Milk Frother vs Steamer

If you like your coffee to have a velvety, frothy, and silky texture, just as they serve in your favorite café, you might want to think about investing in a milk frother or steamer. However, which device will provide you with the best milk-based coffee? Let me find out in my following comparison of milk frother vs. steamer.

Milk Frother vs Steamer General Overview

Both milk frother and steamer provide the milk with a delectable foamy texture that elevates the taste and consistency of your coffee. To choose one that is right for you, you should understand what they are and how they differ from each other:

An image of a milk frother

Milk Frother

A milk frother is an electrical appliance that creates a creamy froth by introducing air bubbles into the milk. The milk expands in volumes, reaching double or triple its initial quantity. It also becomes very light and airy.

There are two basic kinds of electrical milk frothers. One of them is the convenient handheld battery-operated variety. The other is an automatic milk frother with an external battery, most often used in a professional environment.  There are also manual milk frothers that require a lot more time and effort to achieve foamy milk.

Milk frothers are quick and easy to use. They aerate the milk through a forceful spinning or pushing movement generated by the coiled whisk. After the process, the milk has a thick, foamy layer with large bubbles that remains on top of your beverage.


A milk steamer is usually a hollowed device that holds the milk. It allows you to warm the milk to your desired temperature. Steamed milk expands in size whilst heating (but not as much as with a frother) and achieves a velvety texture and a glossy finish.

A steamer can also produce microfoam by spinning the milk and creating a vortex. The movement generates a lot of small bubbles that ultimately provide you with a creamy cup of coffee with a wonderful flavor.

You can also steam the milk using an espresso machine. The steamer is present as a wand-like attachment on almost all of the espresso machines. You can even find the steaming pipe structure on small espresso machines designed for home use. In this case, you have to hold the milk in a steaming jug and manually control the steaming process, which requires acquired skills.

Milk Frother vs Steamer

The milk steamer and frother both heat up milk, but the latter makes it much easier to create large bubbles. Let’s discuss this in detail.


Both milk frother and steamer help alter the consistency of the milk used for milk-based coffees. While the terms are used interchangeably, they are not the same. The only thing common between the two devices is that they both aerate the milk to some degree by introducing air bubbles to the liquid. This process creates a foam that elevates the overall texture and flavor of your coffee.


In order to prepare the most popular traditional espresso drinks, both techniques are essential. Here let’s discuss some differences between the two.

  • Milk frother incorporates air into the milk to make a froth that consists of large bubbles. It is very light and airy. Whereas, a milk steamer uses pressurized steam to texturize the milk. The heat from the steam creates tiny bubbles or micro foam.
  • The resulting textures from both devices are also very different. Milk frother creates dense foam that holds its shape and floats as a separate layer on top of the milk. On the other hand, milk from the steamer has an overall heavier texture. The heat affects the lactic sugar, causing the fats to break down and the proteins to coagulate, giving milk a more substantial consistency.
  • You can use the frother for both hot and cold milk to make any kind of coffee. Contrarily, you can only use the steamer to produce warm froth.
  • Both milk frother and steamer expand the milk. However, you only need a small amount of milk volume for a frother as it aerates the milk to two to three times its initial quantity. Since the milk steamer does not introduce too much air, the milk does not expand as much as from the frother.
  • Milk from the steamer has a reflective shine and more silky texture as compared to the milk from the frother.
  • Froth milk does not have any noticeable change in flavor. Whereas, steamed milk has a distinct sweetness as the lactose compounds break down into simple sugar compounds when exposed to heat.
An image of a milk steamer

Should You Buy a Milk Frother or a Steamer?

If you love milk-based coffees, then both milk frother and steamer are worth a purchase. However, if you only wish to buy one appliance for now, here are a few things to consider:

  • Milk frother is very straightforward to use, especially the handheld kind, so you can quickly whip up your favorite coffee. Moreover, you do not have to worry about the right technique to create a consistently fluffy foamy. The battery operated frothers are also portable, compact, and convenient. It is most useful for making cappuccinos.
  • Milk steamers are also easy to use with the touch of the button. You simply have to add milk to the container and allow the milk to spin. However, perfectly steamed milk with a consistent texture is a bit harder to achieve than frothed milk. The steamed milk is used to make the famous latte art.
  • If you are looking to invest in an espresso machine that comes with the steam wand attachment, you need to employ certain techniques to achieve the desired steamy results. You have to make sure to hold the milk jug at the correct angle and position the steam nozzle correctly for the best results.

Final Verdict

It all comes down to the texture you best enjoy and investing in the right equipment can take you one step closer to your perfect cup of joe. If you like your milk to be foamy and airy, which can be used in both cold and hot beverages, go for a milk frother. If you prefer your coffee piping hot with a dense and rich milk consistency, milk steamer is probably your best bet.