The amount of air in a particular liquid can significantly impact the quality of the beverage or dish. When milk is heated, the air inside it expands, causing it to form large bubbles that rise and eventually form a creamy head on top of the liquid. This process is called coagulation and results in a whipped liquid with a texture like egg whites.
Froth arises when small bubbles collide rapidly, forming larger ones with trapped air. The more unstable these bubbles are, the faster they break upon impact with each other or any surface around them.
What Is Frothed Milk?
When milk is stirred and heated, it develops large bubbles that rise to the top of the liquid and eventually form a creamy head. This process is called frothing. If the milk is heated to a specific temperature, the bubbles reach a size that causes them to rebound violently, causing milk to froth.
The process of heating the milk and adding air is called aeration. When the bubbles are tiny, they become stable and form a skin-like layer as you can see when you blow bubbles in bubble solution. When food experts talk about making froth, they mean creating stable microbubbles in the milk by heating it to a specific temperature.
What Is Steamed Milk?
Steamed milk is much different than frothed milk. Steamed milk is heated milk that has not been aerated. The bubbles in steamed milk are small enough to pass through the size of a needle as a kid but are not large sufficient to rebound violently and froth.
Quick Fact: When steamed milk is heated, it reaches temperatures that cause micro-bubbles to form beneath the surface. The bubbles in steamed milk form a skin-like layer that remains intact when you gently stir the milk. That layer is what makes steamed milk separate from frothed milk.
The layer formed when steamed milk is gently stirred is the same size and shape as the original skin. However, the frothy layer on the tops of all creamy dishes is smaller and appears paper-thin. It takes a lot of heat to create this small layer of bubbles and usually takes time.
What’s the Difference Between Frothed and Steamed Milk?
There are several differences between frothed and steamed milk. They include:
1. Foaming ability
Frothed milk is usually frothed because it forms much larger bubbles and has a very light skin on top of it. Chefs who make frothed milk add air to their recipes to create more froth. The air adds more to the milk, causing it to foam up faster. The foam formed in milk is incomplete, though. It has a certain density that gives the milk a decent amount of body but not much flavor or character.
On the other hand, when you make steamed milk, you don’t need to add as much air as frothed milk does. Because steamed milk does not have enormous bubbles, it can create a softer foam in the cup than frothed milk can. The foam has a light texture and looks like thin skin on top of the milk.
Steamed milk has delicate skin on top of it that can be easily stirred to see if there is any depth or body to it. Steamed milk doesn’t have a very creamy texture or body but has full flavor.
2. Milk texture
Frothed milk has more giant and more stable bubbles that create a skin-like layer on the surface of the milk, and the froth has a slightly more solid body. These bubbles are not as unstable as other micro-bubbles and froth, giving them a more uniform texture.
Steamed milk does not have as many micro-bubbles as froth, so it doesn’t have a creamy texture. It also has a much smaller skin on top and doesn’t have as much of a creamy texture. Steamed milk also has a slightly thinner consistency compared to frothed milk, but it still has some body and body to it
Frothed milk can be both hot and cold. It can be as hot as a temperature that causes it to rise and boil, or as cold as room temperature. The bubbles are not unstable, so the froth stays in place even if the temperature is low or high.
Steamed milk can only be heated to a certain temperature. Once steamed milk reaches that temp, it will not froth anymore. The skin on top of the milk will stay, but the bubbles underneath it will stop forming. Steamed milk is always hot so it is always steamed.
Frothed milk can be made using both a frother and a steam wand. Both are different temperature devices. A frother is a device that uses heat to make the micro-bubbles in the milk rise to the surface.
A steam wand is a kitchen device that uses steam to boil the water inside and make scalding steam that causes the micro-bubbles in steamed milk to rise to the surface, creating froth.
Steamed milk can only be made using a steam wand, which is used to create steam inside the milk. The steam created will heat the milk, causing it to rise up and create a skin-like layer on top of it. The bubbles formed are not as large or as numerous as those in frothed milk and aren’t very unstable.
Frothed milk has a more full and richer taste to it. The large bubbles in the milk give it a more structured taste, while the skin-like layer on top gives it more depth. Steamed milk has a thinner and lighter flavor to it. It is not as creamy or as rich as frothed milk and has little body or depth to its flavor, steamed milk tastes very fresh.
Frothed milk tastes better and has more body and flavor than steamed milk can have. Not only is it better tasting, but it also froths better. Steamed milk is always hot like frothed milk, but it does not froth because the micro-bubbles are unstable and do not produce as much froth as stable ones.
Froth vs steamed milk may be classified as milk, but they are very different and have a unique taste. Steamed milk is almost always served hot and sometimes has a fragile skin on top that can be stirred easily. If the skin is soft or loose and can be stirred without resistance, the steam wand may need to be cleaned.