Milk Frothers vs Steamers: Which is Right for You?

Want to learn more about coffee?
Explore more on our blog!
Learn more
A coffee maker next to a cup of coffee.
Table of Contents
A coffee maker next to a cup of coffee.

Key Takeaways:

  • Milk frothers are a convenient and budget-friendly option for achieving light and airy foamperfect for lattes and cappuccinos.
  • Steamers offer more control over temperature and textureresulting in denser foam and a richer mouthfeel in your milk-based drinks.
  • Consider factors such as convenience, price, quality preference, and maintenance when choosing between a milk frother or steamer.

What is the difference between a milk frother vs steamer?

A milk frother is a device that creates foam by agitating the milk, while a milk steamer is a device that heats the milk and introduces steam to create a creamy texture.

There are several types of milk frothers and steamers to choose from, including handheld milk frothers, manual frothers, jug frothers, automatic/electric milk steamers, and stovetop milk steamers.

Are you a coffee lover trying to achieve that perfect, creamy latte at home? You might be wondering if you need a milk frother or a steamer. These two gadgets can seem similar but there are key differences that influence the texture, temperature and foam quality of your milk.

So let’s dive in and discover which tool could take your home barista game to new heights!

Handheld Milk Frothers

Handheld milk frothers are a must-have for any coffee enthusiast looking to elevate their at-home latte game. These devices, either battery-operated or electric, offer the ultimate convenience as you control their movement when whisking your milk into light and airy perfection.

Fast and efficient, handheld frothers inject air into the milk creating small bubbles that expand the volume while improving its texture. They’re not only budget-friendly but also easy to maintain and clean after each use.

In comparison to bulkier steaming machines, they’re less intimidating and take up minimal counter space. Embrace this versatile tool that gives you full control over your morning cup’s final result, offering an excellent way to achieve rich barista-quality foam right in your home kitchen.

Manual Frothers

Manual frothers are a popular type of milk frother that requires some manual effort to operate. These frothers typically consist of a glass or stainless steel container with a plunger and mesh screen.

To use a manual frother, you simply pour cold milk into the container, place the lid on top, and then vigorously pump the plunger up and down for about 30 seconds. The plunging motion creates air bubbles in the milk, resulting in creamy foam.

Manual frothers are affordable and easy to clean since they don’t require electricity or batteries. They’re a great option if you enjoy getting hands-on with your coffee-making process and don’t mind putting in a bit of extra effort for perfectly frothed milk.

Jug Frothers

Jug frothers are a popular choice for those who want to create larger quantities of frothed milk at once. These frothers typically consist of a jug with a built-in whisk or stirring mechanism.

To use, simply pour the desired amount of milk into the jug, turn on the frother, and let it work its magic. The whisk quickly agitates the milk, creating creamy foam that can be added to your favorite coffee drinks.

Jug frothers are often electric and offer convenience and ease of use for home baristas seeking an efficient way to achieve perfect foam every time they make their morning latte.

Automatic/Electric Milk Steamer

An automatic/electric milk steamer is a convenient and efficient tool for creating perfectly steamed milk. This type of steamer is typically found in coffee shops or professional settings, but there are also versions available for home use.

With an automatic milk steamer, all you have to do is pour in the milk and press a button, and it will heat and froth the milk to your desired texture. The steamer uses hot steam to quickly heat the milk, injecting it with air to create small bubbles that expand and give the milk a creamy texture.

It provides consistent results every time, making it perfect for lattes, cappuccinos, or any other coffee drink that requires smoothly textured steamed milk.

Stovetop Milk Steamer

The stovetop milk steamer is a traditional and manual tool used for frothing milk. It consists of a pot with a spout, which is heated on the stove, and a handle that controls the steam flow.

This type of steamer requires more control and technique compared to electric milk frothers. With a stovetop milk steamer, you have the freedom to adjust the temperature and create complex textures in your milk.

It’s an excellent choice for those who enjoy experimenting with different latte art designs or want more hands-on control over their milk-steaming process.

Key Differences Between Frothed and Steamed Milk

Frothed milk is known for its light, airy texture and consistency, achieved by injecting air into the milk using a milk frother.

A man in an apron smokes in a coffee shop.


One key difference between frothed and steamed milk is the temperature. When using a milk frother, the milk is typically heated to a lower temperature than when using a steamer. This results in a cooler drink overall.

Steamers use hot steam to heat up the milk, resulting in a hotter beverage. The temperature difference can have an impact on the taste and experience of your latte or cappuccino.


Texture plays a key role in determining the quality of your milk-based coffee drinks. When it comes to texture, frothed milk tends to have a lighter and airier consistency compared to steamed milk.

The foam created by frothing is made up of small bubbles that quickly expand, giving your latte or cappuccino that delightful velvety feel on your tongue. Steamed milk, on the other hand, has a more complex texture as it is injected with heat from a steam wand or machine.

This process creates a denser and smoother texture that is perfect for creating latte art and adding richness to your espresso. Overall, the choice between frothed and steamed milk will depend on your personal preferences and the type of coffee drink you are aiming for.

Foam Quality

Foam quality is a key factor to consider when choosing between milk frothers and steamers. Milk frothers are known for producing light, airy foam that is perfect for lattes and cappuccinos.

The process of injecting air into the milk creates small bubbles that expand and give the foam its fluffy texture. On the other hand, steamed milk tends to have a denser and more complex foam due to the hot steam being injected into it.

The control over foam quality is often better with steamers, as baristas can adjust the intensity of the steam wand to achieve their desired results. Ultimately, your preference for foam texture will play a significant role in determining which tool is right for you.

How To Choose The Right Tool For Your Lattes

When choosing between a milk frother and a steamer for your lattes, consider factors such as convenience, price, quality preference, and maintenance.


Convenience is a key factor to consider when choosing between a milk frother and a steamer. Milk frothers are known for their ease of use and simplicity, making them the more convenient option for most coffee lovers.

They are compact, portable, and can be easily stored in your kitchen. With just a push of a button or the flick of a switch, you can enjoy perfectly frothed milk in no time. On the other hand, steamers require more effort and skill to operate.

They often come as attachments to espresso machines or standalone appliances that take up counter space. So if convenience is important to you, a milk frother would be the ideal choice for hassle-free lattes every morning.


Price is an important factor to consider when choosing between a milk frother and steamer. Milk frothers are generally more affordable compared to steamers, making them a cost-effective option for those on a budget.

Handheld milk frothers and manual frothers are typically the most inexpensive options, while automatic electric milk steamers tend to be pricier. However, it’s worth noting that price shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.

Consider your personal needs and preferences before making a final decision on which tool to invest in.

Quality Preference

When it comes to choosing the right tool for your lattes, one important factor to consider is your quality preference. Milk frothers are known for producing light and airy foamperfect for creating latte art and adding a touch of sophistication to your coffee drinks.

Steamers inject heat into the milk, resulting in a more complex texture that some coffee lovers prefer. It ultimately depends on whether you prioritize fluffy foam or a richer mouthfeel in your beverages.

Consider how you like your milk-based drinks and choose the tool that aligns with your quality preferences.


Maintaining your milk frother or steamer is an important consideration when choosing the right tool for you. Milk frothers generally require less maintenance compared to steamers, as they have fewer parts and are easier to clean.

Most milk frothers can be easily disassembled and washed either by hand or in the dishwasher. Regularly clean your milk frother to prevent any buildup of milk residue that could affect the taste and texture of your drinks.

Steamers may require more regular cleaning and maintenance due to their complex design. These machines often have various components such as steam wands, boilers, and water tanks that need to be cleaned thoroughly.

Regular descaling is also necessary for steamers to remove any mineral deposits that can accumulate over time.


When it comes to choosing between milk frothers and steamers, it ultimately depends on your personal preferences and needs. If you’re looking for convenience and versatility, a milk frother is the way to go.

If you want more control over the temperature and texture of your milk, a steamer might be worth considering. Regardless of which tool you choose, both can help elevate your coffee experience at home.

So go ahead and get that perfect foam or silky smooth steamed milk for your lattes!


Which is better, a milk frother or a milk steamer?

It depends on your personal preference and the type of drinks you like. A milk frother is great for creating thick, creamy foam for cappuccinos and lattes, while a milk steamer is better for heating and texturing milk for drinks like lattes and macchiatos.

Can I froth milk properly with a steam wand?

Yes, a steam wand, which is a component of an espresso machine, can be used to froth milk properly. It allows you to control the amount of steam and create different textures of foam.

What are the types of milk steamers available?

There are various types of milk steamers available, including manual milk frothers, machine with a steam wand, and automatic milk steamers.

How do I froth hot milk with a milk frother?

To froth hot milk with a milk frother, simply heat the milk to your desired temperature and then froth it using the frother. Make sure to keep the frother submerged in the milk to create the desired foam.

Can a milk frother be used to froth cold milk?

Yes, a milk frother can be used to froth cold milk as well. However, it may not create as much foam compared to frothing hot milk.

What is the best type of milk to froth?

Whole milk is commonly preferred for frothing as it has a higher fat content, which helps in creating a rich and creamy foam. However, you can also froth other types of milk such as skim milk or non-dairy alternatives.

How do I use a milk steamer to heat and texture milk?

To use a milk steamer, pour the cold milk into a milk pitcher and insert the steam wand into the milk. Turn on the steam and gradually lower the pitcher to create a whirlpool effect. This helps in heating and texturing the milk.

What is the difference between frothed milk and steamed milk?

Frothed milk has a thick, fluffy texture and is created by introducing air into the milk using a frother. Steamed milk, on the other hand, has a creamy texture and is created by heating and texturing the milk using a steamer or steam wand.

Which is better, a milk steamer or a milk frother for making coffee drinks?

Both a milk steamer and a milk frother can be used to make coffee drinks. However, if you prefer drinks with a thicker foam, a milk frother may be more suitable, while a milk steamer is great for creating creamy textured milk for drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.

About the Author:
Emily Thompson is an enthusiastic guide in the world of coffee, sharing her expertise in flavors, brewing techniques, and cultural significance. Her journey, fueled by a deep love for coffee, involves educating coffee enthusiasts of all levels to enhance their coffee experiences. Emily's content spans from brewing guides to the cultural importance of coffee, emphasizing ethical sourcing and sustainability.