Should You Boil Milk For Coffee Or Just Heat It

Should You Boil Milk For Coffee Or Just Heat It?

Last updated on October 26th, 2023 at 16:30

Should you boil milk for coffee is a question that we are often asked and to give the answer in the first sentence – no.

You should not boil your milk for your coffee, but you should certainly heat it up, and we explain why in this article, so stay tuned and keep reading to find out why and how heating but not boiling your milk for coffee is better.

By the time you have finished reading this article you will have learned a few good ways of warming your milk using both with and without a steaming wand, and importantly why you should never boil milk for coffee.

Why Should You Never Boil Milk For Coffee

When you boil milk of any kind you end up losing vapor, burning the milk sugar and more importantly destroying the milk proteins. That skin on the surface when you boil milk for coffee, hot chocolate or anything else is a thin layer of proteins.

When you reduce the protein in your milk, you will change the ratio of proteins, fats and acids which can lead to your milk curdling when adding it to your coffee and not getting that silky smooth velvet-like texture.

When there is a higher ratio of protein than acid, you will get that rich creamy velvet texture and when there is a higher ratio of acids, be it the malic acid or citric acid from your coffee, your milk will curdle and become lumpy.

There is also the taste and flavor aspect to consider. When you boil milk for coffee, you will end up burning the milk sugars and end up with burnt milk which will taste a little off, have poor texture and will bring that lack of texture and flavor into your cup of coffee. That coupled with the water content evaporating and destroying the whey protein leads to a low quality milk and a greater potential for curdling.

Boil Milk For Coffee
You Should Never Boil Milk For Coffee

Read: How to steam soy milk at home

How To Warm Milk For Coffee Without Microwave – How To Steam Milk On A Stove

When you use your stove to warm milk for coffee, you will have greater control over the temperature of your milk and avoid overheating and destroying the milk proteins, milk fats and milk sugars.

You can monitor the temperature by using a thermometer and as soon as it is in the 140F to 160F range (60C to 70C).

Step 1: Add Your Milk To Your Saucepan

Use only the amount of milk that you need and pour it into a saucepan. There is no need to heat excess milk.

Step 2: Use A Low Heat.

Some experts advise on using a low-medium heat. I find that the best results are achieved when using a low heat and slowly heating your milk to the 140F to 160F (60C To 70C) range. A low heat and keeping an eye on it will ensure that you are not overheating your milk and destroying the whey proteins.

Step 3: Stir Your Milk Slowly And Gently

Stir your milk slowly and softly while your milk slowly reaches the desired temperature. This can take from 3 to 5 min depending on your stovetop.

Step 4: Bonus Step Make Milk Froth

Once you have reached the perfect temperature range, slowly pour your heated milk into a cocktail shaker and shake it strongly, with energy for around one minute.

This will create aerated milk froth.

Frothy Milk
Frothy Milk

Read: How to make steamed milk

Step 5: Pour Your Heated Milk And Milk Froth Into Your Coffee…Slowly!

Pour your heated milk slowly into your coffee for it to mix well with your coffee and be extra careful with soy milk as if you pour too quickly you may still end up with curdled milk – which may have more to do with the acidity of your coffee than over heating.

If it curdles, and you are certain it is the acidity of your coffee, you can reduce the acidity by using baking soda. Do not add baking soda to your pot with milk to reduce the acidity of your coffee. You must reduce the shot of coffee itself.

Microwave
You Can Microwave Your Milk

Read: Steamed milk

How To Steam Milk Without A Steamer – The Steamed Milk Microwave Method

Making steamed milk in your microwave is every bit as easy as using your stovetop. You just need to watch it closely and work out what the proper time is for heating your milk without boiling it in your microwave.

Pro Tip: The first time you use this method, use a thermometer to get the ideal temperature.

Step 1: Use A Microwave Safe Container And Add Milk To It.

Add only the amount of milk that you are going to use, there is no need to use an excess amount of milk.

Step 2: Heat Your Milk For 20 To 30 Seconds Only

It is good to know your microwave here. To be on the safe side, start by heating your milk in 5 to 10 second increments until you know how long it takes you to reach the perfect temperature range without boiling your milk.

Step 3: Take Note Of The Time And Temperature

This step goes hand in hand with step 2 above. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature and note down the amount of time it has taken to reach it. The amount of time taken will be your yard stick for future coffee drinks made with heated milk.

Cooking Thermometer
Use A Digital Thermometer

Step 4: Bonus Step – Make Frothed Milk.

If you need or want frothed milk you can easily make frothy milk by either pouring the hot milk into a cocktail shaker and shaking strongly for a minute to aerate the milk, or you can add it to a blender or my favorite, slowly pour it into your French press and pump it strongly and quickly while being careful not to exert too much pressure on your plunger.

Step 5: Pour And Enjoy Your Coffee

The best part, slowly pour and enjoy your cup of coffee with your heated and frothed milk.

How To Steam Milk With A Steamer

Steaming your milk with a steamer is very easy and requires very little equipment other than a milk jug and the steam wand that is attached to your espresso machine. It is highly advised for a perfectionist coffee lover to have a color changing temperature sticker to attach to your milk jug or a thermometer to measure the temperature.

Step 1: Measure Your Milk

As always there is no need to waste your milk by producing excess steamed milk. Fill your milk jug with only as much milk as you need to use.

Step 2: Submerge The Nozzle

Submerge the nozzle of your steam wand about half an inch below the surface of your milk so that it is just dipped below the surface. Create as much milk foam as you need. I usually make as much as the milk will permit.

Step 3: Vortex Time

Create a milk vortex / milk whirlpool by submerging the tip of the milk steaming wand deeper. This will heat your milk and mix some of the foam with the milk. This is what will create the rich silky texture and creaminess. Mixing the air bubbles is good. This is what you want to achieve.

Be careful of the temperature and not to heat your milk to too high a temperature. Your thermometer or a color-changing thermal sticker on your milk jug is a good idea.

Step 4: Pour And Enjoy

As always, pour your steamed milk slowly and carefully into your cup of coffee and enjoy it.

Slowly Pour Your Milk
Slowly Pour Your Milk

Frequently Asked Questions About Boil Milk For Coffee

Yes, the ideal temperature of your milk for coffee is 140F to 160F (60C to 70C) for dairy milk. This temperature brings out the natural sweetness and texture of the milk. The temperature varies depending on the type of milk used. Soy milk has an ideal temperature range of 55C (130F) to 60C (140F).

Almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk and other plant-based milk will have different ideal temperatures for heating before the proteins break down.

Yes, but strictly speaking I would not boil milk for making a latte, cappuccino or any type of coffee drink. Always heat your milk only within the ideal temperature range for the type of milk that you are using. Going above and boiling your milk will result in a slightly burnt taste that will make its way into your cup of coffee.

Should We Boil Milk Before Making Cold Coffee?

Yes, if you heat and steam your milk prior to using it in cold coffee and let it cool down, be it a cold brew of iced coffee, you will get the benefit of the optimal sweetness and rich creamy texture when compared to unheated cold milk straight from the fridge. 

No, boiled milk and frothing milk are very different. When you boil your milk all you have done is heat it to its boiling point and nothing more.

Frothing or frothed milk on the other hand is heated to an ideal temperature range to maintain the integrity of the proteins and then is aerated by forcing air into the milk by means of using a blender, food processor, hand held milk frother and even a French press.

Frothed milk has a richer, creamier and velvet like texture.

If you are making a simple latte at home, you can warm your milk for a latte by making hot milk using your microwave or saucepan.

How Long Should You Boil Milk For Coffee?

There is no time frame for how long you should boil milk for coffee. You will need to watch your milk and prevent it from boiling over and burning the milk sugars and thus altering the expected taste and flavor.

Can I Heat Fresh Milk For Coffee?

Yes, fresh milk is perfect. In fact, fresh milk for coffee is much better than UHT or any other long life milk as it produces a better tasting latte, cappuccino, macchiato and so on.

Heat your milk to the optimal temperature, which is 140F to 160F (60C to 70C), this will bring out the natural sweetness of the milk.

Can I Boil Milk To Make A Latte?

It is better that you heat your milk to make a latte but not boil it. Many coffee lovers make their espresso based drinks with milk heated in the microwave or stove. If you boil your milk, you will alter the flavor of your milk.

Final Thoughts – Boil Milk For Coffee

If anyone tells you to or asks you to boil milk for coffee you now know that you should not boil it but to warm your milk, whatever type of milk it may be to the ideal temperature range for that milk. 

Below the ideal temperature, and you will not get the silky rich creaminess of the milk into your coffee and at too high a temperature, and you risk burnt milk and worse still curdled milk. 

Use the techniques outlined in this article to make the perfect heated milk for your coffee. 

Join our fun and friendly coffee community where I and fellow members talk about brewing techniques, methods and great beans to experiment with. Find us on Facebook/Meta. 

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or Derek@LatteLoveBrew.com, mentioning your name and location

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