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What Milk To Use For Espresso? [A Quick Guide]

The cohesive taste of milk and espresso has long been an amazing duo for a wide variety of coffee recipes.

The sweet and creamy taste of milk, along with the strong and robust flavor of coffee, makes a wide range of coffee shop favorite beverages such as cappuccino, latte, and macchiato. However, there are a lot of choices of what milk to use for espresso?

There are a plethora of milk variants available in the market, and choosing the wrong one to use in your espresso can easily alter the taste of your brew.

There are so much thought put into choosing the right type of coffee beans, the roasting process, the type of grind, and the brewing process involved in making espresso, however, do you have any idea what milk to use for espresso?


Espresso-based Recipes that Use Milk

  • Cappuccino follows a 1:1:1 ratio for its foamed milk, steamed milk, and espresso proportions
  • Latte recipes use one shot of espresso and fill the rest of the cup with steamed milk
  • Macchiato uses a single shot of espresso with a dash of foamed milk on top
  • A flat white follows a 1: 3 proportion for its espresso and steamed milk.

Choosing What Milk To Use For Espresso

The science behind the frothing compatibility of any kind of milk simply depends on two things: the fat and protein content of the milk variant.

While the general rule of thumb for milk is that more fat means a richer and creamier taste, there are actually several milk types that are highly suitable and others that should be avoided at all costs.

The Good

  • Dairy Milk – Whole milk is the best choice when it comes to making cappuccinos and lattes as it is characterized by the right balance of fats, proteins, sugars, and water. This combination produces a smooth microfoam without being extremely heavy and creamy.
  • Almond Milk – Almond milk creates a nice rich foam that is relatively sweet to the taste. It is not ideal to use for latte art compared to whole milk, but it is one of the best when it comes to flavor and taste.
  • Oat Milk – Another new alternative to dairy milk, oat milk, is characterized by lighter protein content relative to fat, which creates a fantastic foam that can be highly likened to real milk. It also features a smooth, sweet, and creamy texture that can also be used for latte art. The only downside is that oat milk is not as available compared to other milk variants.

The Bad

  • Cashew Milk – While cashew milk has become a trend these days, it is not ideal for any steaming or frothing as it does not develop a firm and resilient foam. Furthermore, processing cashew milk develops a bitter and flat taste.

How To Treat Your Milk for Espresso

Do Not Overheat Your Milk

Even though steaming milk is meant to heat the milk to a certain degree, it is important not to overheat your milk in any way.

Steaming milk past 100-degree Celsius will cause some browning, which will cause the lactose and milk proteins to develop an Amadori product. This Amadori product can result in dehydration and oxidation reactions that would ultimately lead to the loss of the nutritional components and flavor compounds of the milk.

Keep It at Right Temperature

Temperature plays an important role in any food-related process. When it comes to dealing with milk, heating milk at a certain temperature level can affect the fat molecules in the milk is important in stabilizing the formation of foam during the steaming process.

Generally, milk with higher fat content can hold a more stable foam even at levels below room temperature, while milk with low-fat content is better at handling foam at higher temperatures.

Tips in Handling Milk to Steam and Froth

  • The ideal temperature for steaming milk in a personal espresso machine is somewhere between 150-degree Fahrenheit and 155-degree Fahrenheit.
  • Generally, café’s serve coffee drinks at 155-degree Fahrenheit to 165-degree Fahrenheit
  • Remember to preheat your cups and espresso machines before using to keep the milk at the right temperature
  • The key factor in producing a nice froth is to use fresh, cold milk. It is ideal to use milk straight out of the refrigerator and to start frothing quickly
  • Never leave your milk out on the counter after use, as leaving it out for long periods could affect the freshness of the milk.

How To Steam Milk for Espresso

  • Pour cold milk to a cold or room temperature steaming pitcher. Keep in mind not to use milk more than twice the volume of your beverage. Generally, the ideal ratio is about 80% of the drink is milk, while the rest is for the espresso.
  • Before steaming, don’t forget to purge the steam wand first to get rid of condensed water that could’ve collected in the wand tip
  • Slowly submerge the steam wand so that the tip is resting right below the surface of the milk in a slightly off-centered position.
  • At this point, steadily move your steaming pitcher in order to allow small sips of air into the milk by letting the steam wand come up to the surface.
  • Once the milk starts to gain some volume, and the pitcher warms up to the touch, submerge your steam wand fully to create larger whirlpool motion in your pitcher.
  • By the time that the steaming pitcher becomes too hot, turn your steam wand off and set your pitcher aside.
  • Before pouring your steamed milk, make sure to tap out any small bubbles present on the surface and give your pitcher a quick swirl.


Choosing what milk to use for espresso is just as important as choosing what type of coffee bean to use for your brew.

While most budding coffee enthusiasts would overlook this fact, it is important for every coffee lover this so that they can pay more attention to the type of milk they use on their coffee.

Make sure to opt for milk that is suitable for your recipe to make that perfect-tasting coffee.