A year ago, I posted about how to froth milk and create micro-foam without a steamer. I still do not own an espresso machine, and still use a milk-frother to create micro-foam. If you are like me, and want to use a milk-frother to practice latte art, this post may be of your interest. There are many milk frothers out there, they vary in shapes, weights, and prices. How to choose your milk frother is what I will talk about in this post. In the past few years, I have tried different frothers, some of them I used until they broke down, others I tried them twice and then dumped them for the dust, some were almost free others were a bit expensive. I’m still in the pursuit of the perfect frother, so I will just share here what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I would prefer. My first ever milk frother was inside a coffee set that included two coffee cups and a coffee book, it was on sale for 7$ for the whole set. But to be honest, this was my favorite frother! I bought it more than 6 years ago. Because it is a non-brand, I couldn’t find it again. The following are four features you may want to consider when you buy your milk frother:
How fast the frother spins is very important. This speed is determined by the power of the motor and how full the batteries are. As for the motor, you can’t do much about it, unless you want to change it. The variations of speed over time, whether it is because of motor deficiency or the batteries running out over time, has big impact on the progress of the latte art learning process (especially in the early stages). This is what happens, you get your first free-pour latte art right, and you are all so excited, you try to replicate what you did, but it doesn’t work. Of course, there is beginners luck, but there is also other variables. You try to figure out why it’s not working, you change the batteries …AAAA.. it’s not gonna work at least right after the batteries are changed. I think the reason is that one adapts to a frother after a repeated use (e.g., If the frother is slow, you tend to froth longer, and you try to introduce a bit more air than that needed for a faster frother). Once you were able to get the right consistency of the microfoam, you change the batteries! you use the same technique, you froth for the same period of time, you introduce same amount of air, but because of the higher speed of the frother, the air that is introduced is way more than needed, and you probably wouldn’t need to froth it for this long. And so on. I spent sooo many batteries … until I decided to get rechargeable ones. This way you can use the batteries for a few times only and then recharge them before dying (yet there is a debate about whether rechargeable ones are as powerful as the disposable ones or not!) There is another point that I’d like to raise about the speed. I am not sure if this is correct, but this is what I noticed over time: a fast frother can produce microfoam that lasts longer. And if a slow frother can produce microfoam, this microfoam disappears very fast after pouring, I mean that the latte art will last for a few seconds only before it starts breaking and melts down (this can be so frustrating! I am still exploring and learning more about how to create latte art that lasts for long!).
This is another very important feature of the frother. I am not sure which one is more important, the speed or the thickness, but they are both pretty important. The thickness of the stick plays a big role in maintaining a stable rotation. It is much easier to control a stable frother and the amount of air introduced to the milk. A thick and a firm stick is more stable than a thin one. Based on my own experience, it is not that easy to find a frother with a stable and think stick.
Stick connection to body
Another important feature that contributes to the frother’s rotation stability, is how the stick is connected to the handle. The best is when the stick is actually part of the body (not easy to find). And the worst is a light rubber connection. Another important feature is the connection of the frother’s head to the stick. Although it is not an issue in most frothers, since the head is coil-shaped part of the main stick, but some frothers have a removable head. A removable one might cause problems while frothing, because the milk can come between the connection, and so the head stops rotating while the stick rotates alone. Especially if the frother has a rubber head (one I tried), it expands because of the heat of the milk and becomes loose over time. This will cause the head to completely detach from the stick!
Yes, the frother’s physical weight. You might think ha? how heavy it can be anyways! I didn’t notice that the weight is important, until I bought a (relatively) heavy one. You only would notice it when you use it, especially when you need to froth for a long time it becomes annoying. Personally, I prefer a light frother. It is easier to handle and to move up and down in the pitcher.
There are two points about the start button, 1) The position of the start button on the frother, this is just a personal preference. It depends on how you prefer to hold things in general and which finger you are more comfortable to use for pushing the button. My first frother had the start button on the side. When I bought my second frother, i didn’t notice the position of the start button, or in better words, I just didn’t think it’s an issue. But because you tend to get used to some way of holding, starting, and stopping the frother, it takes a while to get used to the new one. It’s not a big deal, but if you are used to something that works well, and you have the option to remain with the same style, do it. The second point is 2) a click-button or a push-button/slide-button. A click-button means you need to click to turn it on and you need to click to turn it off. A push-button (slide-button) means it turns on while your pushing (sliding) it and turns off once you take your hands off it. I personally prefer the push-button (slide-button), it makes it easier to stop the frother faster and smoother. Click-button is troublesome when you want to stop the frother, because you can’t remove the frother from the milk while it’s on, it will splash milk everywhere and ruin your microfaom (introduce air, soapy bubbles), and clicking the button while it’s inside the milk is not stable and may move the frother in a way that creates bubbles in the milk and leaves unwanted finish. I tried the following frothers: 1- Non-brand (less than 7$): what I like: very thick stick, one piece connection to body, push-button, average weight what I dislike: broke down 2- IKEA milk frother (4$): what I like: very light, slide-bottom, and the price what I dislike: everything else!! this one really sucks! 3- HOME PRESENCE(~14$): what I like: thick stick, stable connection to body, push-button, average weight what i dislike: rubber-head 4- aerolatte (~26$): what I like: fast, slide-button what I dislike: thin stick, non-stable connection. 5- Sevy (~14$): what I like: mmm … can’t think of something what I dislike: thin stick, click-button, heavy. The cons and pros of each of those frothers are summarized in the photo below (they have the same order from left-to-right, click on the photo to enlarge). Disclaimer: this post does not aim to drive you to dump your milk frother and get a new one if you already have one, rather it is just an attempt to help you pick one/avoid one if you wanted to buy a new one. Also, I do not claim that any of these frothers can’t be used to create microfoam/latte art, rather that one can be more troublesome than the other one. Also If you are happy with a frother you tried, please share with me! In conclusion, there are many variables that effect the latte art process, and those variables are changing over time: batteries, motor power, milk temperature, amount of milk you like in your drink… etc. So trying to come up with an equation that always works is not simple. My only advice is be patient! If it worked once and then didn’t work, try changing one variable and fix the others to figure out the problem, and remember, if it didn’t work, you still have your delicious coffee to enjoy and the next day to practice again, after all there is a limited number of cups we can drink per day, … or not 😉