Making foamy milk without a steamer

When you buy a latte or cappuccino at a coffee shop, it’s always dressed with a nice frothy head of milk foam. That foam comes from aerating the milk with a blast of superheated air from a steam nozzle. If you buy an espresso machine of sufficient fanciness for your home, it may have an attached steam nozzle. With some practice, you might even learn how to use it without without spraying hot milk all over yourself.

But does that mean you can’t have foamy milk unless you have an espresso machine? And what if you’re a tea-drinker, like I am?

Fortunately, you can easily steam milk at home using nothing but a sealed microwave-safe container (say, a BPA-free cup with a lid) and a microwave. Simply fill the container with your milk, shake vigorously until it foams, and then immediately microwave until hot (usually less than a minute). The foam will solidify and remain on top as the milk heats. Then, carefully pour the milk so the foam floats on top of the milk and onto your coffee. (You can spoon the rest of the foam onto your drink if you prefer.) This even works with soy milk, and there’s no messy milk spray if you mess up.

Sprinkle some cinnamon or mocha on top and you’ll have a cup of joe worthy of a barista.

Note: Reader @hornbeck suggests removing the lid on the cup before microwaving. Her lid blew off during cooking! We’ve never had that happen, but it sounds like a great suggestion to us. The lid is important for shaking purposes; it’s not important for microwaving.

11 comments posted

  1. Posted by Eve - 01/24/2011

    Yes, but the real question is … how do you do that without a microwave? :D

  2. Posted by Linda - 01/24/2011

    I have done it on the stovetop with skim milk, a saucepan, and an immersion blender with the whisk attachment. Works great!

  3. Posted by hornbeck - 01/24/2011

    Remove lid before microwaving. I just finished cleaning up my microwave after the lid blew off while trying this :)

  4. Posted by Erin Doland - 01/24/2011

    @hornbeck — The lid blew off? That is crazy!! We’ve never had that happen!!

  5. Posted by Sara - 01/24/2011

    I’m pretty sure most things that have a “sealed” exterior build up pressure in the microwave and will explode when the contents start to heat unless there is a vent. That’s why you never hear of microwaving eggs in their shell, you have to poke potatoes with a fork before cooking them, and most microwave dinners say to pull back a bit of the top plastic wrap to vent the food!

    Making your own steamed milk sounds like a great idea! I will have to try it sometime. :-)

  6. Posted by Kim - 01/24/2011

    What a fabulous idea!!! I’m gonna try it!

  7. Posted by Sonja - 01/25/2011

    Thanks so much for this fun idea. I just did this and finished up the last of our pot of coffee. Yum!

  8. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 01/25/2011

    Very cool, will have to give it a try! Starbucks and other cafes are too expensive for me, but I love the steamed milk!

  9. Posted by Zen friend - 01/25/2011

    I knew there had to be a way to do this without buying a fancy machine! Thanks so much!

  10. Posted by Catherine - 01/29/2011

    Thank you for this great tip.
    A photo to show that it worked at first time.
    (even with some chocolate sprinkled on top)

  11. Posted by Nicole - 01/30/2011

    I like to heat my milk in a saucepan as well(do not own a microwave)and then use my whisk to froth the milk. Works like a charm. The more fat in your milk the better froth you will get.

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