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How many times have you run out of milk for your coffee? Instead of having the perfect cup, you’ll go out of your way to the store first thing in the morning. Fortunately, you can avoid that by substituting milk with coffee creamer. The question is can you froth creamer like how you do with milk?
Yes, coffee creamer is also a viable frothing option. Not only does it enhance your coffee, but most creamers also contain casein. With it, the creamer develops the silky consistency of milk foam.
Before we go deep into frothing creamer, let’s first discuss the basics of frothing and, later, complex frothing techniques that baristas do for your coffee!
What Is Frothing?
Frothing is the introduction of air microbubbles into a liquid through constant agitation. With air trapped into the mixture, the liquid develops a finely textured foam with increased volume.
This technique gives your bitter coffee a sweet and creamy taste with every smooth and silky sip.
Popular coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes use frothing to make the foam for their coffee.
Cappuccinos consist of layered coffee and milk foam, while lattes mix both ingredients. Lattes also use milk foam to shape patterns or objects on the surface of your coffee to give it a unique twist.
What is the science behind frothing?
Let’s say you’re making milk foam. Doing so requires a frother or a steam wand that forces air into your milk. As air enters, the milk proteins surround the bubbles, keep them intact, and stabilize the thick, aerated foam.
With an increased surface area, the milk delivers more of the sweet, aromatic, creamy flavor with every sip. That is why frothed milk is an ideal ingredient to balance the bitterness of different coffee drinks.
Can You Froth Coffee Creamer?
Absolutely! Most coffee creamers exhibit the same frothing behavior as milk due to the presence of casein. This milk protein is responsible for stabilizing the microbubbles and maintaining their structure.
If you’re curious whether your creamer can make a mean foam, you can check the ingredient list for sodium caseinate. It’s a form of casein derived from milk and commonly used by coffee brands.
Coffee creamer vs. milk
Coffee creamer is a popular substitute for milk since it does the same job without compromising the quality of your coffee. But, that does not mean they exhibit the same properties. Here’s a quick guide about these sweeteners.
- Some creamers are lactose-free. Creamers contain milk derivatives, but lactose is often not one of them. Meanwhile, lactose-free milk only comes from plants like soy and rice, so the options for lactose intolerant people are limited.
- Coffee creamers have many flavors. Coffee brands release different variants of creamers, so there are more choices in flavor profile than milk. Examples of flavor variants are caramel, white chocolate, hazelnut, and cinnamon of Starbucks creamers.
- Milk is healthier. Fresh milk undergoes less processing before it reaches the consumer market. It also contains fewer calories and more protein, vitamins, and minerals than creamers.
- Milk can be a stand-alone drink. Unlike milk, consuming creamer like a regular drink is not advisable due to its fat content and health-related risks.
Can You Froth Cream?
Definitely! Frothed cream is the whipped cream you get in most desserts and iced drinks like Frappuccinos and frappes. Frothing, or more accurately whisking, partially breaks the fat globules of the cream and realigns it such that the air bubbles cannot exit the liquid.
As a result, the whipped cream develops a thick, fluffy colloid and retains the mild buttery flavor of heavy cream.
Cream vs. milk
Cream and milk do the same thing – enhance the flavor of your coffee. But, that does not mean you can rule the cream out as the same sweetener. Here’s why.
- The cream is customizable. You can include sweeteners like powdered sugar and vanilla when frothing cream. In the case of milk, the same outcome may not occur due to poor compatibility.
- The cream is versatile. Milk foam is suited for coffee drinks, while whipped cream matches drinks and desserts like cakes and muffins. Its fluffier foam and mild flavor allow versatility in use.
- The cream has a higher fat content. The cream consists of at least 20% fat, which is much higher than whole milk (about 3.5% fat). However, that does not necessarily mean you should stray away from cream. It contains healthy fats and vitamins that will most likely not harm you for low consumption.
Tips for Frothing Coffee Creamer
1. Invest in a frother
If you want to froth the way your barista does, then investing in the right tools is a must for you. Tools like frothers and steamers create fine microbubbles to create the perfectly smooth foam for your coffee. Here are options that might suit your liking and, most importantly, your wallet.
- Manual frothers require a bit of work as you will be manually moving the filter pump up and down for about 30 seconds. These tools also do not warm the foam, so you have to do that separately (or use it as cold foam).
However, the labor should not discourage you from taking a chance at these tools. Manual frothers like the Ninja Easy Frother are cheaper and more portable than most frothers in the market. Plus, they get the job done just like a professional would
- Handheld frothers are semi-automatic frothers with which you gently plunge a battery-operated frothing wand up and down for at least 15 seconds. Most units only include the frother, so you need a separate container and microwave to froth and heat the creamer or milk.
Handheld frothers are very easy to use, but the upside does not end there. They are also cheap, portable, and multifunctional in some cases. For example, the Laposso Frother comes with varying speed options and replaceable whisks, allowing you to repurpose your frother as a batter mixer.
- Electric frothers feature automatic frothing cycles, built-in heating elements, and temperature control. All you have to do is press a button, wait for the frothing to end, and pour the foam into your cup.
Due to these convenient features, electric frothers come with a heftier price tag. But don’t let that stop you — having a fully-automatic frother like the Nespresso Aeroccino3 is a worthwhile investment in your coffee game.
- Steam wands are built-in coffee machine accessories that push steam from an air intake into the liquid. Using such requires frothing techniques and a sizable budget for an espresso machine. If you have both, there is no stopping you from frothing as professionals do.
Steam wands can be hard for beginners to master. They are typically found built-in to espresso machines, so the price tag can also be prohibitive. If you want to go that route, check out my list of the best budget coffee makers and mid-range espresso machines, many of which built-in milk frothers.
2. Clean your frother before and after use
Avoid bacterial growth or pipe blockage by washing your frother regularly. If you’re using a steam wand, wipe it with a damp cloth and turn the steamer on for at least 10 seconds. Flushing the residue, or purging, leaves your nozzle clean and residue-free.
3. Control your frothing temperature
Temperature plays a huge role in the outcome of your drink. For example, the optimal heat for frothing cow’s milk lies between 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range dissolves the right fat content for a rich, creamy flavor and lactose for a sweeter taste.
Frothing below this range may not fully melt the lactose, making the milk less sweet than it should be. Meanwhile, above this range may expel the fat and denature the protein. The foam becomes dry, flat, and burnt in flavor.
4. Adjust the height of your steam tip
The tip of your steam wand pushes air into the liquid, so how close it is to the liquid surface matters. Start with the steam tip just below the surface and slowly work your way lower to create a proper roll in your liquid. Don’t be alarmed by the ripping sounds, as those indicate air entering the liquid.
Always remember that having the steam tip too deep in your liquid creates large bubbles and splatters. Meanwhile, being too close to the surface prevents your liquid from generating a current. It’s a complex technique to master, but the result is worth the practice!
5. Use slow and steady motions
Too much movement not only creates a big splashing mess but also disrupts the roll in your liquid. And so, large air bubbles may form in the liquid and prevent you from getting light and silky microfoam.
6. Know your ingredients
The contents of your liquid dictate what your frothing technique is. For example, cow’s milk is optimal up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, but soy milk becomes overheated and unpleasant at that temperature.
Your first foam will most likely be not the same as what you get from a professional barista. Still, developing frothing skills takes time and effort. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you froth creamer in K-Cafe?
Can you put Coffee-mate creamer in a frother?
You can froth any liquid creamer, and that includes all varieties of Coffee-mate creamer. Their pump-bottle creamers are extra-thick, though, so you may want to add a bit of milk to thin it out before trying to froth those creamers.
Who knew frothing impacts how your coffee tastes and feels? Not only does the sweet foam balance the bitter base, but it also adds a smooth fizz to every sip. Needless to say, whoever first thought of adding bubbles in their sweetener deserves massive thanks.
Now that we have cleared up frothing, it’s time to focus on the strong coffee base to balance the sweet and light foam. I recommend checking my guide on coffee brewing methods to get an idea of making the base you want.
Which sweetener is your go-to for frothing — milk, coffee creamer, or cream? Let me know in the comments below!