Steamed Milk VS. Milk Foam: 8 Key Distinctions

Coffee tastes divine if you put in some milk. Sometimes, changing milk texture will bring out different levels of beverages. For example, steamed milk and milk foam are two distinct states. These make an unbeatable combo with espresso drinks.

You might think that both are the same bubbled milk, but they are not. One is dry (milk foam) while the other is creamy (steamed milk). There are differences between milk foam and steamed milk. Yet, these two milk types may make you confused.

In this steamed milk vs. milk foam article, we will show you the differences.

Steamed Milk VS. Milk Foam: Basic Information

We may think that steamed milk and milk foam are rivals. The truth is, they are not. It is the different states of milk during the aerating process. It is a process that mixes bubbles into the milk and creates foam. The milk with tiny bubbles is considered steamed milk. Milk foam contains large-sized bubbles compared to steamed milk. Often, milk foam refers to frothed milk in cafes. Let’s seize a look at the basic information about both steamed milk and milk foam.

Steamed Milk

milk foam vs steamed milk

Steams are injected into the milk to make tiny bubbles. As a result, it calls Steamed milk. Usually, most professionals use a steam wand to pass the steam into the milk.

You can use the steam wand of your home espresso machine. Take the milk in a steel jar so that you can track the temperature. Set the tip of the steam wand under the milk surface while steaming. Hold the pot at an angle with the steam wand to make a swirling vortex in the milk jar. When the milk is heated up, milk protein holds the micro-foams. Steamed milk makes the coffee fluffy and creamy that lingers for a long. It also changes the texture of your drink so that the beverages endowed identical attributes. Steamed milk does not last for a lengthier period. It starts losing its layer after 2 hours.

Milk Foam

Milk foams are immense with a thick foam volume. Since the foams contain large bubbles, it tends to be dry. Airs are trapped while the fat of milk breaks. But, it could bring a significant change in the beverage taste. You can apply milk foams to other beverages and desserts. People who are concerned about milk fat can try milk foams. You can use a steam wand, a milk frother, a whisk, and a handheld electrical frother to make perfect foam. Foam does not mean to be cold or hot. You can make it as your wish. Unlike steamed milk, milk foam lasts for lengthier periods. So, you can make an enormous portion to serve a big batch of people.

difference between steamed milk and milk foam

Difference Between Steamed Milk And Milk Foam

We told that steamed milk and milk foam are different states of the aerating process. A brief idea of this difference is air holding capability. Steamed milk carries less air and makes micro-foams. On the other hand, milk foam harbors more bubbles and makes immense airy bubbles. But, it is not the conclusion. We went in-depth and picked up some valuable information.

Comparison Of Steamed Milk And Milk Foam

ContextSteamed MilkMilk Foam
Bubble SizeSmallLarger
Milk QualityHeavyLighter
Frothing temperature70°C (158°F)82°C (180°F)
Half-life2-3 hoursMore than 3 hours
Prepares withSteam WandFrother
Steam Wand PositionUnder the surfaceAt the surface
Used in (Preferred)LatteCappuccino
Serving temperatureHotHot or Cold

Elaboration Of The Key Distinctions

Bubble Size

The bubble or foam size of steamed milk is tiny. As the tip of the steam wand was put inside the milk, only the steam was mixed with it. This process makes the milk heat up and creates tiny steam bubbles. As a result, it is often called micro-foam.

More air is injected into the milk while swirling it with a steam wand or milk frother. So the protein of milk breaks and traps more air and makes gigantic bubbles.

Milk Quality

Micro-foams of steamed milk make regular milk rich and heavy. It does not break down the fat of the milk all way. So, the fat-to-protein ratio retains the richness of milk. While the micro-foam mixes with the rich milk, it forms quality rich milk.

On the other hand, milk foam or frothed milk breaks the fat structure of milk. As a result, more air injection is possible. So, you could make a bigger-sized bubble trapped inside the milk with proteins. These airy bubbles make the milk foam lighter than the steamed milk.

Texture and Milk Type

The texture inherits its characteristics from the last point, milk quality. The texture is too smooth since micro-foam retains the richness of milk. The whole thing gets creamier than the original simple milk.

Milk foams contain more air inside the bubble. Milk fats are broken down more than steamed milk during the aerating process. So, the fat-to-protein ratio of milk varies greatly. As a result, it feels airy and makes the milk drier. It loses its smoothness for this reason.

Frothing Temperature

It is common for all to consider that both steamed milk and milk foam should be hot serving. But, things are not authentic. Steamed milk aerated with the steam. So, milk must be hot during the process. The appropriate temperature for steamed milk is 60-70°C (140-158°F). Once you reach the required temperature, remove the milk from the heat source.

Do you know that you can create non-warm milk foam? You can make milk foams at room temperature as your need. Even cold milk never interrupts the frothing or foaming process. The use of a steam wand will heat the foam. In this case, maintain 82°C (180°F) as the highest temperature. There is a higher chance of burning milk foams out if you cross this limit.


The half-life is the period of frothed milk that does not layer out. It indicates the stability of steamed milk and milk foams. Within half-life, the foam layer is much more stable. You can give it different shapes. But after that period, you will never reach that artistic limit. The half-life of steamed milk is only 2-3 hours. It breaks fast since it has a liquid part with a thin foam layer. For this reason, baristas make freshly steamed milk right before serving.

On the other hand, milk foam has more stability. The half-life period is more than 3 hours. You can make a bunch of milk foams together and save them for later use. Hence, the milk foam is dry, and you can serve it continuously.

Prepares with

You have to use a steam wand always to prepare the steamed milk. You can use the steam wand of your home espresso machine or a separate steam wand. Set the tip of the steam wind under the surface of the milk. So, the steam of water can make micro-foams or tiny bubbles. Make sure no extra air is injected into the milk while processing.

Another side, you can use a milk frother, whisk, and handheld electrical frother for milk frothing. You can use the steam wand of the home espresso machine as well. It does not matter whatever are you use to make milk foams. Just make airy bubbles that change the texture of your drink. Make sure you can add more air from the environment into the milk.

Uses Purpose

Steamed milk is mainly used for the latte to serve. Because of this micro-foam, different latte art is very comfortable to do. Baristas also prefer micro-foams to do art on them. You can use steamed milk for Cortado, latte-macchiato, and other espresso drinks.

Milk foams or frothed milk utilizes in cappuccino. It contains 2 shots of espresso and fills with the same amount of steamed milk and milk foam. You can use milk foams in a brave, macchiato, and many other espresso-based drinks. Also, you can use milk foams in other hot and cold beverages.

Serving Temperature

For steamed milk, it has to be served in hot always. Since its half-life is limited, it needs to operate quickly. The barista always froths steamed milk just before serving. So, it is easy to avoid the low quality of micro foams. As a result, it warms your cup at the same time.

Milk foams have a longer half-life than steamed milk. So, you can save it for later use. You can serve milk foam as both hot and cold.

How To Froth Milk At Home

difference between milk foam and steamed milk

Baristas usually use a steam wand or separate milk frother to make steamed milk or milk foams. What will you use when you prepare milk for an espresso drink? Yes, you can use your steam wand or espresso machine. But what will you do if you do not have an espresso machine at home?

Some of you will say the only option is to buy a milk frother and use it. Yes, you can do it. But, some kitchen utensils can help you in this situation. You can make milk foams with these and can enjoy the drinks.

  • A Mason Jar: Put the required amount of milk into a jar and close the lid. Quake the Mason jar so fast until the milk gets twice the volume
  • A Whisk: You can use a whisk to make milk foam in your home. Whisk the milk until it makes immense milk bubbles. It may take a little bit longer time than the other process
  • An Electric Frother: It is the best utensil to make milk foams at home. An electric frother is a handheld kitchen utensil. You can froth any liquid with it. Even takes less time to make milk foams. It consumes less muscle energy as well
  • Shaker Glasses: A pair of shaker glasses can double the volume of milk. You can use it as an alternative to the jar mentioned in the first point

There are more options for frothing milk at home. But, those are not popular enough to accept milk frothing. You can try it yourself if you are interested.


As we reached the last, you are more knowledgeable than the starting. You can identify where to put steamed milk and where to milk foams. I am sure you will not be confused anymore in the café while ordering your coffee drinks. Even you can share this information about steamed milk vs. milk foam. Or, you can suggest your friend try another tasty drink. Steamed milk and milk foam are not opponents. Preferably they have specific requirements to use.

Enjoy Your Coffee!

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