How to Steam Milk for Latte, Barista-Style


Getting your first steam right could be challenging, particularly with multiple steps involved. Some pros can get milk steamed without a machine. But if you’re a newbie, you will need to buy a good milk steamer to do that. 

With a detailed look into milk steaming, you’ll whip up milk for lattes like a barista in no time! Also, several questions you might ask receive clear answers in this piece. All this will help bring you the best experience steaming milk, even if it’s your first time. 


Why Steam Your Milk for Latte?

  • Steaming milk adds a distinct feel to the overall taste of your latte. 
  • It boosts the texture of coffee 
  • Gives coffee a better appearance 

Steamed and Frothed Milk, Is There Any Difference?

Newbies ultimately believe steamed and frothed milk mean two different things. But that’s not the case. 

Both frothed and steamed milk go through aeration – whipping air into the milk for a better taste and feel. There are slight differences, but it doesn’t take anything away from processing these drinks. 

For example, lattes could require lesser micro-foam than cappuccinos. Aside from that, there’s no difference between steamed and frothed milk.


Equipment Needed for Steaming Milk

Stocking up on the right tools helps you get a better steaming experience. That’s why you need to check on all items in this list for an excellent latte;

  • Coffee grinder
  • Espresso maker
  • Frothing jug
  • Handheld steam wand
  • Tamper
  • Microfiber cloth
  • 8oz. coffee cup


How to Steam Milk for Latte 101: Step-by-Step Guide 

  • While your coffee is brewing, get fresh and cold milk poured into a frothing jug. 


  • The milk should be poured in until it’s just shy of your jug’s spout indent. Proper steaming involves whipping up a perfect vortex. Adding too little or too much milk may yield underwhelming results. 


  • Consider making use of 12oz. jugs if you are steaming milk for many latte servings.


  • Purge your steam wand by wrapping a wet cloth around its other end. Open your steam wand’s valve for about six seconds for a comprehensive purge. Purging helps remove condensed water or milk capable of adversely affecting your milk’s quality. 


  • Place your steam wand into the milk, holding your frothing jug at an angle not greater than 15°. At this angle, it becomes more comfortable to attain the vortex your milk needs to steam correctly. 


  • The wand should be closer to the side of your frothing jug than its center. It contributes to the vortex creation. Also, creating a better micro-foam for latte art and cappuccinos is comfier with this practice.


  • Dip the wand in and open its valve. 


  • Lower your jug a little to ensure your steam wand’s tip is at the milk’s top. A hissing sound should be audible, connoting that the wand is at an ideal spot. Since this is an essential step in the whole steaming process, you need to reposition your wand until it’s perfect. 


  • Micro-foam is essential for making steamed milk. Lattes don’t require more than half a centimeter of micro-foam. It is better to gauge micro-foam as desired. The milk you decide to use may have different protein content, which could swing micro-foam development.


  • Get a thermometer and ensure your milk stretching process doesn’t go way over 30°. Protein disruption could occur if you continue stretching for over thirty-five degrees. Overstretched milk usually has stiff micro-foam that could limit your final latte result. 


  • Maintain the vortex and emulsify your milk further. Ensure your steam wand never touches the jug’s base during this process. 


  • Heat milk until it gets to 55°C on your thermometer. Most baristas will tell you 65°C is the best temperature for steamed milk. But some thermometers fall short in registering heat. So, stopping short of the required temperature should be enough.


  • Wipe your steam wand and purge once more to prevent tainting future steaming efforts. 


  • Slightly hit the jug against a sturdy surface to eliminate any underlying large bubbles. The resulting milk should leave you with a glossy, light appearance.     


Mistakes to Avoid

Late aeration

Giant bubbles appearing on your steamed milk could ruin its latte art potential. That’s why you need to know the right time to pull out your wand before it ruins your steaming effort. 

Excess aeration

Over-aeration is a common problem some newbie baristas face. Milk can develop foam when it’s a bit cold. With heat generated, it could be an uphill task to get micro-foam on your steamed milk. 

Excess heating

Heating your milk for too long has adverse effects on bubble creation and flavors. 

Time wasting

Not swirling your jug at the right time could let your steamed milk go to waste. Consider moving your jar in a fast but controlled manner after lifting off the steamer. Following the swirling process stunts milk – micro-foam separation



Can milk take more than one steam?

Steaming milk more than once has a marked effect on its taste and overall consistency. That’s why it’s not ideal to steam your milk more than once. 

What type of milk is best for steaming?

There’s a consensus among pro baristas that non-homogenized milk is better for steaming. 

Homogenized milk undergoes a process that decomposes fat molecules present in milk. That’s why pro baristas believe non-homogenized, pasteurized milk is best for steaming. 

At what temperature should milk for steaming be stored?

Milk set aside for steaming should remain at 2°C – 6°C temperatures. Cold milk allows more stretching potential and delivers a better texture altogether. 

How much micro-foam do I need to generate for a great latte?

Milk getting steamed for lattes should have no more than a half-centimeter of micro-foam. 


Last Drop

Now that you’ve learned how to steam milk for latte just like a barista, it’s good to keep practicing. Most latte pours depend on your milk’s quality and steaming expertise.

With regular practice, you can become better at whipping up a storm when it comes to lattes.








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