Best Milk Frothers
We tried six models from Aerolatte, Bodum, Capresso, Instant, and Nespresso to see which makes the best froth from dairy and plant milks
If you’re looking to up your at-home coffee craft, there are certain tools that will elevate the experience. A high-quality coffee maker and burr coffee grinder are a must, but for cappuccinos, flat whites, macchiatos, and more, you’ll also want to invest in a milk frother to whip up the foam those drinks require.
Not to be confused with the steam wand of an espresso maker, these are stand-alone, home-cook-friendly milk frothers that use heat and a motorized whisk (not steam) to whip milk into a silky smooth foam. On one hand, that means these frothers won’t give you the same level of control and customization as a commercial espresso maker’s steam wand, but they are much simpler and easier to use. In fact, for four of the six models I tried, you simply press a button and the frothers do the rest.
To get a good sense of how well stand-alone milk frothers work, I bought a few different types at a variety of prices. Most of these frothers are essentially carafes with motorized whisks, but I also tried a handheld frother and a French-press-style frother to see how they would compare.
Here’s a quick look at the top performers:
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In addition to the three models noted above, I also tried out the Bodum Bistro, from $30; the Bodum Latteo, $15; and the Capresso Froth PRO, $60. All are carafe-style frothers with whisks, except for the Aerolatte To-Go and Bodum Latteo. The former is a handheld battery-operated whisk frother, while the latter is essentially a French-press appliance for milk.
Despite their design differences, most of the milk frothers performed similarly for each type of milk I used. In fact, the milk itself seemed to have more of an effect on the frothers’ performance.
Yes, the Type of Milk Matters
Due to the growing popularity of plant-based milk alternatives, I evaluated the frothers with both dairy and plant-based milks. But there are a number of options to choose from—skim vs. whole, soy vs. almond, and the list goes on.
I cover coffee makers at CR, and we test and rate everything from standard drip and single-serve pod coffee makers to combination machines and cold-brew options. We’ve also evaluated burr grinders, so we’ve got the coffee part covered.
But before I started frothing, I needed some advice on the liquid itself.
How I Evaluated Milk Frothers
Thanks to Phillips’ advice, I focused my evaluations on whole milk and oat milk, but I also tried skim and soy, to see whether these frothers could handle a variety. Most of the frothers below can create both cold and hot milk froth (some even have separate warm and hot modes), which is useful if you prefer, say, macchiatos in the winter and iced lattes in the summer.
Turns out, temperature impacts flavor more than it impacts the froth itself. "Cooler temps will help enhance sweetness, but do not typically enhance or harm froth quality," Phillips says. So what makes for high-quality froth? "What baristas obsess over the most is how small the bubbles are, as that contributes to how tight knit and velvety the froth is," he explains.
I tried to create velvety cold and hot froth with each milk type, resulting in eight to 12 rounds of frothing for each model. I tasted the results of each (my stomach was not happy with me for tasting so much dairy), noting how the froth tasted, how quickly it dissolved, and more. Last but not least, I evaluated how easy it was to clean each frother.
I normally take my at-home coffee with a little half-and-half, but adding some of the foam to my morning cup really improved it. I was well-caffeinated. And like a good milk frother, I whipped up my findings into tight-knit reviews, which you can read below. And if you’re looking to build out your arsenal of coffee-making equipment, check out our comprehensive ratings for coffee makers, coffee grinders, and electric kettles (the kettles are handy for pour-over coffee).
Editors’ Choice: Nespresso Aeroccino4
Sometimes you do get what you pay for, and when it comes to versatility, this old adage seems to be true for the Nespresso Aeroccino4. This carafe-style frother is the most expensive of the models I tried, and it’s the only one that handled just about each type (and temperature) of milk well. The Nespresso has four modes: cold macchiato, hot milk, cappuccino mode, and latte macchiato mode. Cold macchiato mode worked well with all four types of milk, yielding plenty of milk foam for an iced latte.
Of the three hot modes, I focused on the latter two since I was after hot froth, not hot milk. And across the milk types, the latte macchiato mode seemed to do a better job of creating foam, yielding larger quantities of it than the cappuccino mode. The only issue I ran into was frothing hot soy milk. The Nespresso had a hard time turning it into foam, but that seems to have more to do with soy milk itself. Most of the machines had a hard time frothing hot soy milk, and none of them did it exceptionally well.
Cleaning: Nespresso says all the parts except the base are dishwasher-safe. All you have to do is put the carafe, whisk, and lid in the top rack of the dishwasher when you’re done.
Great Handheld Frother: Aerolatte To-Go
The Aerolatte To-Go is one of the most popular frothers on the market, and I can see why. It’s able to whip up plenty of foam across the milks I tried, and it’s a breeze to clean. The Aerolatte doesn’t include directions for frothing cold milk, but it didn’t have a problem frothing hot or cold, plant or dairy. Beause it’s handheld, there is a bit of a learning curve to using it. But once you get the hang of it, the handheld, cordless design of the frother makes it easy to move around the cup or glass and froth the remaining liquid milk.
To froth hot milk, Aerolatte recommends heating milk in a mug (I assume with a microwave, but the company doesn’t specify), frothing the milk in that mug, and pouring your coffee in afterward. To avoid futzing with my microwave, I ended up heating the milk with the Instant Milk Frother (more on that model below), which has a great hot milk mode. I then poured it into a glass and started frothing. The only minor issue I encountered was that it was sometimes hard to create bubbles that were as dense and uniform as those made by the competing models, but you probably won’t pay attention to that unless you’re a latte foam purist.
Cleaning: The Aerolatte To-Go isn’t dishwasher-safe, but it’s still a cinch to clean. You simply run it in a cup of soapy water to clean the whisk and shaft, then run it again out of the water for a few seconds to dry it.
Simple and Affordable: Instant Milk Frother
While the Instant Milk Frother isn’t as versatile as the Nespresso Aeroccino4, it also can cost a quarter of the price. That alone makes it worth considering, provided you don’t care to froth cold whole milk or warm soy milk. For some reason, this frother didn’t work that well with those specific types/temperatures of milk, but it did well with the rest.
Like the Nespresso, the Instant also offers four modes: cold foam, warm foam, warm thick foam, and warm no foam. Of the two warm foam modes, the regular warm foam mode seemed to perform better across the different milk types, yielding froth that’s easier to pour (helpful if you want to try making latte art).
Cleaning: The Instant Milk Frother’s lid and frothing disc are dishwasher-safe, but the carafe is not, because it has electronic controls built into the side of it. Cleaning the carafe is still simple, though. All you have to do is hand-wash the inside of the carafe with a cloth, but be careful not to run water over the outside of the carafe, especially where the controls are located.
Other Frothers I Tried
The Bodum Bistro is the simplest of the carafe models I tried—it only has an on/off switch—and it’s pretty bare bones compared with the competition. For starters, the Bodum Bistro can only make warm foam—there is no cold foam option. It also lacks a spout, which makes pouring the frothed milk a somewhat messy task. When making warm foam from the four types of milk, I found that the Bodum worked best with oat milk. It did an okay job of frothing skim and whole milk but struggled to froth soy. Bottom line: It’s simply not as versatile as the other frothers.
Cleaning: The Bodum Bistro is not dishwasher-safe, but cleaning is simple: Remove the frothing disc, rinse it with water, and wipe down the carafe with a damp cloth.
At first glance, you might mistake the Bodum Latteo for a French-press coffee maker, but it’s actually a milk frother. You furiously pump the press up and down to aerate the milk and create froth. It looks absolutely ridiculous in action, but it works surprisingly well. To create warm foam, you can heat up the milk in the glass carafe, just leave the press and lid off until you’re ready to froth. The Bodum’s vague instructions imply you could place the carafe on a stove burner, but I would heat it in a microwave just to be safe. For my evaluation, I opted to heat up each milk in the Instant Milk Frother. The Bodum Latteo did a great job frothing skim milk, soy milk, and cold whole milk, but it struggled to froth warm whole milk, as well as both cold and warm oat milk. In each of those three frothing rounds, the Latteo left as much liquid milk as there was foam, and it was the only frother that had issues with oat milk in general.
Cleaning: The Bodum Latteo is dishwasher-safe. Simply remove the plastic press from the glass carafe and place both in the dishwasher.
Capresso Froth PRO
Compared with the other frothers I tried, the Capresso Froth PRO is a bit of a mixed bag. This model is different from the others in that it has a metal carafe that sits on a hot plate. It also has three modes: cold, hot, and warm (yes, the buttons are arranged in that order). The Capresso did a great job frothing oat milk (both hot and cold), cold whole milk, warm skim milk, and cold soy milk, but it struggled with the rest. For the oat milk, the warm mode seemed to work better than the hot mode, creating foam that was easier to pour, but the two modes performed similarly with the other milks. Simply put, for the money, you’d probably be better off going with a more versatile (and affordable) model than this Capresso.
Cleaning: The metal carafe and plastic lid of the Capresso Froth PRO are dishwasher-safe. Unless you spill or the carafe overflows, you shouldn’t really need to clean the base, but if you do, simply wipe it down with a wet cloth.
This product evaluation is part of Consumer Reports’ “Outside the Labs” reviews program, which is separate from our laboratory testing and ratings. Our “Outside the Labs” reviews are performed at home and in other native settings by individuals, including our journalists, with specialized subject matter experience or familiarity and are designed to offer another important perspective for consumers as they shop. While the products or services mentioned in this article may not currently be in CR’s ratings, they might eventually be tested in our laboratories and rated according to an objective, scientific protocol.
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