How to Froth Milk With a Steam Wand

Frothed milk in a small metal pitcher with steam wand immersed in milk

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 1 mins
Cook: 2 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
61 Calories
2g Fat
6g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 61
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 57mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 146mg 11%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 171mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Foamed or frothed milk is used in many espresso drinks and other hot beverages. With some practice, you can make fantastic foamed milk for cappuccinos, macchiatos, tea lattes, and other drinks. 

If you invested in an espresso machine with a steam wand, frothing milk with it is very easy. Technically speaking, the wand will steam your milk because frothing it renders a different texture in the bubbles, but both yield a very enjoyable foam.

Most modern machines—including many automatic machines—have a steam wand that hangs off the side. This attached arm simply forces steam into your milk, gently warming it with pressure while adding air to the milk, which causes it to foam. You will need a small metal pitcher for frothing. These are called milk-frothing pitchers, and they are available at many stores that sell espresso machines and accessories, but they are also easily found at online retailers. They are the perfect depth for the steam wand and the long handle is easy to hold and control.

The exact methods for frothing milk vary slightly based on the drink, but this technique includes the basics for this style of texturized milk. Your milk needs to be really cold for the best results.


Click Play to See This Foamy Frothed Milk Come Together

"If you’re looking for coffee bar quality coffee, you must learn how to froth milk properly with a steam wand. This recipe breaks down all the steps to take your milk from cold and flat to foamy, warm, and truly delicious. The photos included are a great guideline. Now, go make yourself a homemade latte!" —Tracy Wilk

Milk Froth Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/2 cup cold milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pour the cold milk it into a small metal pitcher.

    Milk in small metal pitcher

    The Spruce Eats

  3. Place the pitcher underneath the steam wand.

    Metal pitcher being held underneath the steam wand with left hand operating the steamer knob

    The Spruce Eats

  4. Insert the steam wand into the milk, just below the surface. Engage the steam output dial to a steady stream of steam.

    Steam wand being immersed in frothing milk in metal pitcher

    The Spruce Eats

  5. Keeping the tip of the wand near the side of the pitcher, creating a vortex in the milk.

    Steam wand near the wall of the pitcher creating a vortex in the milk

     The Spruce Eats

  6. Move the pitcher up and down, and around the wand in order to incorporate air into the milk and break up larger bubbles. The bubbles should get progressively smaller.

    Air being incorporated into milk by moving pitcher with milk up and down

    The Spruce Eats

  7. Once the mixture has increased in size substantially—about double the volume for a cappuccino or 1 1/2 times the volume for a latte—close the dial and remove the wand from the pitcher.

    Small metal pitcher with frothed milk

    The Spruce Eats

  8. Quickly clean the wand with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel so there are no milk drippings on your counter or floor.

  9. The texture of the milk should be smooth and similar in appearance to melted ice cream.

    Smooth creamy milk sticking to the sides of the metal pitcher

    The Spruce Eats

  10. Immediately pour the foamed milk into your coffee beverage, leaving some in the pitcher to create latte art if desired.

Which Milks Gives the Best Froth?

Contrary to common belief, full-fat milk doesn't yield the best foam. Although smooth and creamy, the fat weighs down the bubbles of air, and what you get isn't as tight and packed as what you'd get if using the best milk for espresso beverages: non-fat or skim milk.

Other kinds of milk, like 2 percent, also give good froth, but stay away from lactose-free milks because they lack the sugar and proteins that hold the air bubbles together. Other non-dairy beverages, such as soy, almond, coconut, or rice, can also be frothed, but it's up to personal taste and experimentation. You'll find what works best for you once you've tried a few different types of milk.

Barista Tricks

Here are a few tricks that seasoned baristas use to get the best milk foam every time and to take good care of the appliance:

  • If there are a few large bubbles remaining on the surface of the frothed milk, tap the pitcher firmly against a countertop, then swirl the milk around the pitcher. This usually removes larger bubbles.
  • Don't wait too long to pour frothed milk. The longer you wait, the more the texture of the milk begins to break down.
  • Leaving some milk in the pitcher ensures that you are pouring only foam and no un-texturized milk.
  • Cleaning the steam wand after every use is a must, as it is a convenient place for bacteria to grow. To do so, fill the frothing pitcher with water and run the steam wand as if you were frothing milk. Discard the water and do the process one more time to ensure you get it nice and clean.

Can I Froth Milk Without a Steam Wand?

If you do not have an espresso machine or yours does not have a steam wand, you can foam milk in a few different ways, but expect that the bubbles won't be as fine and tight as with a steam wand:

  • Stovetop: Pour your milk into a small saucepan, gently add heat, and using a whisk, mix hard, fast, and constantly until the milk foams. Be careful not to scorch or scald the milk. Using an electric mixer or an immersion blender for this method also yields good foam.
  • Mason jar: Place hot milk in a Mason jar and check that the lid is tightly sealed. The best measure is to add 1/3 of the jar's capacity in milk. Shake it vigorously for 45 to 60 seconds. Carefully open the jar.
  • Pump frother or French press: For this approach, you need to warm up your milk in the microwave or on the stovetop before pouring it in the pump or French press, then rapidly press the plunge and bring it back up. Do this movement vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. Scoop up the frothy milk into your drink.

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