Decoding the Distinctions: Milk Steamer Vs Milk Frother

Milk steamer vs. milk foamer: Understanding the differences

If you’ve ever aspired to be a barista or just want to improve your at-home coffee drinking experience, you may have come across the terms “milk steamer” and “milk frother”. While these devices are designed to enhance the texture and flavor of milk, understanding the nuances between them can be confusing. In this article, we will explore the differences between milk steamers and milk frothers, their functions, and the unique qualities they bring to your coffee-making process.

What is a milk steamer?

A milk steamer is an essential tool for creating the velvety texture and warm, fluffy layer of milk commonly found in lattes. Typically, steamed milk is created using a steam wand, which can be found on most espresso machines, including smaller models designed for home use.
To steam milk with the steam wand, make sure there is enough room in your pitcher or cup as the milk will expand during the process. Submerge the wand halfway and turn on the steam. Then lower the pitcher so that the steam wand lightly touches the surface of the milk for a few seconds. This aeration process introduces air into the milk, creating tiny bubbles that produce the creamy micro-foam characteristic of lattes.
After the steamed milk has settled, submerge the wand back into the milk to ensure it is properly submerged. For optimal results, you can also tilt the pitcher slightly to create a swirling motion, which helps distribute the heat evenly and create a smooth foam.
In addition to steam wands, you can also steam milk using compact electric milk steamers or stovetop milk steamers. However, stovetop milk steamers can be difficult to use, while electric milk steamers offer greater convenience at the touch of a button.

What is a milk frother?

If you’re a cappuccino enthusiast, a milk frother is probably a familiar device. As the name suggests, a milk frother is designed to froth milk, creating a light and airy foam. It does this by introducing air into the milk, causing it to expand two to three times its original volume.
Milk frothers come in several types. You can opt for hand-held, battery-powered frothers or larger, more professional automatic frothers. Manual frothers are also available, although they require more time and effort to achieve the desired frothy texture.

Differences between steamers and frothers

To clarify the distinction between milk steamers and milk frothers, let’s examine the key differences between these two appliances.


The primary difference is in how they interact with the milk. Milk frothers introduce air into the milk, resulting in a frothy texture. Steamers, on the other hand, expose the milk to steam, which both heats the milk and adds texture. The steaming process breaks down the fats in the milk, resulting in a velvety texture.

Milk consistency

In terms of texture, frothed milk is light and airy, similar to the foam found in cappuccinos. It holds its shape, especially when made with hand-held frothers. Frothing also significantly increases the volume of the milk, so you’ll only need a small amount to get the desired result.
Steamed milk, on the other hand, has a velvety texture that is ideal for making lattes. It is not as light as steamed milk and has a shiny finish when steamed properly. Steamed milk is less frothy, and if there are too many bubbles, it indicates that too much air has been incorporated. To remedy this, you can tap the cup on the counter and swirl it to remove the bubbles.

Choosing between a Milk Steamer and a Frother

Before you decide whether to purchase a steamed or foaming pitcher, consider your love of milk-based coffee. If you enjoy milk-based coffee beverages, investing in a milk steamer or foamer is a worthwhile choice. These machines offer several benefits, including the ability to explore different coffee options, save money by making your own coffee at home, and significantly enhance the taste of your beverages.
When choosing a machine, you can also look for options that claim to perform both steaming and foaming functions. In addition, consider factors such as ease of use, price, frequency of use, and ease of cleaning.

Recommended Milk Steamers and Frothers

If you’re looking to up your morning coffee routine, here are some recommended milk steamers and frothers:

Top 3 Milk Steamers

  1. Miroco Stainless Steel Milk Steamer: This compact and functional appliance can heat and froth milk in less than 2 minutes with no hassle. It offers multiple temperature settings and durable stainless steel construction.
  2. Breville BMF600XL Cafe Milk Frother: This versatile milk steamer and frother offers several frothing options, including cappuccino and latte modes. It features a large capacity and sleek design.
  3. Nespresso Aeroccino 3 Milk Frother: This popular Nespresso milk frother is known for its simplicity and efficiency. It can froth both hot and cold milk, and the non-stick interior makes it easy to clean.

Top 3 Milk Frothers

  1. Secura Automatic Electric Milk Frother and Warmer: This automatic frother offers multiple temperature settings and can froth both hot and cold milk. It has a large capacity and a removable base for easy pouring.
  2. Breville BMF600XL Cafe Milk Frother: As mentioned above, this is not only a milk steamer, but also a high-quality milk frother. It offers excellent frothing capabilities and is suitable for both small and large quantities of milk.
  3. PowerLix Milk Frother Hand-held battery-powered electric foam maker: This handheld frother is compact and portable, making it perfect for travel or camping. It runs on batteries and can froth milk in seconds.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between milk steamers and milk frothers is crucial for coffee enthusiasts looking to improve their home brewing experience. While milk steamers focus on producing velvety, textured milk for lattes, milk frothers excel at producing light and airy foam for cappuccinos. By choosing the right machine based on your preferences and coffee drinking habits, you can bring the art of barista-style coffee to your own kitchen. So go ahead and choose the perfect milk steamer or foamer to up your coffee game and impress your guests with delicious beverages.


What is the main difference between a milk steamer and a milk foamer?

The main difference is how they interact with the milk. A milk foamer introduces air into the milk, creating a frothy texture, while a milk steamer heats the milk with steam and adds some texture, resulting in a velvety consistency.

Can I use a foamer to steam milk?

No, a milk foamer is specifically designed to froth milk and create a light and airy foam. It does not have the ability to steam milk. For steamed milk, you will need a milk steamer or one that has both steaming and foaming capabilities.

What kind of milk is best for steaming and frothing?

Whole milk is generally considered the best option for steaming and frothing due to its higher fat content, which contributes to a creamier and more stable froth. However, you can also achieve satisfactory results with other types of milk, such as skim, almond or soy milk.

Can I get latte art with both a milk steamer and a milk foamer?

Yes, you can create latte art with either a milk foamer or a milk steamer. However, latte art is typically easier to create with a milk foamer because it allows for better control over the texture and temperature of the milk, resulting in more precise and consistent patterns.

Are steamers and foaming devices easy to clean?

The ease of cleaning can vary depending on the specific model and type of appliance. Milk frothers, especially hand-held or manual models, tend to be easier to clean because they usually have removable components that can be rinsed or washed separately. Milk steamers with steam wands may require more thorough cleaning due to possible milk residue buildup, but many models come with cleaning instructions and accessories to simplify the process.

Can I use a milk steamer or foamer for non-dairy milk alternatives?

Yes, you can use milk steamers and frothers with non-dairy milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk or oat milk. However, it’s important to note that results may vary due to differences in protein and fat content. Some non-dairy milk alternatives may not froth or steam as well as dairy milk, so some experimentation may be required to achieve the desired texture and consistency.