Although the traditional way to froth milk to serve with coffee is via the steam wand attached to an espresso machine, that isn't very practical for anyone who doesn't own an espresso machine.
To be frank, a lot of coffee makers have steam wands so puny, you'd be better off just giving the milk a bit of a shake, anyway.
Enter the milk frother.
What is the best milk frother?
At £60 the black Dualit Milk Frother is simple to use, produces an extremely consistent foam, has the perfect temperature for a cappuccino or latte and is mercifully easy to clean.
How to buy the best milk frother
If the truth be told, if you want the very best coffee at home you don't need a frother at all, you need a high-pressure steam wand attached to your espresso machine that steams the milk, creating a densely packed micro foam.
But that's complicated and time consuming, which is why the automatic milk frother was born.
Milk frothers don't usually steam, instead they heat the milk using a small induction ring hidden in the base of the jug, while a whisk adds volume and foam to the milk. The results can be delicious, but don't expect the sort of silky flat white you'll get from a café.
For the best results, experts recommend fridge-cold semi-skimmed milk, not heated beyond 65°C.
Handheld Milk Frothers
These dirt-cheap motorised whisks create foam by spinning at high speed. You'll need to heat the milk first, and they take practice to get right, but results can be impressive given the low price.
Jug style milk frothers
These compact jugs combine heating element and spinning whisk. Most now come with a range of temperature settings, and you can adjust the volume of foam – for cappuccino or latte – heat milk without whisking, and even produce cold foam for milkshakes.
Choose carefully, looking for non-stick and dishwasher safe parts as dried on milk is horrible to clean.
1. Dualit Black Milk Frother
This compact, attractive, matt black milk cordless jug design has capacity to froth 200ml of milk – good for two cappuccinos – or heat 320ml of milk for hot chocolates, baby milk etc.
It can also whisk up cold milk for milkshakes, although don't expect a thick shake.
Thanks to the sealed, twin-speed magnetic drive motor and non-stick interior, unlike most models, where there's a hole or axle to inevitably get gunked up with dried milk, the whole whisk can be completely removed for easier cleaning.
The quality of the frothed milk was also consistently better than the rest on test – except for the pro-style Cino steam wand – with an impressive foam density rather than being just hot aerated milk.
It's still better suited to a frothy cappuccino than a silky flat white, but who really know the difference, eh?
Many milk frothers sadly suffer from premature ejaculation, spewing hot froth unexpectedly all over the worktop, but this embarrassingly messy issue isn’t a problem with the Dualit.
Assuming you've not over filled it, you can even remove the lid and test the temperature of the milk mid cycle without fear of eruption. What's more, the motor will overrun to avoid milk residue burning, and it all switches off when temperature has been reached.
2. Nespresso Aeroccino 4
Best milk frother for style
While neither as compact nor stylish as its predecessor, the Aeroccino 3, this stainless-steel upgrade from Nespresso gives far greater control over the amount and type of hot milk and froth.
Choose from two types of foam – essentially big and bigger froth – plus milk heating and cold frothing, and thanks to the narrow cylinder of the jug creating a more powerful vortex our milk almost doubled in volume.
The quality of the treated milk wasn't quite as consistent as the Dualit, but the temperature was spot-on for a latte or macchiato, and the jug spout made it easier to pour - vital if you're trying to get fancy with patterns.
Finally, and mercifully, the jug and whisking parts can all be disassembled making cleaning easier.
3. Dualit Cino Milk Steamer
Stylish steam wand is the pro frother's choice
The second Dualit in the list is the more pro-grade Cino milk steamer. It's pricey, but it's also leagues ahead of the rest when it comes to creating silky smooth milk.
As the only model on test that steams, rather heating and whisking, you can achieve barista style results, with thick, densely packed milk foam rather than big bubbles.
While it's true that many coffee machines have steam wands built-in, you'll need to spend a lot on a dual boiler design to get a built-in milk wand with as much power and consistent steam as this.
The stainless-steel design is more café than kitchen, but remember this has enough power for commercial use thanks to the thermobloc element that provides continuous steam on demand.
Other extras include a stainless-steel milk jug and thermometer and built-in descale function, essential in hard water areas.
Please note that that you likely won't be knocking out latte art in an instant, because the Cino takes plenty of practice.
Many people just won't want the faff of learning a new skill, and those that do might be best served buying a really good espresso machine with steam wand attached. Nonetheless it's a great device for those who love milk-based coffee drinks but can't afford a really expensive coffee maker.
4. Ikea PRODUKT Milk Wand
Decent frothing for a quid
Capacity: about 200ml
Costing less than a shot of hazelnut syrup, the flimsy looking PRODUKT shouldn’t work, but incredibly it's the only milk frother (aside from the pro style Dualit Cino) that gives you any sort of control over the foaming process. By controlling the distance the whisk is from the surface of the milk makes it easier to create a vortex just like a Barista would with a steam wand.
There’s a huge element of human error involved, and you can easily end up with a jug full of bubbles, but with practice you'll get results every bit as good as the rest.
It requires two AA batteries and, obviously, you'll need to heat the milk first which is a bit of a hassle. Come on, you can’t have everything, for a quid.
5. Severin Induction Milk Frother
Best large-capacity frother
With a big 700ml capacity, the Severin is great if you've got guests or thirsty and impatient housemates
It's also the only model with temperature settings, so you can choose 50, 60 and 65°C, which is useful if you're heating milk for kids or hot chocolate, but we'd recommend cranking it up to max for your coffee, as that's about the optimum recommended temperature for heating milk.
The design is atypical, with the milk jug nestled inside the base, sat directly on the induction coil. The result is easier pouring as you don't need to lift the whole unit up, and you can keep it clean without getting the electrics wet.