This article will tell you exactly what is steamed milk and give you the details of what milk is best to use and why with some tips on finding great quality alternative milks that work just as well as the best milk for steaming.
I’ve also included a quick tutorial on how to steam milk.
Keep reading for the details.
What Is Steamed Milk?
True and authentic Steamed milk is only made using a steam wand. All other ways of replicating steamed milk are hot milk, warm milk or aerated milk.
A Steam wand injects a powerful jet of steam into your milk. As you are heating your milk, the fats are breaking down and microbubbles are getting created.
The microbubbles are very important, critical, for latte art. The proteins provide a structure to hold the microbubbles in place.
When steam or air is forced into your milk at pressure, the bubbles are protected by a fine layer of milk protein that provides the stability.
The final result is a creamy milk texture that has the appearance of wet paint and has a light and silky smooth texture.
Read: How to make steamed milk
Does A Milk Frother Steam Milk?
No, a milk frother does not steam milk as no steam is used or injected into your milk. An electric milk frother can replicate the effect of steamed milk, but it is not the same structurally nor has the same texture. When well-made, you can get the same or very similar effect of the microfoam.
These devices, of all genres, are much better for creating foamed milk, frothed milk than steamed milk.
Steamed Milk Vs Foamed Milk
Frothed milk is much easier to prepare and can be made in a number of different ways. By far the best way is with an electric milk frother and can also be made with a steam wand using a different technique from making steamed milk as the focus is on the froth and creating a bubbly airy foam.
The foam can be added to hot or cold drinks with a cappuccino and a macchiato being the most popular drinks with frothed milk.
When compared to steamed milk, frothed milk has larger air bubbles and takes up a greater area. It’s also dryer, with a dry feeling. Making it is easy, you need to integrate more air into the milk than when making steamed milk if you are using a steam wand.
Other devices like a milk frothing wand, or an electric whisk can be used. Even a manual whisk, a mason jar and a French press can be used for making frothed milk.
Steamed milk is very different. It is the result of heating your milk using a steam wand that injects steam while under pressure. It’s less bubbly, and more creamy and velvety rich and smooth. It’s shiny like a newly opened can of white paint and forms the canvas for your latte art.
Coffee Drinks Made With Steamed Milk
There are many drinks that use steamed milk, here is a short list of some of the most popular coffee drinks with steamed milk:
- Caffé Latte.
- Café mocha.
- Flat White.
- Pico Latte.
- Café Misto.
- Americano Misto.
There are of course many more.
Why Do You Steam Milk For Coffee?
When you steam milk, you are dramatically improving the flavor, consistency and texture of your coffee. It alters the milk sugars, making it taste sweeter, which helps to take the edge off of bitter notes from your coffee.
The rich silky texture that coats your tongue makes your coffee taste much better, improving the mouthfeel.
How To Steam Milk With A Steam Wand
Steaming milk with a steam wand is easy. There is nothing difficult at all. Nothing!
FIll your milk pitcher with cold milk to no more than an inch below the starting point of the “V” of your milk jug spout. You must allow room for your milk to expand.
For best practices, you can attach an espresso thermometer or a color-changing temperature tag to help you monitor the temperature.
Start by cleaning your milk wand and purging your steam wand with a clean towel.
Insert your steam wand into your milk jug and lift it so that the tip is just below the surface. Tilt your milk jug at an angle and start steaming.
You should start to see a whirlpool, a vortex being created. As you see this, dip your wand deeper into your milk. This will start steaming your milk and heating it.
If you steam wand is too close to the surface of your milk, you can end up getting too much air into it and end up with frothed milk or foamed milk.
The telltale sign of too much air getting into your milk is the ripping sound of your milk becoming too loud.
When your milk temperature is around 48C or 120F, it is time to raise your milk jug to the starting position to stop more air from entering your milk. Hold it there until your milk gets to 55C or 130F, then turn off your steam wand.
Give your wand a purge and wipe to clean it.
Shine your milk by banging your milk jug on the counter to free any trapped air. Then swirl your milk jug to shine your milk. It should look glassy like a freshly opened can of paint.
Slowly and steadily pour your steamed milk.
Read: Steamed milk
What Is The Best Type Of Milk For Steaming?
Whole milk is by far the best milk for steaming as it has a higher fat content than other types of milk. Full fat cows milk is best, better than any nut based or plant based milk.
It is the high fat content that helps to get that rich silky velvet-like texture mixed with your espresso or coffee.
Skim milk is good for general nutrition, but it does not produce perfect results when steaming for lattes, flat whites and more. The lack of lipids and proteins, which are needed in greater quantities and ratios for making steamed milk. and milk froth.
You can still use skim milk, just be aware that it is not the best milk for steaming or for making latte art.
Whole milk is the best due to having the highest fat content, which enables it to be used for latte art and a great rich texture.
It is also great or producing a thick foam, unfortunately it is not so good for your waistline.
That is why many people like to use 2% milk for their coffee. It has enough of a fat content to get a reasonably good texture without making your coffee feel too heavy or thick.
Coconut milk is the best dairy-free option for frothing and steaming due to the elevated fat content. It’s great for latte art too and gets a quality velvet-like texture.
Try a coconut latte, and you’ll just how great this milk is both for taste, texture and latte art.
Almond milk tastes great and looks great in your cup of coffee and is very good for frothing and steaming. It creates a high quality foam.
Not all almond milk is created the same way. Some are very hit-and-miss in terms of quality for frothing. The best have only two ingredients, almonds and milk.
Brands that have xantham gum or carrageenan are best avoided as they make it very difficult for steaming. Other brands that use an oat milk base or gellan work fine.
I recommend the Barista brand as they are a specialty brand that focuses on making alternative milks for steaming and frothing.
Oat milk is fantastic in coffee, and to be frank, I love it! It has some downside though. It’s creamy and has good stability and fits well for all kinds of coffee drinks, including latte, flat white, macchiato and cappuccinos.
Both oatly and Barista make great milk that is perfect for baristas.
Soy milk, the original alternative milk used in coffee and tea. Due to being thinner, it is not suited for cappuccinos or latte macchiatos. as it lacks the fats needed to make a quality foam.
I expect that your local coffee shop has soy milk. If you need your soy milk to make foam, the barista brand is the best one.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Is Steamed Milk
Is Steamed Milk Just Hot Milk?
No, hot milk and steamed milk are two different things – completely. When you just heat your milk using your microwave or stovetop you fail to get the same silky rich texture that adds to the coffee experience.
Steamed milk forces a jet or air and steam into the milk, which alters the fats and proteins and creates a very different texture. Hot milk simply does not hold the foam as well as steamed milk does due to the structural changes made to them when steaming.
Is Steamed Milk And Frothed Milk The Same?
No, frothed milk and steamed milk are both made using a different process. You can froth milk without heating it if you want or if you drink requires that. Frothed milk is a form of aerated milk that is bubbly and frothy, created without the use of a steam wand.
The air bubbles that you get with frothed milk when compared to steamed milk are much bigger and more volumous and have a lighter feel to them. They also disappear quicker and have a dryer feeling. Frothed milk holds its shape well, which is perfectly demonstrated in a cappuccino.
You can make frothed milk with a milk frother, French press, manual hand pump milk frother, a cocktail shaker, blender or a mason jar.
Why Is Steamed Milk So Good?
Steamed milk helps to add to the coffee experience by adding a rich, silky velvet texture. It also adds to sweetness and perception of sweet flavor due to the long chain carbohydrates which are present in milk products breaking down into simple sugars with heat which makes them easier to taste.
What Happens If You Steam Milk Too Long?
When you steam your milk for too long you will force too much air into your steamed milk you will end up with bubbles that are larger and weigh down your milk, effectively spoiling your milk foam.
Can I Steam Milk In A Mug?
Yes, you can steam your milk by using a mug, but it is less than perfect. A proper metal milk jug is the perfect item to use and is cheap enough.
A metal jug has the advantage of being able to conduct heat, and thus you can add a color-changing temperature to the jug or judge with your hand when you have mastered the skill of steaming milk.
Why Do Baristas Steam Their Milk?
Baristas steam their milk to add a sensation of sweetness from the milk into the coffee to balance the bitter notes and improve the texture of the beverage.
Final Thoughts – What Is Steamed Milk?
If you are scrolling down and looking for a quick answer to what is steamed milk, it is much better for you to scroll back up and get the definitive answer and the details about the best type of milk to use.
Steam milk is simply the milk that is created by baristas by using the steam wand attachment of an espresso machine.
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