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Milk Frother vs Steam Wand: Which is Better?

13 October 2021
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If you’re not a purist who believes that coffee must be purely black to be enjoyed, and if you can’t resist adding milk to your brew, then read on.

Milk makes coffee creamier and less bitter, and with it, you can experiment with a lot more flavours and a range of options, from lattes to cappuccinos and a range of other dairy-infused beverages.

In short, milk makes the idea of coffee way more fun. So here’s the big question, for something that features milk foam, like a cappuccino, which is better: a milk frother or a steam wand? Let’s dive in.

What’s the Difference?

foamed milk made from a milk frother
Milk frothers vs steam wands: the former is a cheaper option that’s also portable versus a steam wand which is a feature that’s part of a bigger machine. Photo from aerolatte.

A milk frother is a small utensil or machine that’s used to create milk froth. The process involves aerating the milk through movements such as pushing and spinning at high speeds.

Milk frothers can be automatic, handheld, or manual. Using one produces bubbles that increase the milk’s volume, making it fluffy and light, thus adding a layer of texture and flavour to your coffee.

a person frothing milk using the steam wand from an espresso machine
Espresso machines with built-in steam wands are perfect for home brewers that prefer a hands-on experience. Featuring the De’Longhi Dedica Style. Photo from De’Longhi.

On the other hand, steam wands are part of a coffee machine, usually an espresso machine.

This wand is a slim, protruding pipe that sticks out from one end near the coffee showerhead or group head and is internally connected to the machine’s boiler. Steam from the boiler moves through the pipe and is released through the nozzle holes on the steam wand.

Aside from things like how one is a standalone device while the other is attached to a machine, there are two key differences to note between a milk frother and a steam wand.

Firstly, creating cold foam with a milk frother is entirely possible. However, with a steam wand, since it only works with hot steam, it can only produce warm foam.

Secondly, a steam wand gives you steamed milk, which is different from frothed milk. Steamed milk has a foamy texture but isn’t as textured as frothed milk. It’s important to note, though, that by holding the pitcher the right way, you can also froth milk with a steam wand, but this requires some skill and practice.

Do Both With the Steam Wand

a person pouring latte art
Perfectly frothed milk created by a steam wand makes espresso-based drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos, delightful. Featuring the De’Longhi La Specialista Prestigio. Photo from De’Longhi.

There isn’t a clear winner here, and it depends solely on your preference and needs. If you’re on a tight budget and want something simple without thinking about technique, pick up a milk frother.

If you’re more particular about your milk-based coffees and want to play around with creating a whole array of drinks, then pick an espresso machine with a steam wand because it can give you both frothed and steamed milk.

If a steam wand appeals to you more, the La Specialista Prestigio and the Dedica Style both have the feature.

The former is larger and designed for coffee drinkers who want the most control (and love practising latte art creations). In comparison, the latter is a sleek, ultra-compact espresso machine that takes up minimal space on your kitchen counter and allows you to brew a variety of drinks in the comfort of your own home.

No Fuss, No Muss: Go Automatic

a cup of coffee made from an espresso machine
Enjoy a dense creamy froth for all your milk-based beverages with a fully automatic coffee machine. Featuring the De’Longhi Dinamica Plus. Photo from De’Longhi.

Can’t decide between a steam wand and a milk frother?

You can still get your milk-based coffee creations easily. Just pick from De’Longhi’s fully automatic coffee machines selection, such as the Magnifica S Smart, the Dinamica Plus, the PrimaDonna Elite, and the Maestosa.

You get perfectly frothed milk each time, no skills required and completely fuss-free.

Ready to shop for an espresso machine? Enjoy 5% off the De’Longhi eShop when you sign up for De’Longhi Rewards today.

This article features Dedica Style

This article features La Specialista Prestigio

This article features Dinamica Plus

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