Frothing milk with a portafilter | how to make perfect milk foam | tips& tricks

Do you also want to make the perfect milk foam at home, so that your coffee tastes just like in your favorite cafe? Then you are exactly right here. In this comprehensive guide on the subject of frothing milk we show you which methods you can use to froth milk properly. We have put the focus on frothing milk with the steam plant of a portafilter machine, because for us this is the "royal discipline" in producing milk foam. Here’s what to expect:

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Frothing milk with a portafilter machine

It is a different taste experience whether you enjoy coffee with just a simple shot of milk or with a sweet tasting milk foam. For many coffee and espresso connoisseurs, it’s no longer just about the perfect espresso crema, but also about the perfect milk foam. Frothing milk with a portafilter is not difficult at all. We show you how to make the perfect milk froth at home. With this you will become a real home-barista and with a little practice you will also succeed in making your first milk froth heart on the cappuccino. Behind the perfect milk froth, however, is not simply hot air, but an espresso machine (portafilter) with a steam plant. With this you will get the best result.

frothing milk

step by step guide: frothing milk with a portafilter machine

Below you will find a step by step guide to make the perfect milk foam for latte art with a portafilter machine.

milk foaming steam plant

Step 1:
before foaming, turn on the steam valve once. This will drain the condensed water from the steam plant. Turn the valve until only pure steam comes out. The condensed water makes the milk too watery.

Step 2:
Generally, the jug is held in the left hand. But it also works in the right hand. It is important to keep one hand free to feel the temperature of the jug.

Step 3:
immerse the steam lance at a slight angle and not straight into the pot. In addition, the tip of the lance should be positioned about one centimeter to the side of the rim of the cane. You can also use the pouring spout to help you. To start, the steam plant is positioned about one centimeter below the surface of the milk. This will prevent the milk from splashing out at the start.

Step 4:
Use your free hand to open the steam valve. Now move the steam plant just below the surface of the milk. By immersing the lance at a slight angle, the desired suction is created. You will now hear a scraping, slurping sucking sound. The air is drawn under the milk. During this operation, the pot must not be swayed or moved. The jug is held still.

Step 5:
the longer the infusion phase lasts, the more foam bubbles are created. Depending on the coffee specialty, the steaming phase varies in length. For latte art, the steaming phase ends when the milk is warm to the touch (at 30 to 40 degrees celsius). With your free hand, you can feel the temperature at the bottom of the jug and at the rim of the jug.

Step 6:
for the rolling phase, the tip of the steam plant is dipped about one centimeter deep into the milk. Try to find a position where the milk swirls in a circle through the pot. Now the air bubbles are broken up and a homogeneous emulsion is formed.

Step 7:
as soon as the desired temperature of 60 to 65 degrees celsius is reached, close the steam valve. To prevent the milk foam from getting too hot, invest in a special thermometer for milk jugs to start with. It will help you to control the temperature during the frothing of the milk.

Step 8:
use a damp sponge cloth to remove the milk foam residues from the steam plant. Then briefly open the steam valve once so that the drawn-in milk is blown out.

Step 9:
Now tap the milk jug lightly on the table to break up the last large milk bubbles that have formed at the top. Then swivel the milk jug on the worktop so that the fine-pored milk foam remains single-phase. After about 30 seconds, the milk begins to settle in two phases. Therefore, it is important to keep the jug rotating until pouring. So you have to "keep the milk happy".

Et voilà! With this milk foam you can pour wonderful motifs into the coffee!


consistency of the milk foam: firm versus fine-pored

solid milk foam

Many coffee connoisseurs want a particularly firm foam that piles up impressively on the coffee. This of course looks visually appealing. However, baristi smile at this foam, which looks more like bath additive.

fine-pored milk foam: perfect milk foam for latte art

Among professionals, this firmness is considered amateurish. The reason for this is that the coffee does not mix with the solid milk foam. In this case, the solid milk foam is spooned first and then the coffee is drunk at the end. But the goal is that the coffee mixes with the milk. Therefore, the perfect milk foam has a creamy consistency, is fine-pored, can still flow and tastes sweetish. Good baristi prepare this foam in such a way that they can draw beautiful decorations on the crema.

There are a few things to keep in mind to prepare the perfect milk froth with a portafilter. We will now explain to you what you need for it at home and what you should pay attention to. Basically we prepare the milk froth with the steam espresso machine. For this we use cow’s milk.

Espresso machine Rancilio Silvia

Bezzera BZ09 S New model

Lelit Anna PL41EM semi-professional coffee maker, ideal for espresso brewing, cappuccino and coffee pods, stainless steel, 2.7 liters, stainless steel

The equipment for frothing milk with a portafilter

frothing milk

To make the perfect milk foam at home, we recommend the following equipment in addition to the espresso machine:

Milk thermometer: finding the right temperature for frothing milk

Milk foam can always be produced from cold milk. If you shake the cold milk in a closed vessel, foam is created. However, the resulting air bubbles do not last very long. Therefore, the milk must be modified with the help of heat. Because heat solidifies the protein in the milk. The temperature for frothing milk is very important. At a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees celsius, the milk tastes fresh and sweet. At a frothing temperature of more than 70 degrees celsius, the lactose starts to burn. This causes the milk to lose its characteristic fresh and sweet taste. Milk heated too high tastes increasingly burnt. This remains the case even after the milk foam has cooled down.

To ensure that the milk foam does not get too hot, invest in a special thermometer for milk jugs at the beginning. It will help you to control the temperature while frothing the milk. The milk should not be heated above 65 degrees celsius. There is, however, a time delay of about two seconds when measuring with a thermometer. Therefore, it is important to finish the foaming process in time.

Motta kitchen, stainless steel

  • Stainless steel immersion thermometer
  • Perfect success of milk foam at max. 65 degrees celsius

feel the temperature of the milk with your hand when frothing milk

You only need to use the thermometer until you have learned to feel the temperature with your bare hand on the milk jug itself.

To do this, place the flat of your hand on the pot while frothing the milk. When it gets too hot on the palm of your hand, stop frothing the milk. Then you have reached the target temperature. You can also practice this with water to get a feeling for the right temperature.

Sponge cloth: hygiene is essential

use clean sponge cloth when frothing milk

Uninvited guests are rarely welcome. It is the same with coffee machines. Hygiene is the be-all and end-all when frothing the milk. If the steam plant is not cleaned regularly, it is a land of milk and honey for germs. If the tip of the steam plant has visible encrustations of milk residues, this is almost a guarantee that germs have taken root.

Therefore, our tip is to always wipe off the milk residues with a damp sponge cloth immediately after frothing. Then you do not offer the uninvited guests a nutrient medium for a longer stay. Always use your own sponge cloth for the steam plant. rinse it thoroughly after cleaning the steam plant. In addition, replace it regularly, because at some point, a sponge cloth is no longer appetizing.

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Foaming milk with a milk jug

frothing milk with a milk jug (pitcher)

To make the perfect milk foam yourself with a portafilter, baristi use stainless steel pots with fine spouts. They offer clear advantages compared to pots made of other materials. Stainless steel is easy to clean and the temperature is easy to feel from the outside with your hands. The jugs should be a little more bulbous towards the bottom. This type of jug is also called a pitcher.

There are stainless steel jugs in different sizes: small jugs with 0.35 liter capacity for only one drink and larger jugs for several drinks. So choosing the right size depends on the amount of milk foam you want to make.

Motta 0901/03 Milk jug

  • Stainless steel milk jug (18/10) from metallugica motta
  • Capacity: 350 ml

When choosing the size of the can, the container used should be filled no more than halay with milk. If the quantity of milk is too large, it can foam over from the pot. If the filling quantity is too small, only the milk is pushed to the side and large air bubbles are formed.

However, the pot should also not be too large. If, for example, the pot has a capacity of about 1.5 liters, frothing may not succeed because the espresso machine does not have enough steam pressure. The entire quantity of milk does not then enter into a rotating movement. The result is that the upper layer of milk is foamed and the lower part is only heated. Therefore, in these cases, we recommend you to foam a small pot twice instead of a whole liter pot.

Frothing milk with a portafilter: which milk??

When preparing coffee specialties, it is important to pay attention to the milk quality. Not all cow’s milk is the same. There is whole milk, organic milk, UHT milk, milk with different fat content, cream, condensed milk and much more. The different types of milk have their own character in taste. Therefore, everyone should also evaluate the taste of the milk and choose the best for the corresponding specialty coffee.

Feel free to try milk from different dairies to find out which milk you like best. The taste should be fresh and sweet. This means that the milk foam already has a very good prerequisite. The taste of speciality coffees such as cappuccino is softer and fuller as a result.

The protein content is decisive

The fact that milk can be foamed at all is due to the protein content of the milk. In the case of the usual types of milk from the supermarket, this is relatively similar and lies between 3.2 and 3.8 percent. The fat content does not influence foaming. You can froth low-fat milk just as well as milk with a high fat content. This is because the protein content is the same in almost every type of milk. Fat, however, is a flavor carrier. Whole milk with a high fat content therefore always tastes better. If a specialty coffee is prepared with 3.8 percent whole milk, it tastes more intense overall. No matter which milk you choose: the milk must be cold and should ideally be taken directly from the refrigerator!

You can buy milk from national dairies. However, it is great if you use milk from regional suppliers. Our milk tip if you come from the hanover region: hemme milk from wedemark, fresh full-fat milk with a fat content of 3.5.

How milk foam is created?

When milk is foamed, air is swirled under the milk. The result is that foam is formed. Foam is a mixture of liquid and air in the form of bubbles. These bubbles can vary in size. Therefore, not all foam is the same. There are two types of milk foam: coarse-pored milk foam and fine-pored milk foam.

Left picture: firm milk foam (suitable for latte macchiato), right picture: fine-pored milk foam suitable for latte art.

Coarse-pored milk foam

On the one hand, there is the firm, dense and coarse-pored foam. This is often the typical milk foam from the italian ice cream parlor with cocoa powder as topping. This milk foam can be described as having two phases. This means that the liquid hot milk is at the bottom. The milk foam, which is actually solid, settles on top of it. This coarse-pored milk foam is usually used for latte macchiato. Served in a glass, this effect with the multiple layers is visually particularly well accentuated. It can be used to pile up gigantic mountains of foam. However, this coarse-pored, firm foam is unsuitable for milk foam decoration (latte art).

Fine-pored milk foam

On the other hand, there is the liquid, creamy and fine-pored milk foam. It consists of microfine air bubbles. This is why experts also refer to it as microfoam. This microfoam has a silky shiny surface. No individual bubbles are visible to the naked eye. This type of milk foam is single phase. There is no separation of milk and foam. The air bubbles are evenly distributed from top to bottom.
This milk foam is suitable for drawing pictures (latte art) on the surface of the coffee.

Making milk foam yourself – the right technique with the steam plant

All those who want to prepare milk foam like a professional should use the steam plant from a portafilter machine for optimal foam results. For this you only need to acquire basic knowledge.

The two phases of frothing milk with a portafilter: drawing and rolling phase

The frothing of milk with a portafilter can be divided into two successive phases, the drawing phase and the rolling phase.

The drawing phase of frothing milk with a portafilter

drawing phase for milk frothing

During the drawing phase, air is drawn under the cold milk by steam pressure. The steam plant has to be held just below the surface of the milk. However, the lance should be dipped into the pot at a slight angle and not in a straight line. Also make sure that the lance is not positioned in the center, but to the side of the jug. You can also use the pouring spout. Here, you place the steam plant in the pouring spout so that the tip is just about a centimeter from the rim of the pitcher.

If the steam tap is opened and the position is correct, a scratching, slurping sound can be heard during the drawing phase. Now the desired foam bubbles are created. At the same time, the milk jug must be moved slowly downwards so that the steam plant is always just above the surface of the milk. As a result, the air continues to get under the milk and the amount of foam increases. Remember: the longer the infusion phase, the more foam is produced. When the milk has reached hand heat (at approx. 30 to a maximum of 40 degrees celsius), is changed to the rolling phase.

The rolling phase in milk frothing with a portafilter

For the rolling phase, the steam lance is dipped about 1 to 2 centimeters below the surface of the milk, so that no more air is drawn in. No slurping noise should be audible at this point. The steam pressure causes the milk to rotate. The resulting foam bubbles are broken up and evenly distributed by the rolling motion of the milk. The milk is rolled until it reaches a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Celsius. After frothing the milk, we recommend that you tap the creamer once on the kitchen worktop. This way you can burst too large air bubbles in the milk foam. Then you should swirl the jug so that all the components in the jug combine with each other. If you have done everything correctly, the milk foam should have a silky, shiny surface.

Preparatory steps

Make sure you have clean and cold milk jugs. Therefore, please do not use a pot directly from the dishwasher while it is still hot. The milk used should always be fresh and cooled. The ideal initial temperature of the milk is approx. 4 to 8 degrees celsius (refrigerator temperature). Room temperature is not good for foaming. The reason for this is that the heating time is shortened. The result is that the milk is not properly rolled due to the short time and the air bubbles are not evenly distributed. The colder the milk, the longer it takes to froth the milk. But the easier it is to achieve a perfect milk foam result.

The correct filling quantity in the milk jug

When frothing milk, it is important to observe the correct fill level in the jug. The milk is poured in just below the spout. This is the best filling range. In general, the creamer should be at least one-third full of milk, but no more than half full.
If too little milk is poured in, the milk will heat up too quickly and it will be difficult to bring the milk into the rolling phase. The jug should also not be filled to above the pouring spout, as the foaming creates volume. Then there is no space for the resulting foam and the milk spills over.

Practice frothing milk with a portafilter

It is often not possible, especially at the first attempts, to froth the milk in such a way that the desired result is achieved. Unfortunately, already foamed milk can not be foamed again. In order not to waste so much milk, you can first practice with a little trick. Fill the jug up to half with cold water. Add a tablespoon of cold milk to it. With this very diluted milk, it is indeed possible to create milk foam. The froth will taste like nothing, but it’s great for practice.

Another option is to add a splash of dishwashing liquid to the water instead of milk. Visually, the foamed rinse water looks very similar to milk foam. Therefore, be careful, please do not drink!

Try out the different immersion depths with the steam lance. You can now observe what happens. When the steam plant is just below the surface, foam is formed. If the lance is immersed deeper, the liquid is swirled and heated up.

Cleaning after frothing milk with a portafilter

The steam plant should be cleaned immediately after each foaming process. When the steam valve is closed, a vacuum is created. This will suck some milk into the lance. Therefore blow some more steam through after the foaming process. If you forget to do it, milk residues will get into the inner wall of the lance. The outside of the lance is wiped with a damp sponge cloth. This way you prevent milk residues from drying firmly. These are more difficult to remove. Tip: clean the milk frother and steam plant immediately after use to avoid stubborn milk residues.

Frothing milk – other methods

From the point of view of barista-passione.The perfect milk foam is created with the steam plant of a portafilter machine. This is particularly creamy and fine-pored and is ideal for latte art. But not everyone has a portafilter with steam plant at home and not everyone needs milk foam every day. It is therefore advisable to purchase a separate milk frother. There are several types of milk frothers that can produce quite acceptable milk foam. It starts with the cheap wand whisk and goes up to the high-priced designer model. Some milk frothers are operated manually and some use the latest technology. The choice in stores and online is enormous. But one thing is for sure, no matter which type of milk frother you choose, you can use it to prepare your favorite coffee specialty at home as well. A good milk frother can be a faithful companion and will give you and your guests airy pleasure in the palate.

In the following section, we will introduce you to other methods that you can use to froth milk in your own home. These are manual, electric, wand and other milk frothers.

Frothing milk with a whisk

A whisk or battery operated wand milk frother is very popular. These milk frothers are small, handy and practical. They can be stored in almost any kitchen drawer. you can buy them for very little money and some discounters or remnant-shops even offer them.

a whisk milk frother consists of a handle and a spiral rod. this handle also forms the housing in which the battery and motor are housed. To which belongs a rotating rod with a foaming spiral at the end. The wand is started by a button on the housing. The milk frother rod is held either directly in a pot, cup or glass filled with warm milk. It is important that the frothing spiral is completely immersed in the milk. Otherwise the milk splashes out.

a stick milk frother is particularly suitable for those who only want to froth milk from time to time. Our tip: scanpart milk frother. This is battery operated, easy to use and has a reasonable price.

  • For perfectly frothed milk
  • With ergonomic rubberized handle

Milk frothing with hand blender

If you don’t have a dedicated milk frother at home and don’t want to buy one, then there are other options. nowadays almost every household has a hand blender or a magic wand. It can also be used to froth milk. For this purpose, the milk is first heated in a pot. The milk must not get too hot. Please heat only to a maximum of 70 ° celsius. Then simply immerse the hand blender lightly in the milk and start at the lowest setting. To get the consistency you want, you need some patience. However, it remains to mention that not every hand blender is suitable for this purpose. Therefore, be sure to check the suitability for milk frothing before use.

Frothing milk with an electric milk frother

Very convenient is the use of electric milk frothers. All operations are combined in one device. Milk foam is created at the touch of a button. Only the milk must be filled by hand and the rest happens automatically. The milk is heated and frothed up. there are big differences in price and also in quality. It’s important to find a machine that you’re happy with the results of.

Frothing milk with an induction milk frother

The milk is heated with modern induction technology, unlike the simple electric milk frothers. Many induction milk frothers can prepare cold milk froth as well as hot milk froth. Cleaning is often very easy with induction milk frothers. We can recommend you the severin SM 9684 milk frother. Here you can find our severin SM 9684 milk frother test.

Frothing milk with hand milk frother

Milk frothers, which consist of a glass container and a lid with a strainer, require manual labor. First, the milk is poured into the glass container and heated on the stove top to a maximum of 70 ° celsius. The milk must not boil in any case. Air is then mixed into the milk with the aid of a sieve by means of rapid manual up and down movements. one advantage of a hand milk frother is that it does not require batteries, which have to be changed regularly with a whisk.

Milk froth with a hand milk frother succeeds quite reliably. The result is even so good that the milk foam can be used for latte art. Milk frothers of this kind are available from bodum, for example

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