Easy to use, clean, and store; versatile; and affordable.
There isn’t much we don’t like about this little gadget.
A simple, low-cost tool for producing coffee-bar foam from a variety of milks. One caveat: Soy was the one milk least likely to achieve a stable foam.
Milk foam, says food scientist Harold McGee, is milk with a portion of the liquid filled with air bubbles so it holds its shape on coffee drinks. Milk foams are usually made using the steam nozzle on an espresso machine, but not every cappuccino or latte drinker can afford a $1,500 countertop machine. How about a battery-operated gadget that costs less than $20? We picked up an Aerolatte steam-free milk frother to see if it would give our morning beverage of choice an acceptably foamy lift.
The Aerolatte is a hand-held milk frother powered by a couple of AA batteries (included). It measures just under 9 inches long, and at 8 ounces (including the batteries), it feels light. Ours is the Satin edition, stainless steel with a low-gloss finish (other options include Chrome, Black, and straight-up Stainless). It has a thin shaft that ends in a flat, circular whisk for creating air bubbles, a hold-down On button, and that’s about it. Aerolatte says its little frother foams both cold and hot milks in 20 to 30 seconds. Cleaning is rinse only (no immersion of the handle), and it comes with a five-year warranty against factory defects.
We did eight tests with our Aerolatte. We frothed hot and cold 1/3-cup portions of cow’s milk (whole, low-fat, and skim), as well as soy and almond milks. We frothed two test portions of cold heavy cream: 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons. We used the Aerolatte to whip up CHOW’s Amaretto Hot Chocolate, and even threw it a savory curve ball in the form of an emulsified Dijon Vinaigrette.
The Aerolatte’s instructions say to froth liquids when they’re cold, or else heat them to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Our cold milks were refrigerator cold (just under 40 degrees Fahrenheit); the hot ones we microwaved for 30 seconds to achieve 140 degrees. We frothed following the manufacturer's instructions, starting with the whisk head at the bottom of the liquid, then lifting as the froth rose to keep the spinning head just beneath the surface for 15 to 20 seconds.
Whole milk: Both hot and cold tests yielded thick, stable froths.
Low-fat milk: Good results hot and cold.
Skim milk: Good results hot and cold, even though the hot sample took a little longer and was not quite as foamy as the cold. We also frothed a bonus combo of cold skim milk and chocolate syrup—it blended nicely and showed slight froth.
Soy milk: This was the most unstable liquid in our tests. The hot milk was slightly better than the cold, but the froth on both samples dissipated quickly. Then we tried a different brand of soy milk; it was better but not nearly as stable as our cow’s milk samples.
Almond milk: Good results with both hot and cold.
Heavy cream: Whipped cream was the goal. The 1/3-cup test whipped after three minutes but was a bit dense; the 2-tablespoon test was much faster, and the cream much lighter and fluffier.
Hot chocolate: The Aerolatte was great at integrating the chocolate as it melted into the milk and cream. The results were superfrothy. We also found that it worked best with chocolate that started out melted; when we tried to melt solid chocolate into the milk and cream, bits became stuck in the whisk.
Vinaigrette: Even with little bits of shallot, the Aerolatte emulsified the ingredients easily and nicely (the shallot pieces didn’t get stuck in the whisk).
General stuff: We love this easy-to-use tool. It’s inexpensive, has a small footprint so it’s easy to store, and cleans up fast under running water. Like an immersion blender, you can use it in any mug, glass, bowl, or pot, and can froth or blend a range of liquids. We found ourselves reaching for it often, even after our formal testing was done. (Did somebody mention chai tea lattes?)
Photos by Chris Rochelle