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how to steam milk

How to Steam Milk

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

How to Steam Milk


Looking to learn how to steam milk for a latte or enjoy a soothing cup of warm, velvety milk? It’s not difficult, but some specifics regarding temperature and technique can make or break the end result. But once you learn these - and with a bit of practice - you’ll know how to steam milk properly to get a perfect, creamy texture every time!


Before getting to the how-to of steaming milk, let’s talk about steamed milk vs. frothed milk, as well as the importance of temperature.


Steamed Vs. Frothed Milk

Steamed milk and frothed milk - they are, in fact, different!

When steaming milk, the air is pulled into the milk simultaneously to the milk being heated. This process incorporates tiny bubbles into the milk, creating that creamy texture steamed milk is known for.


Frothed milk, on the other hand, creates large air bubbles that result in a big mound of fluffy foam that can sit on top of your coffee. One isn’t better than the other - it comes down to your personal preference.


However, if your goal is to get a creamy texture, steaming milk is the way to go!


What Temperature Should the Milk Be?


When steaming milk, the temperature plays a significant role in the outcome. The key is that you never want to heat the milk too fast - that’s a one-way ticket to burnt (translation: terrible tasting) milk. Low, slow heating is needed to develop the sugars and sweet taste in the milk.


The ideal temperature for steamed milk is between between 155- and 165-degrees Fahrenheit, approximately.


Now that you know the importance of temperature in the steaming equation, steam milk like a pro.


How to Steam Milk Using a Steamer: Step-by-Step


Step 1: Pour milk into a metal pitcher that’s designed for steaming.


Step 2: Submerge the tip of the steamer wand just below the surface of the milk. The amount of time you keep the wand here will vary based on the beverage you’re making, but it will be about 5 seconds on average.


Step 3: Once you’ve pulled enough air into your milk and the volume has increased from Step 2, move the steamer wand just slightly further below the surface. Tilt the metal pitcher slightly and try to find the perfect spot for spinning the milk in a whirlpool. Doing this will fully incorporate the bubbles into the rest of the milk, finish heating it and create a creamy texture.


Step 4: Once the milk reaches a temperature of about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, stop steaming. Gently tap the pitcher to get rid of some small bubbles and swirl the milk around. It should look perfectly creamy with a nice shine to it!


Step 5: The final step is pouring, a 2-part step if you’re making steamed milk for a coffee drink. In this case, your first pour will go directly into the espresso to create your beverage. The second pour is to top the beverage with a lovely dollop of freshly steamed milk. And, if you’re feeling extra artistic, you can try your hand at making latte art.


How to Steam Milk Without a Steamer


No steamer, no problem! There are plenty of other ways to steam milk easily:


  • Microwave: Measure milk into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, such as a canning jar. After making sure the top is tight and secure, vigorously shake until the milk becomes frothy.


Remove the lid and place the jar in the microwave. Heating the milk will set your foam, which you can then spoon onto your coffee. Or drink the steamed milk straight from the jar (once it has cooled down a bit, of course!). 


  • Milk Frother: A milk frother is a fantastic (and very convenient) item to have for anyone who loves making specialty coffee drinks at home. This electronic frother produces the perfect amount of froth on your steamed milk.


  • Saucepan and Balloon Whisk: An old-fashioned yet dependable method for steaming milk! Pour milk into a small saucepan and place the pan on the stove over low-medium heat. As the milk warms, quickly beat it with a balloon whisk, being careful not to splatter too much milk while doing so! Alternatively, you can also use a handheld frother that whisks while the milk heats up on the pan. 


No matter which method you choose for steaming your milk, you’ll love the sweet flavor and creamy texture as you sip on your delicious beverage while taking a well-deserved break. If you absolutely can't get the hang of steaming milk (no judgment here), come by and get a hand-crafted beverage made from expertly steamed milk from one of our skilled baristas.