Best Way to Froth Milk With a French Press for Coffee

Most espresso-based coffee drinks are made using frothed milk. However if you don’t have a fancy espresso machine, you don’t have a steam wand. Luckily, there are other ways of frothing milk.

This is great news because the best way to start your day is with a latte or cappuccino. Now you can froth milk in the comfort of your own home without an expensive machine or automatic milk frother and make your own coffee every morning.

You can use a handheld milk frother, mason jar or French press. The latter of which is my favorite. I think it is the easiest way and most coffee lovers already have a trusty French press at home. Also, if you don’t have one, you can get one for fairly cheap.

What Type of Milk Can I Froth in a French Press?

You can use any milk that you want to.

Whole milk is the best milk for frothing. The reason is that the higher fat content helps to preserve the foam bubbles for longer. However, it is not a must. I have made nice foamy milk with other kinds of milk such as low fat milk too.

You can also use non-dairy milk such as almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk. There are barista varieties of these cow’s milk alternatives that work really well for making frothed milk.

In essence, there are many different milks that you can try and chances are that it will work.

Almond milk in a box on a wooden surface.

How Much Milk Should I Use?

​If you use the times that I give in this post, use 200ml milk. However, if you want to make more than one cup of coffee and end up using a greater amount of milk, you will have to adjust the times that I mention in the steps.

What Size French Press to Use?

A smaller French press is best. Mine is 500ml. This ensures that there is enough space for the foam to form, but it isn’t too large making it hard to froth. Of course, if you make milk for more than one cup, you would have to use a bigger. As a rule of thumb we try to use one that is almost three times the volume of the initial amount of milk.

However, if you don’t have a small one at home. You don’t have to go buy one. Use the one that you have at home. It might just take a little bit more experimentation.

Steps to Make Frothed Milk With a French Press

1. Heat the Milk

The first step is to heat the milk You can heat the milk using any way that you like. I like using a microwave, because it is convenient. But you could also, for example, heat it on the stove top.

When you do it in the microwave you can pour the milk directly into the French press and heat it in that if your French press doesn’t have shiny parts. If your French press has shiny parts, you would have to heat it in a separate container and then transfer it to your French press after heating it.

2. How Long to Heat the Milk

Microwaves varies greatly. I put my milk in for a minute, but I have a 1000W microwave. With my old 750W microwave it was about a minute and a half.

You will have to experiment with length and always keep an eye on the milk to ensure that it doesn’t boil over. A good place to start is to put it in the microwave until it starts to boil. Technically this is too hot, but it will froth well. Note the time and every time take 5 seconds away until you find the ideal temperature where it still froths well, but isn’t too hot.

3. Frothing the Milk

Now, simply move the plunger up and down vigorously for 20 seconds in the warm milk. But be sure to keep it below the surface of the milk at all times. If you take it out of the milk and then plunge back in, you will make larger bubbles because of the extra air introduced into the milk. You want to go for tiny bubbles. That way you can even show off your latte art.

Many people tell you to froth the milk until it has doubled in volume, however I don’t believe in that. I prefer to focus on texture rather than volume. The best foam is silky and smooth. It is not too thick and can pour easily.

That is why I prefer to time how long I froth the milk, that way it is easier to get consistent results. It might take a little bit of practice to get it right every time, but it is worth the effort. Eventually you can actually get similar results as what you would with a fancy machine.

4. Pouring Latte Art

Most people will tell you that the texture of the milk is very different from that which you will get in a café, which will make latte art a bit more difficult. However, I don’t agree. If you don’t remove the plunger from the milk with every plunge, you can get similar results.

Also, don’t let the frothed milk stand on the counter before pouring it. That will cause the foam to thicken. Transfer it to a frothing pitcher immediately and pour it over your coffee.

Why is My Milk Not Frothing Well?

There are many possible reasons for milk not frothing well. Here are some important tips to help you make the perfect foam:

The Milk is Not the Right Temperature

In my experience, chances are, your milk is too cold. Try heating it for 5-10 seconds longer and see if it works. Remember that microwaves differ and you might have to experiment a bit.

In the below image you can see what happens to the milk foam when the milk was too cold. Basically, the bubbles don’t last very long.

The Milk is Not Fresh

Using fresh milk is super important. Like, I cannot stress it enough. Usually when my milk froth fails… it’s because the milk is not fresh enough.

Milk doesn’t have to have gone bad for it not to be fresh enough to make nice, rich foam.

You Waited Too Long Before Pouring the Milk

Frothed milk thickens upon standing. So, if you leave the milk on the counter for a bit before pouring it, you won’t get that silky texture that we are going for. Always make the coffee before you froth the milk and pour the milk immediately.

I mean, that is not the end of the world. The coffee in the below picture was still amazing. The froth was just too thick to pour latte art.

Not Frothing Long Enough

It can also be that you are not frothing the milk long enough. Try frothing it for an extra 5 seconds and see if it resolves the problem.

Too Large Bubbles

If your bubbles are too big, chances are the foam won’t last long. Make sure that you don’t remove the plunger from the milk while frothing the milk.

Great Coffee Beans to Use With This Frothed Milk​

One of my favorite roasts is Starbucks’s Pike Place roast. It is smooth and balanced with notes of cocoa and toasted nuts. And I go nuts for it…

​Read my full Pike Place Roast review here.

Pike Place Roast
How to froth milk with a French press.

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