There is undoubtedly a certain intellectual appeal to black coffee, a sense of refinement in taste, regardless of whether it comes in the form of an americano or an espresso.
But those who love milk in their coffee might argue that, beyond alleviating the naturally bitter taste of coffee, milk also adds a rich, complex new layer— particularly if it’s the right kind of milk, usually steamed or frothed.
There is, after all, a reason why coffee drinks made with steamed milk, such as lattes and cappuccinos, are so popular.
If you’re wondering how to steam milk with espresso machine for your very own delicious coffee drinks—with or without a wand—then you’ve come to the right place. Find below our comprehensive guide!
How to Steam Milk with Espresso Machine
With no further ado, we present to you our step-by-step guide for steaming milk with the help of your espresso machine (or more specifically, its steam wand). You can, of course, steam milk manually, the directions for which you can find below. For this method, however, you will also need a milk pitcher.
Do note that the milk steaming technique varies depending on the type of coffee drink you are making. Further more, some require more skill and expertise than others. We have only covered the basic steps below;
Step 1: Locate the Steam Wand
Every modern espresso machine has a steam wand. It’s usually positioned to the side of the machine. The way the steam wand works is by forcing steam into milk, which gradually warms it and forms micro foam.
Step 2: Purge the Steam Wand
Once you’ve located the steam wand, now you must open it to rid its tip of any collected condensed water. This prevents cold water from permeating the milk before it can be steamed.
Step 3: Fill Your Milk Pitcher
The milk you’re using to fill the pitcher should be cold. Take care not to pour too much, staying below the pitcher’s V nudge. Otherwise, the high volume might produce improperly steamed milk.
Step 4: Submerge the Steam Wand in the Milk
This is pretty simple to do, but you must ensure that the wand does not reach too far below the milk’s surface. Instead, it should be just below. You might have to do this for 5 seconds or longer, depending on the type of drink you’re making.
At this point, you should be hearing a hissing sound, which is created by the fat content of the milk expanding. This process is called milk stretching, and it produces micro foam.
Step 5: Tilt the Pitcher to Create a Whirlpool
Now that the volume of the milk has been stretched, you can submerge the steam wand further below the milk’s surface—only slightly though! Tilt the milk pitcher gently as you are doing this, until a whirlpool forms.
This completes the steaming process. The end result is bubbly, creamy, heated milk. You’ll know when to stop when the pitcher starts getting too hot to touch.
Step 6: Finishing Up
Once the milk is done steaming, put the pitcher down on the counter and tap it gently to eliminate any remaining small bubbles. Next, give the milk a swirl. At this point, your steamed milk will have taken on a shiny, creamy look—if done properly, of course.
Step 7: Pour the Steamed Milk
Congrats! You can now begin the process of making your coffee drink in earnest. However, the pouring requires some care since most of the milk foam is at the top.
With some practice, though, you’ll be doing it like a pro in no time. Keep making your favorite milky coffee drinks and you should be getting the hang of it soon.
Step 8: Clean the Steam Wand
Don’t skip this step. Wipe it down with a rag and disinfect it, so that it’s squeaky-clean for the next steamed-milk drink you choose to make.
And that’s it! Now you know how you can use your espresso maker to produce steamed milk. What if you have no espresso maker or steam wand? No problem. Below, we’ve outlined some of the easiest ways to steam milk even if your espresso maker doesn’t come with a wand, or… doesn’t exist.
Three Methods to Steam Milk without an Espresso Maker
If you have a French press, a microwave, or even a whisk and a saucepan, you can steam milk with ease. You can even invest in a milk frother, although as we have mentioned below, frothed milk is different from steamed milk.
In any case, here are the three ways you can achieve steamed milk without an espresso maker, steam wand, or milk frother;
Steaming Milk with a French Press
If you want to steam milk using your French press, you will have to use hot milk instead of cold. The milk should have a temperature between 150 and 155 degrees.
Pour it into the French press, making sure that the level of the milk is higher than the filter of the press. Now, plump the press’s plunger up and down. This will create air bubbles in milk, steaming it.
Microwaving Your Way to Steamed Milk
Yes, it’s possible to get steamed milk by microwaving. You will, however, need a glass jar with a tight lid. If you have an old jam jar lying around, it should work.
Measure your milk out into the jar, making sure that the lid is closed tightly. Then give it a good, long shake. This should produce froth. Once this is done, remove the lid and pop the jar into the microwave for 60 seconds. You should now have steamed milk.
Whisking the Milk in a Saucepan
Ready to go old-school? Grab your balloon whisk and most trusted saucepan (or use your hand mixer at a low-speed setting if you have one). Measure the required milk (room temperature) into the saucepan. Place on low to medium heat on your stove.
As the milk begins to gradually warm, use your whisk to beat it rapidly.
Difference between Frothing and Steaming Milk
Now that you’ve learned how to steam milk using your espresso machine, you might be wondering how this is different from frothing milk, or whether they’re the same thing.
Long answer short-they aren’t! Whereas frothed milk tastes airy, yet fluffy and creamy, steamed milk is slightly aerated to produce micro foam (very small air bubbles). This is due to its high temperature, which, unlike frothed milk, can’t be used in cold drinks.
That’s why using frothed milk as opposed to steamed ones can create a significant difference in the texture of your coffee. You can probably imagine the distinction if you compare how a latte has a different mouthfeel from a macchiato.
Or think of a cappuccino, the defining characteristic of which is a foamy texture, as opposed to the dense decadence of a mocha.
We hope that our guide on how to steam milk with espresso machine—or without one—has helped you reach your coffee goals. And we hope you enjoy your drink. Remember, practice makes perfect!