Monday, July 15, 2024

6 Great Picks That Passed Our Tests


It may seem like an easy task, but finding the best milk frother for your needs can get tricky.

Black Nespresso aeroccino frother on a wooden counter

Credits: Jovana Durovic

Do you like your coffee with frothy milk on top? Do you spend all your spare cash on creamy lattes and foamy cappuccinos? What if you could enjoy this luscious coffee shop experience at home?

I’ll help you achieve exactly that with this list of the best milk frothers of the year!

We’ll look at what to expect from a good frother and how to choose the best one for you. Whether your drink of choice is the latte, cappuccino, macchiato, or flat white, you can finally free yourself from dependence on your local barista.

How I Tested These Milk Frothers

I tested over a dozen frothers to prepare this list of the six best milk frothers 2023. Because there is a substantial difference in price and operation between the different styles of frother, I divided models into categories for testing

With electric frothers, I measured the temperature of the milk and frothing time. They were also qualitatively evaluated on milk mouthfeel, user-friendliness, and ease of cleaning. Handheld and manual frothers were also tested for frothing time and convenience, but temperature was a non-issue.

The 6 Best Milk Frothers of 2023

A milk frother is a key espresso accessory for making lattes and cappuccinos, producing the light foam you know and love. In my quest for the best, I tested the most popular milk frothers on the market, narrowing it down to these top six milk frother reviews. They span a range of prices and features, so one is sure to be perfect for you!

Best Overall

1. Breville Milk Cafe

  • Type: Automatic electric

  • Capacity: 16 oz
  • Temperature settings: 120 – 160 F, cold
  • Texture settings: Latte, Cappuccino, Stir

Breville Milk Cafe

The Breville Milk Cafe is hands-down the best milk foamer on the market if you’re serious about cafe-style drinks. I’ve even poured latte art with this thing!

photo of breville milk frother

photo of breville milk frother inside

The Milk Cafe includes two interchangeable frothing discs – one for lattes and one for cappuccinos. Other frothers might have Latte and Cappuccino settings that change the quantity of milk froth, but this one changes the foam texture.

The other notable feature is the adjustable temperature. Rather than just a few settings, the Breville lets you set any temperature between 120 and 160 F – or choose cold froth. Essentially, this frother lets you customize your drink to an unmatched extent.

photo of breville milk frother controls

The final detail I’ll highlight is the induction heating system, which means the milk jug isn’t electronically plugged into the base. It comes out of the machine for pouring and can be popped into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. 

All of the above is consistent with the brand’s ethos, according to Breville Global Beverage Manager Phil McKnight (1).

We want to do things that are better, faster, simpler and more engaging.

That mantra has made them a leader in consumer coffee products, and this frother is a prime example (2).

The main downsides to this model are its large size and high price. I believe both are justified by the quality, but only if you demand the best. Otherwise, you can get away with something more basic, like the Aeroccino.

Learn more in our full review of the Breville Milk Cafe Frother.

Pros:

  • Adjustable temperature
  • Induction heating for easy clean-up
  • Two frothing discs to change milk texture

Cons:

  • Large and heavy
  • Expensive

Best Electric Milk Frother

2. Nespresso Aeroccino 3

  • Type: Automatic electric

  • Capacity: 4 oz
  • Temperature settings: Hot and Cold
  • Texture settings: Froth, Stir

Nespresso Aeroccino 3

The Nespresso Aeroccino was created as a companion for the popular pod machines, but you don’t need to be a capsule coffee fan to appreciate this electric frother. Nespresso has kept it sleek, simple, and affordable with this design – all features that stood out in my tests.

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There are currently two models of the Aeroccino, the 3 and the 4. I prefer the more basic Aeroccino 3, and I suspect most of you will, too. The main difference is that the 4 has two foam options (Latte and Cappuccino), but in my experience, the texture of the foam was very similar. All that changed was the foam quantity. I don’t think this is worth the substantial price increase from the Aeroccino 3.

inside look into Aeroccino with milk pre-frothing

Inside look into Aeroccino after milk frothed

The Aeroccino 3 has settings for hot foam, cold foam, and hot milk. I found the froth was quite thick, closer to a cappuccino than a latte.

It’s very easy to operate, with just one button that glows red for hot or blue for cold. The footprint is much more compact than the Breville or Smeg designs, perfect for smaller kitchens.

My main critique is that the Aeroccino 3 lacks a pouring spout. I often dribbled a bit on my countertop, and it’s useful to have a spoon handy to scoop out that thick foam.

You can learn more about the Aeroccino 3 and 4 in our in-depth Aeroccino review.

Pros:

  • One-button operation for hot and cold settings
  • Lowest-priced automatic frother
  • Sleek and compact design

Cons:

  • Not dishwasher safe
  • No pouring spout

Best Handheld Milk Frother

Zulay Powerful Milk Frother

There are dozens of handheld battery-operated frothers available online; honestly, they’re all pretty similar. I liked this model from Zulay because it felt a bit beefier and more powerful than the others I tested. It took me less than 30 seconds to make silky froth for a latte.

photo of zulay frother

It’s hard to argue against the versatility of a handheld frother, especially given its low cost. They work with any type of milk, and even if you’re not into espresso drinks, I pull mine out for hot chocolate and protein shakes.

The Zulay frother includes a stand if you want to keep it on your countertop, and I won’t deny that I was charmed by its massive color selection. Sure, you can get basic black or silver. But why not Bubblegum, Firework, Deep Sea, or one of another 40+ fun choices?

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Very versatile
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Requires two AA batteries (not included)
  • Doesn’t heat milk

Best Milk Steamer and Frother

Don’t let slick marketers convince you that steamed and frothed milk are the same thing. Steamed milk can only be made with steam, not in a frother. Once upon a time, that meant buying a whole espresso machine. But now you can just buy the far more affordable Bellman Stovetop Steamer!

photo of bellman steamer on stove

photo of bellman steamer mug coffee

I’ve been so impressed with this ingenious little device in the months I’ve used it. It’s essentially an espresso machine without the espresso-making part. No pump, no electronics, no water reservoir – just a boiler with a wand attached and a knob to control pressure.

It doesn’t require electricity; the boiler can be heated on a gas or electric stove. I’ve even taken mine camping (and enjoyed some jealous looks while sipping my cafe-quality backcountry latte). Its all-stainless-steel construction makes it durable enough for the rigors of travel.

The Bellman requires some skill to operate, like any manual steam wand. I’d recommend it to serious latte lovers who are unwilling to compromise on their microfoam (3). It’s a wonderful companion to a manual espresso maker like the Flair or Cafelat Robot.

Pros

  • True steamed milk without an espresso machine
  • Durable stainless steel build
  • Suitable for travel and camping

Cons

  • Learning curve to operate
  • Can’t do cold milk froth

Best Design

5. Smeg Milk Frother

  • Type: Automatic electric

  • Capacity: 8.5 oz
  • Temperature settings: Hot, Cold
  • Texture settings: Light Foam, Thick Foam, Stir, Manual

Smeg Milk Frother

The Smeg Milk Frother is the most expensive on this list, and in our tests, it didn’t froth milk any better than the Breville Milk Cafe. But it’s the best choice if you want a design piece as much as a milk frother for coffee, especially if you have a retro aesthetic in your kitchen (4). And its stainless steel build makes it the most durable choice as well.

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photo of smeg frother

Smeg is known for its iconic 50s-era design, which is beautifully displayed here. The frother is available in five colors (red, cream, black, pastel green, and pink) and sports the SMEG logo prominently.

photo of smeg frother controls

photo of smeg frother insidemeasures

It includes two frothing discs for light and thick foam but doesn’t offer as much temperature control as the Breville. Instead, Smeg loaded it with six preset recipes to froth the milk (hot milk, hot froth light foam, hot froth thick foam, cold froth light foam, cold froth thick foam, and hot chocolate) plus a manual option. I liked this system for convenience and never felt like I couldn’t achieve the drink I wanted.

Pros:

  • Easy to use with six preset recipes
  • Induction heating for easy cleaning
  • Beautiful retro design

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Very large

Budget Pick

6. Bodum Latteo

  • Type: Manual

  • Capacity: 8 oz
  • Temperature settings: None
  • Texture settings: None

Bodum Latteo

The Bodum Latteo is simple and affordable. It looks a lot like a Bodum French press, with a fine mesh filter on a plunger inside a heatproof glass carafe. Add up to a cup of milk, then move the plunger rapidly up and down to incorporate air.

In my experience, it takes about 80 or 90 plunges to achieve a good thick froth – about 45 seconds for me. It can get a little tiring, so I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the best option if you like a daily latte. But if you just treat yourself to a frothy beverage on the weekends, this is the perfect low-cost tool for the job.

My favorite part is that the glass carafe is microwave-safe once you remove the plunger. You can go straight from frothing to heating to serving without generating extra dishes.
The Latteo is the best manual milk frother for bargain hunters. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly electric milk frother machine, check out the Bodum Bistro Milk Frother.

Pros

  • Microwave and dishwasher safe
  • Super affordable
  • No batteries or electricity required

Cons

  • Manual operation can get tiring
  • Can break if dropped

How To Choose The Best Frother and best milk Steamer

Different milk frothers vary considerably in functionality and price, from cheap handheld whisks to expensive automatic frothing machines. In this buyer’s guide, I’ll walk you through the features you should expect at different price points so you can find the best milk frothers to meet your needs and budget.

What are the different kinds of milk frothers?

There are three different types of milk frothers: electric, handheld, and manual.

Electric milk frothers are fully automated. They are the easiest to use but also the largest and most expensive. Typically, you pour milk into a metal jug, put the lid on, and press start. The more advanced models let you adjust the temperature and texture of the milk foam. 

These hands-off appliances are perfect for anyone with a busy schedule and a love for milky coffee drinks.

Handheld milk frothers are essentially battery-operated whisks. They are small and affordable, perfect for tight spaces. However, they don’t heat the milk, so you’ll need to use your stovetop or microwave to warm the froth. These are a great option for anyone on a budget who is willing to commit a little more time to their morning drink prep.

Manual milk frothers look like French presses (and, in fact, you can use your French press to froth milk). You aerate the milk by moving the plunger vigorously up and down by hand. They don’t heat the milk, but they’re inexpensive and don’t require batteries.

A Quick Aside: Steamed Milk Vs Frothed Milk

Steamed milk is made by injecting pressurized steam into the milk, which heats and aerates it simultaneously. Compared to frothing, using steam to aerate milk makes creating the silky microfoam used in latte art easier. 

Typically, steaming milk is done using a steam wand on an espresso machine. But if that’s not in your budget, the Bellman Stovetop Steamer is one of few products on the market allowing you to create true steamed milk. 

Learn more in our complete guide to steamed vs frothed milk

Milk Texture And Temperature

You may have noticed that a cappuccino and a latte feel different in your mouth despite having the same ingredients. That’s the milk texture. A latte is smoother and creamier, while a cappuccino is lighter and airier. If you enjoy both drinks, buy a frother that offers control over milk texture.

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The temperature of frothed milk is equally important. Milk is sweetest when heated to between 140 and 150 F. A good electric frother should fall in this range and perhaps offer some options for lower and higher temperatures to meet your taste. If you hit 180 F, the milk scalds and completely changes flavor (5).

The temperature of milk used in a cappuccino affects taste, texture, and stability.

If you choose a cheaper frother without temperature settings, remember that you’ll be responsible for hitting this temperature yourself – and that getting it wrong might ruin your latte. Consider how much time you have to devote to this in the morning, and consider buying a kitchen thermometer to help. 

Capacity

The amount of milk grows considerably when air is injected. When discussing the capacity of a milk frother, I mean the maximum amount of unfrothed cold milk it can accommodate. This is much smaller than the actual volume of the frothing chamber.

For handheld frothers, the capacity is limited only by the frothing vessel you choose. However, these frothers are relatively small and will struggle to properly froth huge volumes. I’d stick with no more than 12 ounces of milk.

Is a milk frother worth buying?

A milk frother is worth buying if you’re a frequent flier at the local coffee shop. Milk-based specialty drinks aren’t cheap, and learning how to froth milk at home will quickly pay for itself. The cost savings will add up even if you skip the cafe a few days a week.

Plus, milk frothers aren’t confined to espresso drinks. Use it for hot chocolate, matcha, or chai lattes.

If you already have an espresso machine with a steam wand, there is no reason to buy a separate frother. But a frother is a perfect partner if you’re using an Aeropress, Moka pot, or pod- or capsule-based coffee machine like a Nespresso to brew.

The Verdict

The Breville Milk Cafe was the best milk frother I tested this year. Though one of the most expensive on the list, its long list of features and excellent build quality more than justify the cost. I love the control it provides over milk temperature and texture, and the fact it is fully automatic makes hectic mornings easier and more enjoyable.

Breville Milk Cafe

FAQs

The Breville milk frother makes the hottest milk of any frother on this list if you crank it to its highest setting. You can make hotter milk using a handheld or manual frother because you’ll be heating the milk yourself in the microwave or a saucepan. But stay under 180 F if you’re frothing milk or you’ll scald it and ruin its flavor.

The Smeg milk frother performed best with plant-based milks in my tests. But a manual milk frother like the Zulay, Bellman, or Latteo is probably the best way to control the balance between milk temperature and texture when using alternative milks. Automatic frothers tend to have their frothing cycles calibrated for dairy milk.

The best milk for frothing is whole milk. Its ratio of fat to protein is ideal for producing creamy frothed milk with a long-lasting foam. Nonfat milk or reduced fat milk will be less creamy and have a foam with more structure. Higher-fat options will be creamier and denser. Among plant-based milks, oat milk and almond milk are favored for their neutral flavor.

The best milk for the Nespresso frother is whole milk or 2% milk. Because the Aeroccino only has one setting, it doesn’t work as well with non-dairy milk. Its cycle is designed specifically to produce the correct milk foam and temperature for dairy milk. Plant-based milks won’t damage it, but you may not get the frothy results you want.

  1. Bryman, H. (2019, June 13). From Pro Scene to Home Machines: A Conversation with Breville Coffee Guru Phil McKnight. Retrieved from https://dailycoffeenews.com/2019/06/13/from-pro-scene-to-home-machines-a-conversation-with-breville-coffee-guru-phil-mcknight/
  2. Dunn, EG and Leigh, K. (2023, September 20). How Breville Became The Anti-Instant Pot. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2023-09-20/breville-espresso-machine-and-oven-success-shows-value-of-design#xj4y7vzkg
  3. Korhonen, J. (2020, June 15). Milk Steaming 101 – The Basics of Microfoam. Retrieved from https://www.baristainstitute.com/blog/jori-korhonen/june-2020/milk-steaming-101-basics-creating-microfoam
  4. Raczka, R. (2017, March 16). How SMEG became the coolest fridge on the block. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2017/03/16/how-smeg-became-coolest-fridge-block/tOVm1ybiZ2JMKKlxOFj36M/story.html
  5. Klimanova, Y. (2019, February 6). What Should Your Cappuccino Milk Temperature Be? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/02/what-temperature-should-your-cappuccino-milk-be/





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