Microfoam: How to Steam the Perfect Foam

crazy by Editorial Staff | Updated on July 10th, 2022

Let’s settle this: What makes you order a latte when you visit a coffee shop? The creamy union of milk steamed and coffee? Or is it the light and airy layer of foam at the top of your cup? If you truly love lattes as we do, you know that the fine layer of steamed milk (aka microfoam) makes lattes drink a must sip.

So what is microfoam?

white and brown ice cream on black ceramic cup

It is a fine layer of well-steamed milk (usually whole milk) poured on the surface of your latte, café au lait, or steamer.  

person holding spoon pouring powder on coffee

The purpose of any great microfoam is to have as little air as possible in the milk. Smaller air bubbles make for a velvetier foam and come with a silkier smooth surface. If larger air bubbles are formed (when steamed milk is foamed with more air), a macrofoam is created rather than a microfoam.

Which drinks require microfoam milk?

In our opinion, café au laits, lattes, and cappuccinos require microfoam. Although macrofoam, achievable by a simple handheld frother, has also been used for cappuccinos. If you love steamers, you can also use a handheld frother to prepare your brew.

How to make microfoam with a steam wand?

silver metal cup

To create microfoam with a steam wand, start with powerful steam. Then heat to create numerous tiny bubbles. This way, the bubbles will capture the espresso’s delicate flavors and notes and unleash the milk’s sweetness. 

  • Lower the tip of your steam wand to just below the surface of the milk. That way, you will create a rolling current in the milk and save your ears from that high-pitched hiss that makes us all cringe.
  • Add air to your milk. To do this, bring the tip of your steam wand to the surface until you hear an occasional ripping sound. The goal is to create a latex paint-like consistency and texture throughout the foam. Make sure not to lift your wand too far out of the pitcher. Otherwise, you will blow bubbles onto the surface of your milk and splash hot milk foam everywhere.
  • Get your milk rolling. Once you have added enough air, bring the tip of your wand down to just below the surface of your milk again and get your milk rolling. Rolling is crucial as it gives your foam a nice mix and helps break up any large bubbles.
  • Don’t make the milk too hot. If you can’t hold the bottom of your pitcher, that is a sign you have gone too far. Just make sure you don’t burn your milk.
  • Once done, pour the velvety goodness into your espresso and enjoy it. As you sip, the bubbles will burst on your tongue, creating a perfect harmony of sweet, creamy milk and espresso.

Can you make microfoam at home?

Breville BMF600XL Milk Cafe Milk Frother

Contemplating making microfoam in the comfort of your own home? It is effortless! Here are three ways to go about doing this:

  • Buy an automatic milk frother. This is the easiest way to make microfoam at home. A good frother will heat the milk for you and create the desired level of foam in minutes.
  • Pump warm milk in a French press. This method is a cheaper alternative to buying a frother.
  • Use a handheld frother to froth your milk by hand. Note that when you use a handheld frother, it will be difficult to achieve any small bubble. Often, it will bring more of a macrofoam vibe. 

Milk temperature 

Your milk temperature is very crucial. If too hot, you will have a stretched-out velvety texture that falls flat. If too cold, you will have a wet mushy taste. For the best level of foam, aim for 140-160 °F or 60-71°C. It may take a bit of practice to achieve the perfect level of foam, so be ready to experiment.

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Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.


Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.