Choosing the best milk steamer can be quite the challenge, because there are many different options and price points. While quality and price are always important factors in any buying decision, your experience with making steamed milk also should be considered when choosing a steamer. The best milk steamer is typically incorporated into the design of an expensive espresso machine as a steam wand that is submerged into the milk. If you are looking for a low-cost milk steamer, you can bypass the espresso machine and go for a stovetop steamer or battery-operated, hand-held steam wand.
When it comes to using a steamer and coffee equipment, it seems as if there are as many options as there are brands of milk and coffee. There are many resources on the Internet that provide product reviews and forum discussions about which milk frother is best and why. The important features to look for when using a steamer are design, durability and function. A steamer is designed simply to heat a liquid. In the case of a milk steamer, obtaining the proper temperature is crucial to producing quality foam or froth, because overheating the milk can lead to clumpy milk and inconsistent texture.
Beyond the features and notes on quality, your technique and drink preferences are especially important when using a steamer to produce a frothy beverage. If you are looking to make espresso and steamed milk, a fully equipped espresso machine may be best. Most experts in 2011 recommend spending upwards of $300 US Dollars (USD) for a quality espresso machine rather than buying a budget model that sells for less than $50 USD. If you are not an espresso drinker but want to make creamy hot chocolate instead, the stovetop steamers and hand-held frothers may be best. Prices for quality stovetop steamers are around $75 USD and hand-held frothers are available for less than $20 USD in 2011.
Another alternative is an automatic milk steamer. These devices are designed to steam a large batch of milk with the push of a button. While you may save time with an automatic steamer, you should not expect to achieve the same consistency of microbubbles that you would expect from a coffee house.
Steaming milk takes practice, and what works best for an amateur coffee lover may not be best for an experienced barista. Product reviews and consumer ratings seem to indicate that there is no replacement for a manual espresso machine when it comes to making steamed milk like a seasoned professional. The stovetop steamers and hand-held frothing wands also tend to get good reviews, and they are much less expensive than espresso machines. To save time while entertaining, an automatic milk steamer is a valuable alternative, especially if you need to prepare enough steamed milk for several beverages at the same time.