As an avid coffee drinker, you know that many good brews are incomplete without a creamy foam—especially those delightful cappuccinos.
When making a drink that requires a frothy topping, it is essential to choose milk that will froth easily. So what is the best milk for frothing?
The best milk for frothing is whole dairy milk because it has a perfect ratio of fats, proteins, and sugar. The best non-dairy milk for frothing is oat milk since it is the closest milk substitute in terms of creaminess and richness.
This article will explore different types of dairy and non-dairy milk and explain why they work for frothing. It will also explore why some kinds of milk provide easier foaming than others.
Why do some types of milk froth easier than others?
You need to heat the milk in a particular way to create a delectable foam for your coffee.
However, whether the milk will froth well depends on a combination of proteins, carbs, and fats and how much of each makes up the milk’s content.
Let’s explore two primary types of proteins in most kinds of milk—caseins and whey protein and how they react with the fat content in your milk.
Caseins are the proteins that decide the milk’s texture when heated. They are in bundles within the liquid, and when you steam the milk, the bundles break apart, creating the air bubbles that make up the foam.
Your casein content will determine whether you make a beautiful creamy foam or a regular old coffee and milk.
Milk whey proteins contain amino acids that either attract or repel water molecules.
When you heat milk, these amino acids are responsible for providing a layer over the air bubbles and trap in the air molecules.
This layer of acids determines the stability of your foam when you make a coffee.
Fat vs. proteins
No matter how much protein is in the milk’s makeup, the amount of fat compared to protein decides how the foam will turn out.
For example, milk with lots of fat will become thick, dense foam when steamed:
While the heaviness of the foam is tasty, it will dissolve more quickly than other types of milk.
On the other hand, milk that has less fat and more protein will create a light, fluffy foam.
The frothiness will not be as flavorful as the fatty milk, but it will take much longer to dissolve.
Because each type of milk contains different amounts of proteins, fats, sugars, and water, successfully froth every kind of milk available would be incredibly challenging.
Some non-dairy types of milk have a lot of water and additives to make up for the lost protein and fat that comes with dairy milk, so those will be very difficult to froth.
The best dairy milk for frothing
Several varieties of dairy milk are available, and all of them froth relatively well. It all depends on how much fat content you would like to include in your drink.
Like most things in life—the higher-fat milk foam is usually the creamiest and most delicious. Let’s explore more about your dairy froth options.
Whole cow’s milk for coffee froth
Whole cow’s milk is the best for frothing out of all the dairy and non-dairy options. This milk’s ability to froth is especially prevalent when the milk is organic.
Organic whole milk has a perfect combination of fats, proteins, sugar, and water, which makes it ideal for use in frothing.
Whole milk will produce a beautifully smooth and sweet foam when heated at just the right temperature (150-155 degrees Fahrenheit, 65-68 degrees Celsius).
When you are frothing your whole milk, tiny microbubbles will form as the milk heats up.
These bubbles mean the foam will taste extra creamy and be a more consistent foam that lasts on top of your drink for an extended period and is perfect for making a flat white:
The downside to using whole milk for frothing is that the fat weighs down the air bubbles, taking the foam some extra time to get nice and thick.
However, it is undoubtedly well worth the wait in the end.
Furthermore, the breed of cow’s milk and its diet both play a significant role in the taste and composition of your milk.
Some cow breeds or breeds fed a particular diet can determine how sweet or dense your froth will be.
2% milk for frothing
If you would like to use milk for frothing comparable to whole milk but has a bit less fat, 2% milk is the way to go.
Because it contains similar amounts of proteins to whole milk, 2% milk is a good substitute for using whole milk to create that perfect foam.
One benefit of frothing 2% milk is that it takes less time to heat up and creates more microbubbles than whole milk.
Since there is less fat compared to protein, the casein bundles break apart more quickly, and the milk turns to foam faster.
It comes down to taste and speed if you are trying to decide between whole milk and 2% milk as the best milk for frothing.
Whole milk is your best choice if you want a richer, sweeter foam. If you prefer your milk to foam quickly, choose 2% milk instead.
Skim milk as coffee froth
When you use skim milk for frothing, you will have a different experience than using whole or 2% milk.
Skim milk has a much easier time foaming because of the lack of fat content in the makeup of the liquid.
The proteins break apart immediately when you steam the milk—creating bubbles larger and airier than the microbubbles that pop up in whole and 2% milk foam.
Surprisingly, even though the bubbles in skim milk froth appear bigger than those in whole and 2% milk foam, they stay intact much longer than the others.
If you use skim milk, the dense foam will remain in place for a while rather than immediately dissolving into liquid as it would for the other two choices.
If you prefer milk with a much lower fat content that will froth easily and last a long time, skim milk is your best choice for frothing.
The best non-dairy milk for frothing
Plenty of great choices are still available if you choose not to drink dairy milk and prefer a plant-based milk option for frothing.
The downside to non-dairy milk is that it is often filled with extra water and additives to make up for all the fats and proteins in cow’s milk.
These additional ingredients can sometimes upset the balance of proteins and fats, making frothing plant-based milk more difficult.
As long as you choose non-dairy milk with good fat and protein content and is not super watery, you should be able to froth it just fine.
Some of the best non-dairy milk options for frothing are the ones labeled as being for baristas.
This milk will be of higher quality and is formulated with better fat and protein content since professionals use it.
Oat milk froth
If you are searching for a close substitute to whole dairy milk for your foam, oat milk will be your best choice.
Oat milk is the best non-dairy milk for frothing because the makeup of the milk is quite similar to that of whole dairy milk.
Steaming oat milk heats at a relatively similar speed and temperature to cow’s milk. The temperature you use to heat plant-based milk can be an issue for some choices because of the contents of the milk.
While you should heat dairy milk at 150-155 degrees Fahrenheit (66-68 degrees Celcius), oat and other non-dairy milk work best at a lower temperature, usually between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit (54-60 degrees Celsius).
If you steam it at a higher temperature, the milk can curdle and taste unpleasant when added to the top of your coffee.
If you heat your oat milk within that temperature range, you will have a rich, thick, creamy foam that tastes delicious.
Almond milk froth
If you would prefer to use nut milk for your frothing process, almond milk is a perfect option:
It is often easier to come by in a standard grocery store than oat milk, and many more options are available.
Almond milk also has more fat content than other plant-based milk since it comes from one of the fattiest nuts.
The fat in the milk will froth very well and create a dense, thick foam with creamy microbubbles similar to dairy milk.
The best way to froth almond milk is to start with the milk at room temperature rather than chill it in the fridge.
Then, do not heat it any higher than 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit (54-60 degrees Celsius).
Almond milk starts to foam at a much lower temperature, so if it is heated too quickly or intensely, it will curdle and burn.
Another great non-dairy option for frothing is soy milk. This type of milk has a very similar protein content to whole dairy milk, meaning it will froth almost the same way.
It does not take a lot of time or effort to create soy milk foam.
When you froth soy milk, it becomes a highly dense, creamy foam that is stable and will last on top of your drink for a while, which makes it perfect for a cappuccino:
The main downside to using soy milk instead of other non-dairy milk is that it does not work well for anything other than sitting on top of your drink.
When you froth it, the bubbles come out incredibly thick and pillowy, which makes them difficult to pour into your coffee.
If you plan to do latte art or some other fancy technique, soy milk will not be your best plant-based option.
However, soy milk is a perfect choice if you are looking for tasty foam that is rich and dense.
Coconut milk froth
In terms of finding the best milk for frothing, one final great non-dairy option to consider is coconut milk.
Although most people would likely not think coconut milk is an option for creating coffee foam, it is surprisingly a great choice.
The secret to why coconut milk works so well for frothing? The fat content in the makeup of the milk.
The ratio of fats to proteins means that coconut milk will be able to create a beautifully thick foam.
However, there are a couple of caveats that come with frothing coconut milk. It is best to distinguish the type of coconut milk that works best for this process.
You will only be able to make a dense froth if you use coconut milk from a carton rather than a can.
The consistency of the milk is what matters in this instance.
Canned coconut milk has a much thicker consistency than coconut milk in a carton, making it much more challenging to heat up and create a solid foam. Alternatively, you can use it as a topping for your iced coffee:
If you can only find coconut milk in a can, the best way to resolve this issue is to blend the can with some water to create a similar, thinner consistency.
The other downside to coconut milk is that it can curdle exceptionally quickly, and you should heat this milk at a much lower temperature than other dairy and non-dairy milk options.
Besides those two differences, coconut milk should work just as well for frothing as any other non-dairy milk mentioned.
As long as you consider those potential difficulties and act accordingly, you should be able to create a delicious foam from coconut milk.
You can choose from many different types of milk when deciding what to froth as a topping for your coffee.
If you are a dairy milk drinker, whole milk is the best for frothing because of its perfect ratio of ingredients and ability to create a sweet, thick foam.
On the other hand, if you prefer non-dairy milk, oat milk will be your best bet for creating a foam similar to cow’s milk that tastes great too.
No matter what type you choose, the only factor that matters is whether it tastes great or not!