Tips from a Barista: Steaming and Frothing Milk

by laura everage on May 3, 2013 · 1 comment

For all you caffe latte, caffe mocha, and cappuccino lovers, ever wonder how to create the perfect steamed and frothed milk at home? We were curious, so we turned to noted barista, Tom Pikaart, to get his own take on how you can make it at home.

1. Make smaller drinks. Your typical home machine has a steam boiler the size of a soda can and in some cases no boiler at all (thermal block). There is simply not enough steam to heat so much milk. Stick to 8 ounce drinks and smaller. The tradition of consuming espresso and milk drinks in Italy is based in these tiny sizes anyway.

2. Buy a 12 ounce, straight sided, steaming pitcher from for $12, and beware of gimmicky pitchers that have funny shapes, euro names and enormous price tags. This is what the pros use.

3. Take a lesson. Baristas train diligently for years to master their skills, and you should too. The nation is full of training facilities and local coffee companies that offer anything from week long intensives to Saturday morning crash courses.

4. Heat to 135-155 fahrenheit. Milk is full of naturally occurring sugar, called lactose. Even if you use non-fat milk it should taste sweet and delicious. If you over cook it, it doesn’t taste good. Like onions in a skillet, the line between deliciously-caramelized and slimy-overcooked is a fine one.

5. Forget about the latte art. Rather than focusing on the end of your process, focus on the steps. In order for that latte art to come out, you’ll want the milk and coffee to be just right. And remember, It doesn’t make it taste better anyway.


{If you would like to try your hand at frothing at home, check out our Foamed and Frothed: Home Frothers article.}

Tom Pikaart first started in coffee in Seattle after working in computer security and deciding to devote his life to learning about all aspects of coffee preparation and education. Tom has worked in multiple high-volume coffee bars in Seattle and is the Director of Training for the American Barista and Coffee School. Tom spends countless hours and sleepless nights working on projects relating to brew methods and techniques. He is fascinated by all variables involved in coffee extraction, primarily pour-over methods and espresso. He has competed in numerous barista competitions and took second place in the first annual Manual Brew Competition in conjunction with Coffee Fest Seattle 2010. He blogs about his coffee explorations at

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }