I absolutely love that creamy dollop of foam topping my morning cappuccino from the corner coffee shop. Did you know that you can make milk foam at home, too? And without needing to buy a fancy espresso maker? All you need is some milk, a clean jam jar, and a microwave.
How Does This Work?
Making milk foam in the microwave is a two step process: first you shake the milk in a jar to create foam, then you microwave it for a few seconds to stabilize the foam. Without the microwaving step, the milk foam will quickly collapse back into the milk.
As a bonus, you also get some warm milk to pour in your coffee!
Use 2% or Nonfat Milk
This is one place where low-fat milks are our friend. As Harold McGee explains it in On Food and Cooking, "Because the whey proteins are critical stabilizers [for milk foam], milks that are fortified with added protein — usually reduced-fat and skim milks —are most easily foamed."
I've tried this microwave method with nonfat milk, 2% milk, whole fat milk, and cream, and just as McGee foretold, the nonfat and 2% milks win every time. They both emerge from the microwave with impressive stacks of foam, while the whole fat milk and creams emerged with a mere film of tiny bubbles.
Using the Milk Foam
Once stabilized in the microwave, the milk foam is so thick that you can literally spoon it into your coffee mug. If you want a little milk as well, use your spoon to hold back the foam while you pour a little into your coffee, then spoon the foam on top, barista-style.
The milk should roughly double in size.
How to Froth Milk for Cappuccinos in the Microwave
What You Need
2% or nonfat milk
Small jar with lid
- Pour the milk into the jar: Fill your jar with as much milk as you normally use in your coffee, but no more than halfway full so there's room to make some foam.
- Shake the jar with the lid on: Screw on the lid. Shake the jar as hard as you can until the milk is froth and has roughly doubled in volume, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Microwave for 30 seconds: Take the lid off the jar. Microwave uncovered for 30 seconds. The foam will rise to the top of the milk and the heat from the microwave will help stabilize it.
- Use the foam: Pour the warm milk into your coffee and spoon the milk foam on top.
- Use the foam right away! It will start to dissolve after a few minutes.
This post has been updated. Originally published February 2010.
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(Image credits: Leela Cyd; Emma Christensen)