silk. You should not be able to see ANY bubbles, and the foam should not look like bubble bath. A silky foam will retain all of its taste. When you are good at this, you shouldn't need to bash the jug on the bench to get rid of any bubbles.

                                            ...and this is before you even consider how select a coffee bean, appropriate roast (for the bean), appropriate grind size (a good barista will adjust the grind several times throughout the day depending on the humidity, how old the ground coffee is, temperature, how well the machine is working), and how to 'pour' a shot (see post-script)

                                            So to the original post...
                                            For foaming milk, even with the best technique, you are only as good as your equipment here (but good equipment doesn't make up for bad technique!). When I last looked and tested, I was unable to find a wand that did a good enough job (that wasn't on a coffee machine that I would buy. I have a professional commercial coffee machine at home...tossed the microwave to make room).

                                            The problem is (and keep in mind that not every cafe will have a coffee machine capable of this)
                                            - Your boiler needs to be HIGH pressure. The higher the better (this is where a majority of the weight in a coffee machine lies). This will ensure that when the steam comes out of the nozzle it is 'superheated' (not as in volcanic) but so that you don't get any liquid water (this will kill your milk) and that more importantly it doesn't cool enough as it travels in the nozzle-arm or leaves the nozzle to form enough liquid water to kill your milk.

                                            I haven't found a home machine that meets the criteria food good foaming; however if one is emerging and you think you are about to buy it, make sure it can sustain heat and pressure. Always run the wand until it is ONLY producing steam before you steam your (COLD) milk.

                                            Try and find a machine that has a long enough arm so you can use a bigger jug. This is a very important consideration. If you are limited to a short-arm on a lower-end machine, you will get bubbles, water, and reasonably tasteless milk without that LOVELY texture!

                                            Very quickly:
                                            North America as a general rule has over-roasted (ie burnt) coffee, to mitigate the obscenely large, weak, scorchingly hot coffees sold.
                                            - A shot of coffee should pour for an optimal amount of time (depends on the coffee). We had a 25-35 second pour depending on (humidity, temp, machine use etc). This was based on taste. I'd have a tiny-sip of coffee every 15 minutes and would time every shot of coffee poured.
                                            - Most importantly, coffee beans oxidise. Once they have been ground they oxidise and lose flavour almost immediately. We were extremely busy at the cafe (and didn't keep people waiting) but would only grind coffee as we used it. This meant from grinder to drinking a coffee was about 60-90 seconds. Cafes with huge coffee grinders on auto grind (you can see the excess in the grinder as a customer) generally serve bad coffee.
                                            - Coffee must be tamped correctly. Cafes that use the tamp attached to the grinder, use a flimsy tamp, or don't get a perfectly flat surface, generally serve bad coffee.

                                            Hope this is useful. Any questions (or disagreements), especially about technique), please post and I'll see if I can help.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: porthacking

                                              I found porthacking's discussion extremely interesting and true. I enjoy espresso, but must admit what I am REALLY on a quest for is the ability to steam milk which has "foam that looks like silk". I am not looking for bath bubbles, but creamy milk that seems to have a new make up through and through and doesn't just have a moussy frothy layer on top of (watered down) milk. So... How can I get that without having a commercial 2 or 3 group 200 lb machine? I'm not looking for a $20 frothing wand, but a decent machine which can provide me with some great microfoam- given that I can technically handle my end of the job. Any suggestions? I have spoken to some who say that unless the boiler has at least a 3 liter capacity, there is no point in trying as I won't get enough good, strong steam for the results I desire.

                                            2. The best, thickest froth I got was from of all things, Carnation instant powdered skim milk and the Bonjour frother. I mixed it with a some hot water from the Nespresso, and it makes a rich thick froth. You can also mix the powder with some of the hot coffee for a coffee flavored froth. The Alba powder didn't work. Adding a bit of sugar takes away any taste from the powdered milk, and it was great. You can flavor it with a dash of syrup too. It's much thicker than the warmed milk I foam up with the Bonjour frother and the froth stays after mixing.

                                              1. I am having the same issue in trying to replace my soon to die milk steamer. It's called a Cappucino Crazy and, despite the unfortunate name, is great at heating and frothing milk and only cost around $30. I would just get another one but I think they don't make them anymore as I can't find it anywhere in stores or online. Has anybody heard of anything that's similar to this product?

                                                1. I realize the original post is from 2006, but here it goes anyway. I am also looking for a milk frother, and was wondering if anyone has tried the Frieling Milk Frother (Williams Sonoma sells it)? The price is right and it looks nice...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Cattie

                                                    I use my Bodum milk frother most everyday in the winter for my morning cappucino. In the summer I drink my stovetop espresso on the rocks.

                                                    The Frieling looks great as it is the same concept. But Bodum is cheaper and I think it's such a pretty little thing.

                                                    It's really important that you heat the milk on the stove and to the proper temperature-- take it off a few moments after it starts to steam. This ensures that it froths to the appropriate foaminess and brings out the sweetness in milk. Also, when you are pumping it up and down, instead of going all the way to the bottom and back up, do short pumps closer to the surface of the milk--- this creates a more velvety foam.

                                                    As a former barista from Seattle, I believe that this method is really the only method for in the home. Keep espresso machines in coffeehouses.

                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Bodum-Shin-Bist...

                                                  2. You probably already got one already.... but...

                                                    I just got both the Nespresso Aeorchino Automatic Milk Frother and
                                                    Bialetti Hot Chocolate Pot both from Williams and Sonoma. The Aeorchino only makes single serving, quite furstrating when you have a large company. The Bialetti has a much larger capcity but if you really want large foam, you're probably best to put in about 1/2 cup of milk at the most in my opinion. You'll still get foam with a larger capcity like I had with 1-1/4 cup, but it's certainly not as wonderfully foamy because the aeration unit is at the base only.

                                                    It's too bad the Chocolate Pot isn't very well advertised. It just seems like a 1-use appliance but they could have done better to market it because it is a milk frother too. It will stir up cold drinks too if you'd like. Right now it's on sale at Williams and Sonoma. in Canada, they dropped the price down to $40 CAD from $120 CAD original price! Woah. So I just grabbed it yeterday. Only used it twice so far. I rather pay more to have it in glass and metal parts only istead of it mostly platics (I avoid plastics when I can), but for $40, I can't complain too much.

                                                    Bialetti Hot Chocolate Pot: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: moreana

                                                      Though controversial (judging from the comments) this does seem like a quick, inexpensive way to make frothy milk for hot drinks (haven't tested it as I don't drink coffee)... featured as a Chow Tip at http://www.chow.com/stories/10836 .

                                                      1. re: ideabaker

                                                        I just tried the lo-tech whisk method and it worked great for my purposes (steamed milk with tea - like a tea latte.) Think I can wait on a fancy machine for now. Thx.