Straight to the Point
Our favorite countertop milk frother is the Miroco MI-MF001 Milk Frother. It's less than $50 and is a solid performer, capable of making hot and cold foam. If a handheld milk frother is what you're after, we recommend the Golde Superwhisk. It can't heat up milk, but is easy to store or take with you for on-the-go frothing.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the first sip of a well-made coffee drink is a luxury. A perfectly executed latte or cappuccino is like a decadent treat. That being said, trying to mimic the lattes and cappuccinos you get at a coffee shop can feel impossible. But I'm here to tell you that while your barista might have a few professional tools and tricks, a simple milk frother can make your morning brew just as luxurious.
There are hundreds of milk frothers on the market today, and most fall under three categories: manual, handheld, and countertop.
I tested a range of frothers in each category to help you figure out which is the best for your home. I also talked to coffee experts about techniques to achieve the best milk froth, regardless of the type of milk you prefer.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Countertop Milk Frother: Miroco MI-MF001 Milk Frother
For the price, versatility, and consistency of milk, no other milk frother did as well as Miroco MI-MF001B. I tested three different models from Miroco, and all of them performed well. What set this model apart was its design (it has a spout and a handle, which made it easy to pour from) and its price. At $40 (at the time of testing), it performed just as well as other models, provided three simple froth settings, and included extra whisks.
Best for: People looking for excellent, no-hassle foam that's easy to pour; who are prone to losing things; and who don’t need a huge range of froth settings.
The Best Milk Frother Upgrade: Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother
Breville's milk frother shows thoughtfulness and care in its design. This is the only machine that offers froth temperature control—from gently warming the milk to getting it to beyond scorching hot. It's also large enough to froth a few drinks at a time.
Best for: Discerning folks who can tell the difference between latte and cappuccino foam, who order their drinks extra hot, and who want complete control over their milk froth.
The Best Handheld Milk Frother: The Golde Superwhisk
The Golde Superwhisk was the best-designed handheld frother I used. Most of the handheld machines performed similarly, so I looked at how each of them were built, and what I liked about the Superwhisk was that it can be easily taken apart for cleaning. It's also rechargeable, comes with a USB cord, and has a lid that makes it easier to store in a drawer or throw it into your backpack or suitcase for travel.
Best for: People who travel, who don’t want to run out for batteries for their frother, who want a great frothing multitasker, who want to control the exact amount of froth for their drink, and who also have a microwave or don’t mind heating milk on a stovetop.
The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Milk Frother
I considered three main variables when I tested each of the machines: quality of foam, versatility, and design. That first variable was clearly the most important, and as I tested I found that all the tools used could create foam, and most could create foam well. So I spent some time trying to figure out why a consumer might prefer one milk frother over another by reading reviews of each of the frothers.
One theme that came up over and over was a frother’s ability to steam different types of milks. Some reviewers wrote that a particular frother might not steam almond milk as well, or that another frother was the only one that worked with oat milk. Likewise, in many of the manuals I read for the machines, some noted that full fat whole milk steams best. I tested both whole milk and oat milk on every one of the machines and determined that most machines were adept at steaming both, although many of the automatic machines created more froth with whole milk than they did with oat milk. This is not because hand-held frothers can froth alternative milks better—it’s because you have more control over a hand-held frother and can adjust your frothing technique to add more air.
When it comes to the automatic frothers, I don’t believe their ability to froth whole milk more effectively than non-dairy milk is an issue with the frother; rather, it has to do with how foams are created and the differences in composition of whole milk and non-dairy alternatives.
What Is Foam?
Seems like a silly question, right? A foam is any liquid (or solid) that has trapped gas; with respect to coffee, it refers to the light layer at the top of a drink in which air has been suspended in liquid, typically milk or some milk alternative. At coffee shops, baristas use steam-powered wands to inject milk with air and heat to create stable and delicious microfoam.
I figured that at-home machines use many of the same principles to achieve a similar result. Some of the mechanics of milk steaming with at-home frothers—in particular, the cold foam feature—really confused me, so I reached out to Dr. Thom Huppertz, a professor of Dairy Science and Technology at Wageningen University and editor-in-chief of the International Dairy Journal to help me understand how and why milk foams.
Milk contains three main ingredients besides water: proteins, fats, and sugars. All three are important (not equally so) to the unique flavor of milk, but we're going to focus on the first two because of the roles they play in milk steaming and foam creation.
Protein: “Milk proteins are special,” said Dr. Huppertz at Re:co, a conference where leaders within the coffee world come together and share ideas. When we hopped on the phone, I asked him if there’s anything else like milk—if I wanted to froth orange juice, for example, would it create foam? Yes, he said, but nothing that’s very stable. “The only other substance that can foam like milk are eggs.”
“What makes milk proteins unique,” he continues, “is that they are highly soluble in water and they are surface active.”
When you’re frothing milk, you’re bringing in air from the surface into the milk. You can create foam with anything when you agitate it and mix it up with air, but creating a stable foam, one in which air will remain trapped within the liquid for an extended period of time, is another matter. Because milk proteins are surface active, meaning they interact well with things introduced to their surface, they can grab onto whatever’s on top of them, and when you’re frothing milk, you’re introducing A LOT of air to the surface of the milk.
Heat also plays a part in milk frothing. When heat is applied to milk, the proteins in the milk will denature, or begin to unfold from the tight coils they’ve formed. As the proteins begin to unfold, they expose their two ends—one which is hydrophobic (hates water) and one hydrophilic (loves it!). The hydrophobic ends are grabbing air molecules to also create foam.
Other substances with protein will foam, but not as easily as milk and may be slightly less stable. Whole milk has, on average, 8 grams of protein per serving, while oat milk has 3 grams of protein. Both will froth, but it’ll take a little more aeration to achieve the same level of milk froth from in oat milk as whole milk. In the same vein, if you take a peek at your milk’s protein content, you can predict if it’ll foam easily. You will likely need to agitate your milk more when steaming any type of plant milk.
Fat: Fat works against foam—but only when it’s in a particular state. “As long as you get above about 40 degrees centigrade, all the fat is melted and it won't really destabilize anymore,” he says. When milk fats are either fully melted or fully solid (which happens when you freeze milk), they will not destabilize foam. It’s when there’s a mixture of crystalline and melted fats where milk fat can be a destabilizing factor.
Nonfat milk is the easiest milk to foam with and it’s very stable, but the foam it produces can become very stiff, almost "crunchy," if you introduce too much air into it. Whole milk, which is usually between 3-4% milk fats, is considered ideal for foam that is silky and smooth, like what you’re used to seeing in a cafe. And while I did test heavy whipping cream (which is 40% milk fats), it won't expand and get frothy like we see in a latte—it'll make whipped cream instead.
For testing, I looked for frothers that made smooth and shiny microfoam—where the air bubbles are so small that they form a cohesive, smooth, and homogenous texture. I evaluated the foam immediately after the frother was finished, since foam will separate from the milk and begin to rise to the top as it sits over time.
What Is Cold Foam?
One area of testing I felt like I needed to learn more about was cold foam. From my corner of the world, cold foam is a recent trend; it started showing up on Starbucks menus in 2018. I haven’t seen many specialty coffee shops utilize cold foam beyond whipped cream.
I asked a friend of mine, who used to work at Starbucks and would rather not be named, how they made their cold foam and they mentioned that Starbucks only uses nonfat milk and a high-powered blender, and the foam remains stable because there’s no fat to mess with it. But I didn’t understand the role of the high-powered blender.
Dr. Huppertz says, “What’s really happening is that they’re using these high-speed mixers. Air gets whipped into the milk, and the protein stabilizes the milk. Because of the very high agitation, it can also create very fine air bubbles, so you can get quite a nice foam.” A slower speed can create bigger, less delicate bubbles, Dr. Huppertz notes.
This last piece—about the speed of the frother—really helped me because I initially didn’t think the speed of the frother was that important. In their review on milk frothers, Cook’s Illustrated mentioned that they preferred a handheld frother that was slightly less powerful than similar models, which makes sense for hot drinks because you have more control of the frother. But I then considered the speed of the frother specifically when it came to cold foam.
Types of Milk Frothers
I tried three different styles of milk frothers: manual, handheld, and automatic. There wasn’t a huge difference in price between manual and handheld frothers, and for the amount of fussiness and work a manual frother requires, I determined that I preferred a handheld frother.
If you’re in a pinch, a French press will double as a milk frother, and I remain unconvinced that manual frothers are designed all that much differently from a French press. I tested a manual frother against a French press and found that both could make foam effectively, if not exceptionally well—both produced foam that had big bubbles and was inconsistent from use to use. The only slight difference was that the manual frother was thinner and was able to generate foam slightly faster, but not by much. If you want foam and do not want to invest in a new kitchen device, a French press can double as a milk frothing device.
Automatic frothers offered a different range of functions, so I separated them from handheld frothers and evaluated frothers in two groups. Most of the handheld frothers had very similar designs and rely heavily on technique (how you hold the frother, how long you froth the milk, the angle of the frother), so I put extra weight on design and usability for this group of frothers.
Lattes vs. Cappuccinos
Ah yes, the age old question: What is the difference between a latte and a cappuccino?
The answer: it depends. In general, a cappuccino is a small espresso drink, between 6-8 ounces, and is foamier than a latte. A test we used to do at a café I worked for was to push away the layer of foam on top of a drink with a spoon. If there’s still foam under, it’s a cappuccino. If there’s milk, it’s a latte.
That’s not true everywhere. At a lot of specialty coffee shops, lattes and cappuccinos are fairly similar, and differ only in size (usually you’ll see an eight-ounce cappuccino and a 12-ounce latte). If you go to more traditional places, a cappuccino might abide by the rule of thirds: a third espresso, a third milk, and a third foam. It’s like asking someone for the definitive martini recipe: you know the ingredients, you sort of have some rules about ratios, but in the end it depends where you are and who you’re asking.
Some of the automatic frothers I tried had two options: one for “dense” or “cappuccino” foam and one for “silky” or “latte” foam. Some machines, like the Miroco line, didn’t use the names cappuccino or latte and, in my opinion, made more foam than you need for either drink. The Breville machine outright named its two frothing options by the drink names, with the latte function truly making just a small layer of foam at the top while the cappuccino function expanded the milk to over double its size.
I considered an automatic frother’s ability to steam milk appropriately for both cappuccinos and lattes, but found that only the Breville was able to do this in any meaningful way. For some of the machines, the difference between “dense” and “silky” foam was only about an ounce more of foam—and the “silky” foam was usually double the volume of the cold milk used to make it, which is too foamy for a latte. I thought some of the machines made foam that was too foamy, but preferred that over milk that was under-aerated since you can scoop foam off the top of a foamy drink. You can take away, but you can’t add.
Is a Milk Frother Worth Buying?
You might be wondering if a milk frother is even worth it—what else would you use it for? There are a handful of unitask kitchen tools that are completely worth it, and I’d argue two things about a milk frother: one, it’s not a single-use tool and two, even if it was, if you’re making coffee every day, it’s totally worth it.
Regardless of whether you’re making coffee every day or once in a blue moon, I wanted to see what else these frothers could do. If the primary function of a milk frother is to introduce air into a liquid, where else can we apply this need? What other drinks can a milk frother make?
Why You Should Trust Us
So much of being a barista is being able to steam milk. Sure, you have to know how to pull excellent shots, but at every single coffee shop I’ve worked at, lattes and cappuccinos are either the most purchased drinks on the menu or second only to drip coffee. If I’m behind the bar, I can go a day without a person ordering a single shot of espresso. I can barely go ten minutes without steaming milk.
As a barista for the last ten years, I’ve steamed hundreds of thousands of drinks. I actually did the math—if I steamed a hundred drinks per shift, averaged four shifts a week for 50 weeks a year, that’s over 200,000 drinks. (I think that’s a conservative number.)
I’ve trained at least a few hundred baristas on the basics of milk steaming and science. As I trained new baristas, I used to say, “Making espresso is a skill you’ll learn quickly, but like any food, it's a lifelong exploration of getting to know your palate and what tastes good. Milk steaming sucks to learn but the moment you get it it’s like riding a bike. You’ll never forget.”
When I’ve taught baristas about steaming milk, I’ve always relied on my senses—steaming milk is visual and tactile, but surprisingly, it’s also very auditory. Bad milk steaming sounds like a garbage disposal ate a bunch of metal gears. Good milk steaming sounds like a quiet hushing sound, almost like a train engine in the distance. That sensory approach informed the way I approach testing milk frothers. Steaming milk in a cafe isn’t the same as using at-home milk frothers, but the reliance on sensory information and trusting what you smell, taste, and see is a powerful tool that I’ve exercised through years of making coffee.
I also wrote the Serious Eats review of the best espresso machines.
I evaluated a number of different features on each frother, and grouped them into three main testing protocols.
Test 1: Usability
To test how easy a machine was to use, I set a simple goal: I wanted to make a latte, and worked backwards from there. How easy was it to set up the frother? Did it need batteries? Was the interface straightforward or did you need to do a deep dive into the manual to even turn the machine on? I also looked for consistency—that was a major factor that separated the handheld frothers from the automatic ones, since there’s a human operating a handheld machine to make foam, so my results would be slightly inconsistent. I also evaluated how easy it was to clean the machine and if it came with extra parts in case something was lost.
Test 2: Quality of Milk Foam
For this test, I measured how much the milk expanded in each of my frothers on every setting each machine offered; I also assessed the quality of the foam made on those settings. I used two types of milk—Horizon Organic Milk because it’s available nationally and Oatly Oat Milk—and measured how each frother did with each milk.
Test 3: Versatility
To test how versatile each of the frothers were, I made hot chocolates using a Ghirardelli powdered hot chocolate mix; I also tried to make whipped cream in each frother. I measured how successful each was with these two tasks and if the frother left clumps of unincorporated hot chocolate mix or couldn’t whip well. Many of the frothers had an option for cold froth, and I evaluated the quality of cold foam and used both dairy and oat milk to see how well it made foam with each milk.
The Best Countertop Milk Frother: Miroco MI-MF001 Milk Frother
What we liked: This is the highest rated electric milk frother on Amazon (the first six highest rated frothers are all handheld). For the balance of ease, versatility, and price, this Miroco model stood head and shoulders above all others.
Miroco makes a number of different frothers, and I tried three of their most popular ones. What sold me on this model specifically was its ergonomic design. The Miroco MI-MF001 is designed like a kettle, and you can pour your frothed milk directly into your hot cup of coffee. Some of the frothers I tested were cylinders with no handle and no place to pour milk out of, which meant milk often spilled down the sides.
This Miroco has a double walled stainless steel interior and comes with four whisk attachments: two for actually frothing milk and two for simply heating milk. I noticed that the Miroco anticipated that you’d lose a set of whisks and came with backup ones just in case. As a person who has lost teeny tiny screws specifically designed for espresso machines—which are not available in hardware stores and you have to call an espresso technician and cross your fingers they have extra—I appreciated this touch.
The whisk attachment meant to just heat up milk produces a slight layer of foam that I found totally acceptable for a latte. The whisk attachment meant to be used for frothing expanded the milk almost two and a half times more than its initial volume, which I found too foamy for a cappuccino, but I was simply able to skim off a little bit of the foam. Most of the other frothers that claimed to have two individual settings for drinks—one for lattes and one for cappuccinos—often produced milk I found too foamy for both drinks on each setting.
Every time I used the Miroco, the milk came out hot and the consistency of the milk was smooth and pleasant. Frothing took about two minutes—just enough time to get your cup of coffee ready or to pull a shot of espresso. The cold foam was a little bit strange with oat milk, but turned out well with whole milk.
What we didn't like: What you get in ease and simplicity you sacrifice in customization. The Miroco heats milk up to just under 160°F (71°C), which was plenty hot for me, but you can’t adjust the temperature. Also, plant milk steams differently than dairy milk, which you can’t account for when using the frother. When I put in dairy milk against an equal amount of oat milk, it was clear the oat milk didn’t froth as much, which is expected based on the interaction of proteins. But there’s no way for the machine to differentiate between dairy and plant milk.
The Best Milk Frother Upgrade: Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother
What we liked: The Breville Milk Frother was the only frother out of the bunch that you could customize the temperature of the milk. It has a dial that ranges from a cool 100°F (38°C) to a range that they only describe as “hot” (the numbers stop after 160°F, but you can crank it up further). There’s a section on the dial where the Breville indicates the “ideal” frothing temperature is around 140°F, and you can also set it to make cold froth. If you’re steaming milk for folks who are sensitive to heat or for children, being able to control the temperature of the milk is a nice feature.
This model was also one of the biggest frothers I tested, comfortably making three cups of frothed milk, so everyone in your house can join the party. This wasn’t a big deal when I frothed milk to top my coffee since I only needed a few ounces, but as I was testing hot chocolates, my boyfriend came in and asked if there was any hot chocolate left over. If you’re making drinks where more people might want in—say you’re making hot chocolates for a crowd—the Breville is a great bet. If you’re steaming milk for one, you can also just pour a few ounces and the Breville can easily adjust to variations in the amount of milk used.
Out of all the machines I tested, this was the only frother that had seemingly unique whisk attachments. The Breville comes with two plastic whisks—you guessed it, one for lattes and one for cappuccinos—which differed in design from the wire coils in other frothers. However, the latte and cappuccino whisks from the Breville felt true to the drinks they were intended to make. While I did find the cappuccino to be slightly foamy, the foam the Breville made for a latte was spot on.
It’s easy to lose the small whisk attachments, which are both locked into place and magnetically attached to the bottom. But while you’re using one of the whisks, there’s a small compartment for the unused one on the back of the machine. The cord to plug in the machine also wraps around the bottom to make storage easy.
What we didn't like: This was the most expensive frother I tested, so if you’re looking to simply froth milk for your morning coffee, perhaps one of the other picks is a good bet. If you want to get specific on the details, then there’s no better option than the Breville.
The Best Handheld Milk Frother: The Golde Superwhisk
What we liked: Golde is a brand that makes wellness products that you can mix into your drinks, like matcha powders and turmeric superfoods. Almost all of their products can be used as a base for latte-like drinks, which is where the Superwhisk comes in. The photos of the Superwhisk are clearly staged for Instagram, and my box came with a sticker sheet including an illustration of a papaya. I was intrigued.
All of the handheld frothers were designed very similarly—they were long, had a button or a switch to turn them on, and had a small circular coil at the end that rotates over and over. Some had a double coil and some a single coil, which I didn’t think made any perceptible difference.
The Golde frother has two speeds: powerful and very powerful, and I found that I liked the first speed option for hot drinks and the second speed option for making cold foam.
What really set the Golde apart was its design. Some of the milk frothers came with stands, meant to display your milk frother on the counter, which I thought was both an impractical storage solution and a bad use of kitchen space. The Golde comes with a cap, so you can stash it in your kitchen tools drawer or take it with you on the road. It’s also USB rechargeable, so you’re not cycling through AA batteries every few days.
One thing the Golde—and all the handheld frothers—did better than any of the countertop frothers was make whipped cream. The countertop frothers had a fixed whisk, and as the heavy whipping cream slowly turned to whipped cream, I noticed that the cream closest to the whisk attachment was getting over-whipped while the cream on the sides of the frother was still runny. With the Golde, you can move the whisk around and ensure the whipped cream is homogeneously frothed.
Cleaning was a breeze. Many of the frothers were one single piece, but the end of the Golde comes off easily and makes cleaning a snap. I didn’t expect to love something that's clearly designed for Instagram as much as I did, but I kind of think this whisk can do it all. I especially liked using this whisk for plant-based milks, since I knew I had to froth and aerate the milk more to achieve the same consistency as I would get with dairy milk.
What we didn't like: Cold foam was a tricky endeavor, and I had to readjust my frothing approach. Although the milk frothed and expanded quickly, it also fell quickly if I didn’t spend time incorporating the milk with the froth, which you can do by plunging the frothing coil, preventing any more air from being introduced to the milk but still agitating and moving the milk around. If I only frothed for a few seconds, the cold foam fell quickly. Eventually, all foam will fall, but the longer I spent incorporating the froth, the longer the froth held up. This isn't necessary a con—just something to note about this frother.
- Ninja Coffee Bar Easy Milk Frother: As I mentioned, I wasn’t 100% convinced that a manual frother like the Ninja Coffee Bar Easy Milk Frother was any different than a French press. The Ninja did froth milk quicker than the French Press, but the froth was like dish soap in texture.
- Bodum Brazil French Press: As a control, I used a Bodum Brazil French press to froth, and it worked pretty similarly to the Ninja frother—and also produced big, dishwater-y bubbles.
- Zulay Original Milk Frother Handheld Foam Maker for Lattes: With the Zulay Original Milk Frother Handheld Foam Maker, you have to continuously press down on a button on the top to activate—one user in the comments noted that this was easier for them to use due to mobility issues. However, the Zulay is battery-powered and getting the batteries in was a struggle. It also comes with a display stand, so if you want to store your frother on the counter, that’s great, but I imagine most people are looking to clear their counters, so the stand is sort of unnecessary.
- PowerLix Milk Pro: Although advertised as a different frother, the PowerLix Milk Pro is virtually identical to the Zulay—even down to the box instructions that prompt you on how to activate the frother’s warranty. Both the Zulay and the Milk Pro come with a lifetime guarantee, so that might be a plus for people who want to invest in their equipment for a long time.
- Aerolatte Milk Frother: I’ve had an Aerolatte Milk Frother for years—it’s the original manual milk frother, but the batteries run out quickly and the plastic coating gets grimy over time.
- FoodVille MF05 Rechargeable Milk Frother: The FoodVille MF05 Rechargeable Milk Frother has three speed settings, which I found unnecessary since the slowest speed frothed up milk in seconds. I did like that it was rechargeable and the frothing whisk came off, which made cleaning up easy and it has a whisk (like, an actual whisk, not one designed for frothing) attachment for mixing other items.
- Nespresso Aeroccino 3: In our review of espresso machines, we noted that one of the models we tested came with a Nespresso Aeroccino 3. This Aeroccino model can make both hot and cold froth, but I needed to read the manual and then watch a YouTube video to figure that out since it wasn’t explained on the box. For $100, there are better models that have a similar design.
- Nespresso Aeroccino 4: The Nespresso Aeroccino 4 was maybe the most pleasant frother to handle, but the Breville was $20 less and offered more frothing options.
- Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother: It was incredibly easy to use the Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother, but it only has one mode and can’t make both cold and hot froth, which other models in a similar price range could. I believe this is temperature-controlled rather than operating on a timer because every now and then, if I let the milk sit and forgot to press the “off” button, it’d just start frothing up again. The Miroco line of frothers offered more frothing choices at around the same price.
- Miroco MI-MF002: There was a point where the battle for the best countertop frother was between two Miroco models: the Miroco MI-MF001 and the Miroco MI-MF002. Both are around the same price and offer the same features, but I felt like the MF001 was better designed and easier to pour from.
- Miroco Detachable Milk Frother: The Miroco Detachable Milk Frother is $20 more than the two previously mentioned Miroco models, but didn’t offer much more in terms of options. I thought it might be a direct competitor to the Breville, but the Breville has really specific options that make it a good investment for coffee lovers and their only similarities are in the outward design of the frother.
- Smeg Milk Frother: We did not include this model in our testing, as $230 for a milk frother seems excessive (our favorite upgrade model from Breville costs $150). You can even buy a quality coffee maker for far less.
How do you use a milk frother?
This depends on the kind of milk frother you have. With electric milk frothers, you pour milk into the machine (pay attention to what its minimum and maximum capacities are), put the cap on, and then, if the machine has multiple settings, select how you would like your milk frothed before turning it on. If you have a handheld milk frother, add milk to a deep container (like a tall measuring cup or mug), stick the whisk end of the frother into the milk, then turn on the frother, using an up and down motion to froth. Because handheld frothers, unlike electric frothers, can't heat up milk, if you want hot frothed milk with a handheld frother (like for a latte), you'll have to heat up the milk prior to frothing.
Can you froth oat milk with a milk frother?
Yes, you absolutely can! You can froth all non-dairy milks using a milk frother—just note that some non-dairy milks might not froth as well as dairy milk or may take longer to froth.
What does a milk frother do?
Simply put, a good milk frother incorporates air into milk, producing microfoam. Milk frothers can also heat milk, which begins to denature the proteins in milk, contributing to frothing. As we explained in this story, when proteins in milk denature, they "begin to unfold from the tight coils they’ve formed. As the proteins begin to unfold, they expose their two ends—one which is hydrophobic (hates water) and one hydrophilic (loves it!). The hydrophobic ends are grabbing air molecules to also create foam."