Frothing milk is a tricky business. Much like brewing espresso, there are a number of factors and techniques to consider when trying to create the perfect microfoam. While we've made tutorials and videos outlining the steps to making a good cappuccino or latte, we've never really addressed the subject of frothing with different kinds of milk... until now.

Today was an exciting day as we assembled participants for an event that came to be dubbed the "Froth Off." Assembling five identical Gaggia Brera espresso machines and five different kinds of milk (Soy, Skim, 1%, 2%, and Whole) we made a cappuccino with each one to see what differences we could find. But, before moving on to our findings, here's a little chart we threw together outlining the calorie information for the milk we used.

Calories per 1/2 cup:
Soy: 45 (2x the calcium of dairy milk)
Skim: 45
1%: 55
2%: 65
Whole: 75

As you can see, the results of our little experiment were rather varied. The separation of layers in the Soy and Skim milk was surprisingly more pronounced than the other varieties. In terms of what I'll call “foam longevity” the Skim milk held its foam for quite a while, whereas the foam on the Soy milk fell rather quickly. The foam on the 1%, 2%, and Whole milks was pretty consistent, although it seemed a bit creamier on the whole milk. The coolest thing I found about all this was that no matter what kind of milk you enjoy, you can still steam and froth it for your favorite drinks.

General Frothing Tips

  • Purge your wand first! Before frothing, always make sure to purge any that might have condensed in your steam wand before frothing.
  • Keep things cold! Cold milk and a cold pitcher will give you a little more time to work with your milk. When frothing, always keep the temperature of the milk below 160 degrees. Using a frothing thermometer is a good way to keep an eye on how hot your milk is getting.
  • To stop frothing, cover the air intake hole! When frothing with a pannarello wand, if you simply want to heat the milk as opposed to frothing it, submerge the air intake hole on the side of the wand in your milk.