Frothing milk with an espresso machine’s steaming wand is not particularly difficult, once you get the hang of it. It is, however, messy.
There’s a wand to clean, a steaming pitcher to take care of, etc. If I’ve got friends over, or if I’m in the mood for a tasty cappuccino, sure, it’s more than worth the effort. But what about when I just want a single bowl of café au lait to enjoy with my morning newspaper?
Battery-operated milk frothers have always intrigued me. Instead of whipping up foam with steam, as does a traditional espresso-machine steaming wand, they whip air into the hot milk, providing a simple milk foam for similarly simple drinks.
To be clear, a battery-powered milk frothing wand can’t replace the careful artistry of crafting the perfect foam for a decadent cappuccino. If that’s the kind of beautiful, steamed-to-perfection foam you’re looking for, you’re going to need to invest in a real espresso machine with a real steaming wand.
What the Ikea milk frother does do, however, is make one hell of a quick batch of foam for a bowl of café au lait. Just heat the milk in the microwave to the desired temperature, insert the tip of the milk frother into the hot milk, turn it on, and watch as it spins around, magically churning up a layer of foam. It doesn’t take long at all.
The downside? Build quality. This thing not only IS cheap, but it FEELS cheap, too. The little metal wand sometimes comes apart from the motor unit, and the battery compartment is very specific about which AA batteries it likes. It’s finicky, but that’s what you get when you pay $4 for a milk frother.
BONUS! NEAROF!’s quick and easy café au lait recipe
- Brew some strong coffee. Dark roasts are ideal.
- Fill a café au lait bowl (or other type of bowl) a bit more than a third full of milk.
- Zap milk in the microwave until it reaches the right temperature (in the 150 F range).
- Submerge the tip of the frothing wand in the hot milk, turn it on, and build the volume of the foam so that the bowl is a little more than half full of milk and foam.
- Top up the bowl with coffee. Add sugar, if that’s your inclination.
- Enjoy your morning newspaper. (Or newspaper website. Or iPad edition. It’s all good.)
RATINGS AND DETAILS
Cost: About $4. For realsies.
Value for cash money: Great, even though the build quality is cheap. Don’t expect it to last you the rest of your life (unless you live dangerously).
Availability: Ikea, obviously. Other brands can be found at kitchen shops.
The verdict: Absolutely worth it for what it does. As long as you don’t expect it to produce the same results as an espresso machine, it’s not a bad little kitchen gadget.