Best Milk Frother of 2021
Time and time again throughout our test period, we found ourselves reaching for the BonsenKitchen handheld frother. This tool has a more forgiving learning curve than many competitors, and we found that with a quick spin, we were able to produce textured milk that was very close to the coveted micro-foam of specialty cafes. The BonsenKitchen was also excellent for quickly mixing powdered drinks that spoons prove woefully inadequate for (we're looking at you, hot chocolate). No more clumps here! Moreover, this frother's shape and weight felt great in hand, and it was easy to wield with control and accuracy.
Somewhat annoyingly, this frother lacks a stand, which often left us looking for creative places to stash it after cleaning. Usually we just resorted to balancing it on the counter, which resulted in a small puddle. You must continuously hold down the power button when using the unit, and the button placement is a bit awkward. It is positioned at the very end of the handle, and it took some hand acrobatics and finesse to find a comfortable and effective way to hold the gadget during operation. Despite these minor drawbacks, we think the BonsenKitchen is your best bet for a handheld milk frother to do it all, and it comes at an impressively low price point to boot.
The Breville the Milk Cafe frother is a hot chocolate drinker's dream come true. Simply place your desired frothing disc for either more or less foam, add milk, select your preferred temperature, and press start. Once the liquid is turning, you can open the lid window to add all the cocoa or drink mix your heart desires. Whichever disc you aren't using stores magnetically on the back of the machine, and the temperature dial lets you select anything from cold to scalding hot. This gadget produces a stiffer froth, making it ideal for those who enjoy drier textured milk.
Where the Breville primarily falls short is in texture customization. If you're hoping to replicate the cafe-quality microfoam, you will enjoy a handheld frother, such as the BonsenKitchen or Zulay. On the other end of the spectrum, the Milk Cafe also can't aerate as aggressively as handheld models. Simply put, this is not the right product for you if you are hoping to make a beverage that is 90% foam. Furthermore, this unit is by no means cheap. Still, we think that the Breville strikes a perfect balance between convenience and quality textured froth for most people. No need to heat your milk over the stove or in the microwave — you can do it all in this machine.
The Ninja Easy Frother is a plunger-style frother that dominated the field of its similar styled counterparts. Its plunger has a unique, multi-layered screen that aerated milk quickly and left it with a thick and creamy texture. Much like the Breville, this frother makes drier textured milk without being too bubbly. We appreciated the handgrip and rubber base on the Ninja, which made it feel stable during use, and the convenient measuring marks on the side of the glass made portion control and operation easy.
Like handheld models, plunger models do not include a heating element, so you'll need to heat the milk beforehand. It could also be pretty messy pulling the lid and plunger out of the pitcher; we quickly learned this was a task best done over the sink. Furthermore, the pitcher was just a bit too narrow to fit a hand inside, thus requiring a bottle brush, dishwasher, or some creativity to clean it effectively. The ultra-fine mesh screens and plunging action of this style of frother caused it to fall short in our mixing tests. Overall, the Ninja Easy Frother is an excellent choice for those seeking a silent frother that doesn't require power to use — so long as you're not too picky about your milk texture.
The Elementi might require a double take after you see its value-based low price. This tool packed a vast punch and performed admirably in everything from texturing milk to whipping a single serving of cream. After some practice, we were able to finesse our milk into something closely resembling micro-foam and even pour some basic latte art. We found the Elementi's included stand to be a convenient addition that made it easy to keep accessible on the counter and provided an excellent place for it to dry after washing.
The Elementi's impressive power also comes with a relatively steep learning curve. We sprayed more than one drink all over the kitchen when first learning to use this thing. At first glance, its design is strikingly similar to the Zulay and PowerLix frothers, with a button on the end of the handle that must be continuously held down during operation. Much like on the BonsenKitchen, this button placement makes wielding it with accuracy and control somewhat challenging at first. For anyone looking for a great all-purpose handheld frother (and who doesn't mind a bit of a learning curve), we found the Elementi is an excellent choice.
Regarding texture quality, the Capresso Froth Pro blew other heating frothers out of the water. It produced the closest thing to micro-foam, and we appreciated that this model also gives users the option of choosing between more or less foam, with three options for heated beverages and one cold froth option. The interface on this unit allows you to choose between cold, hot, and warm options. Finally, the Froth Pro is affordable for a heated frother, especially when compared to high-end models like the Breville or Nespresso.
However, because it produced a thick and silky texture, the Capresso came up short in our mixing and aeration tests. The device can't provide the type of aeration needed to create a drier cappuccino. In our mixing test, we attempted to mix a packet of hot chocolate mix into cold whole milk. After setting this machine to its cold froth setting and letting it run, we still found unincorporated chunks of cocoa mix. Nonetheless, we believe this frother is more than capable of meeting most users' needs. For a model that can both froth and heat, the Capresso is an especially excellent budget option.
Are you looking for something primarily for mixing? The PowerLix MilkPro crushed the competition in our mixing test, thoroughly combining an entire packet of hot cocoa mix with cold milk in less than 10 seconds. This handheld frother is even powerful enough to whip up some tasty Dalgona coffee in no time. After some fine-tuning of our technique, we could also get darn close to micro-foam texture in our hot milk. To make storage and drying after cleaning simple, the PowerLix also comes with a stand.
The same power that makes this a high-performance frother for mixing and whipping can also make it a bit unruly at times. It took some practice to harness the power and avoid spraying our tasty beverage everywhere. The button placement at the end of the handle also makes for challenging ergonomics. The Powerlix lacks a heating element, which adds an additional step to enjoy hot drinks. We think this frother is an excellent choice for users looking to do a lot of mixing and whipping, and with a bit of attention, it works great for regular milk texturing, as well.
The Zulay handheld milk frother came in a close second to the BonsenKitchen. While this frother looks nearly identical to the Powerlix and Elementi, it had a noticeably lower learning curve. We were quickly able to get fine enough texture to pour basic latte art, but could also change the technique a bit to yield fluffy, dry foam. The Zulay comes with a convenient stand and is overall an excellent option.
This frother came up short because it was slightly more challenging to get that silky micro-foam texture than with the BonsenKitchen. As with other similarly designed frothers, the button placement felt uncomfortable, slightly impeding our ability to finesse our milk's texture. Despite these minor drawbacks, we think the Zulay frother is an excellent choice for any handheld milk frother application and highly recommend it.
The Frothy handheld milk frother was a pleasant change from the models that require the user to hold down a button to maintain operation. This model utilizes a user-friendly two-speed switch that promotes better ergonomics and texture control. At the lower speed, we found the Frothy to be easy to use and produce good textured milk. The higher speed took a bit more practice, but rewarded us with a texture ideal for latte art, and it was great for whipping and mixing. Though this model lacks a stand, it can easily be stood on end when not in use.
The Frothy's larger whisk made this model feel more robust when in use, especially when operating at higher speeds. Due to the nature of the whisk, this model had a steeper learning curve comparable to PowerLix or Elementi. The handle has a box-like shape, which was a little uncomfortable in hand. Overall, for those who want a bit more control over speed and orientation, the Frothy milk frother is an excellent option.
For dry cappuccino devotees, look no further than the Nespresso Aeroccino4. This machine can texture just enough milk for a small latte or cappuccino and creates a drier foam that is still thick and creamy. The Aeroccino4's interface was easy to understand, with four settings to choose from depending on temperature and how much foam you want. This frother is also nearly silent during operation, so there is no need to worry about waking the light sleepers in your household.
One of the most noticeable tradeoffs with this product is its small capacity. You'll probably want to check out an option like the Breville or Capresso if you're primarily heating milk for drinks like hot cocoa and chai. We found a film tended to collect at the bottom of the pitcher, necessitating a wash between uses rather than just a quick rinse. The Nespresso Aeroccino4 is also a higher-end item with a higher price to match. This isn't the right frother for everyone, but if you love good, dry foam, this is definitely the one for you.
The Secura F280R is another great and affordable option that can both froth and heat. It allows you to texture enough milk to fill your favorite mug, and it is easy to simply rinse between batches to make beverages for the whole family. The texture this frother creates is best suited for dry cappuccinos and fluffy lattes. The single-button interface changes colors depending on which program you have selected and flashes it momentarily for confirmation before starting.
The user interface of the Secura is a bit less intuitive than comparable models. We found ourselves repeatedly consulting the user manual to confirm which setting we wanted and how many times we needed to press the button to achieve it. This model also lacks the ability to customize your beverage's temperature any further than selecting between hot and cold, and your froth options are limited to the presets. Still, Secura was a welcome addition to our kitchen counter, and we think it is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a convenient way to heat and texture their milk.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our milk frother testing was spearheaded by longtime barista and GearLab Research Analyst, Michelle Powell. Having spent over a decade working in the specialty coffee industry as a barista, cafe manager, and even competing in the Barista Championship circuit, Michelle has an incredibly nuanced understanding of the process of texturing milk and the variety of ways people like to drink it. In her work for GearLab, Michelle has tested and assessed hundreds of kitchen appliances, including a wide variety of coffee gear. Her extensive coffee industry experience, coupled with a refined analytical approach to evaluating gear, makes her an ideal leader for our expert team.
In crafting our test plan for milk frothers, we considered what specific qualities and performance attributes mattered most to a wide variety of users and weighted them based on overall importance. We scored these products based on four distinct metrics: aeration, texture, mixing, and ease of use. We textured everything from half 'n half to flavored creamer to oat milk to ensure we gained the most well-rounded understanding of each frother's strengths and weaknesses. We measured the maximum aeration each machine was capable of and tried our best to replicate the coveted micro-foam texture characteristic of high-end cafes and pour latte art with it. Having purchased all of these units, we were able to put them through this regimen of tests side-by-side and provide direct comparisons.
Analysis and Test Results
To break down exactly what makes a good milk frother, we evaluated them based on four specific metrics: aeration, texture, mixing, and ease of use.
To test each frother's aeration capabilities, we measured the maximum volume increase each tool was capable of. The handheld frothers wholly dominated this test with the Elementi, PowerLix, and Zulay tied in the top position. These frothers were able to triple the volume of milk, leaving barely any liquid behind at all. The Elementi was able to froth incredibly fast due to its impressive amount of power. This also means that these top scorers excel at other aeration-related tasks, such as making a single serving of whipped cream or a tasty dalgona coffee.
Of the froth and heat models, the Breville Milk Cafe achieved a significantly larger volume increase than the other models, almost doubling the volume of milk we put into it. This makes it a fantastic option for anyone looking to get maximum froth with the convenience of a unit that can simultaneously heat their beverage. To round things out, the Ninja Easy Frother was the best plunger model we tested. Within just a few pumps, the Ninja doubled the volume of milk. This performance was far superior to any of the other plunger models, where we felt like we were just endlessly plunging away and not getting very far.
In our texture tests, we compared milk from frothers side-by-side with milk steamed on a proper espresso machine. We attempted both micro-foam for pouring latte art and dry foam for fluffy cappuccinos and put in the time to perfect the technique for each. The BonsenKitchen handheld frother easily leads the pack. With just a quick spin, we were able to produce latte art-worthy texture with this tool. Hold the button down for slightly longer, and you have a mountain of fluffy yet thick foam. Tied for second place were the Zulay and Frothy handheld models. These two frothed milk fine enough for latte art but landed just shy of micro-foam.
The Capresso Froth Pro produced the highest quality texture of all the heating models. While not quite fine enough to pour art, the Capresso still made texture that held up well over time, with a luxurious and creamy mouthfeel. We found that the Nespresso frother also did an excellent job. The Nespresso nails it for dry cappuccinos, with slightly fluffier milk than the Capresso.
One of the best uses we found for handheld frothers was mixing. Stubborn powdered creamers and superfood mixes were no match for a quick spin from any handheld models. The PowerLix and Elementi were the two models that performed best for this metric. The same power that can make these two a little more challenging to use enables them to absolutely pulverize almost anything you want to be mixed into your beverage within seconds. We even used these to whip up single portions of whipped cream and silky smooth dalgona coffees without a single arm cramp.
Froth and heat models also did a great job of mixing our favorite clumpy things into various types of milk. We found that because these models' mixing action isn't quite as aggressive, they struggled to incorporate powders into cold milk. That being said, the Breville Milk Cafe came darn close and was able to mix an entire packet of hot cocoa mix into cold milk on its cold froth setting with almost no clumps left over. Plunger models were the least effective for mixing, and we would not recommend them to someone who is also seeking mixing abilities from their frother.
Ease of Use
Last but certainly not least, we meticulously evaluated the ease of use of each tool. Some had an incredibly steep learning curve, while others were about as convenient as an appliance could be. In this regard, the Breville Milk Cafe blew everything else out of the water. With a simple dial to select your preferred temperature, a single start/stop button, and easily accessible magnetic storage for the other frothing disc in the back, this frother seamlessly fits into whatever your beverage routine is. Cleaning was a cinch thanks to dishwasher-safe components and a base that was easy to wipe down.
There was considerably more variation in the ease of use of handheld and plunger-style frothers. The Frothy pulled ahead of the handheld pack with its easy to operate switch, two speed settings, and short learning period to achieve delicious texture. The Ninja Easy Frother was the easiest plunger-style frother to use, with convenient grips on the body and base, helpful marks on the glass to know how much to fill it and how high to pump, and a unique plunger design that textured milk in record time. We also appreciated that the Ninja could be popped in the microwave, thus eliminating the need for a separate container to heat your beverage.
Our expert team researched countless milk frothers, then bought and tested the best to bring you a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of their merits and shortcomings. We pitted the different styles against each other to find out precisely what applications each one excelled in. It is our sincere hope that our extensive testing and analysis equips you to choose the best milk frother to make all your beverage dreams come true.
— Michelle Powell