Heating up milk at the office
May 19, 2011 8:13 PM   Subscribe

How can I heat up milk for my coffee at work and without a microwave or stovetop? Is there some kind of stand-alone gadget that will heat (not just froth) milk, while being office-appropriate?

We have a standard coffee maker on our floor at work, but I usually make my own coffee with a french press (using hot water from the spout on the coffee maker--not ideal, but works okay). I'm no coffee snob, just not a huge fan of the stuff at the office.

I don't like putting cold milk in my coffee, so every morning I run down several flights of stairs to the one microwave in the building and heat up the milk, and then either wait for the elevator or run back up the stairs to add it to my coffee. This is a chore I could do without at the beginning of the day, when I'm trying to get settled at my desk. Plus, it seems like by the time I get back to my desk, either the milk has cooled off or the coffee has. Worst of all, our microwave doesn't get cleaned very often and always smells like someone's Lean Cuisine.

I'm wondering if there's a way to heat up the milk without running downstairs to the microwave. There's no kitchen on my floor, just the coffee maker, so no stove top or anything.

I've seen this Froth Au Lait MINI Milk Frother and this Capresso FrothPRO Automatic Milk Frother, which seem to be what I'm looking for. But are gadgets like this too extreme for the workplace? (Not too mention a bit pricey for this purpose!) I'm not sure it would be okay to use something noisy or obtrusive, especially since I'm a cubicle jockey and can't close a door.

Are there any smaller options, or should I just suck it up and stick to the microwave?
posted by pourtant to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man! One of my ex-coworkers had an electric mug warmer. It was so handy... maybe I'll pick one up! :D
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:15 PM on May 19, 2011

(As you can see, there are more like that on amazon, that was just the first one that popped up for me.)
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:18 PM on May 19, 2011

Immersion heater?
posted by The Deej at 8:20 PM on May 19, 2011

An immersion heater and a tall narrow coffee cup (like these fancy Irish Coffee cups) to minimize wasted milk.
posted by Mitheral at 8:24 PM on May 19, 2011

Just heat the milk up on your way into the building. Put it in a thermal mug and dispense it from there later. My thermal mug keeps tea hot for hours.
posted by marylynn at 8:28 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Those immersion heaters seem pretty awesome. In case it's not what you need though, maybe a heated mug?
posted by funnyinternetmemereference at 8:35 PM on May 19, 2011

Mug warmers don't seem all that different to me from electric candle warmers. A quick googling suggests candle warmers might even be cheaper. (And usually have auto shutoff, which would be good for not burning your office down.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:37 PM on May 19, 2011

The immersion heater would be good, though it would probably get pretty gross from the milk, I think it'd dry on the metal immediately after you took it out of the liquid, even if you intended to rinse it right away. What I'd do is bring in a little jar of dry milk and use the immersion coil to heat the water and then add in an appropriate amount of dry milk.
posted by lemniskate at 8:57 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

i might be mistaken, but isn't the warmer plate on a coffee maker pretty much the same as a mug warmer? and it won't heat up your desk. you could buy a small coffee maker for your cubicle, let the water run through and put it in the press, and then heat a bit of milk in the pot while the coffee brews. the milk could be cleaned up by swishing a little more hot water through right after.
posted by ilk at 9:18 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a Nespresso Aeroccino, and while it is pricey, it also operates with virtually no sound. I've tried it at work and at home and it is very quiet. The Capresso is a bit less expensive and sounds like it might meet your needs.
posted by mogget at 9:35 PM on May 19, 2011

My first thought was an immersion heater, but they're meant for water only. Not sure about the safety/cleanliness factor of using them in milk.

My second thought was that you could bring hot milk to work with you in a small stainless steel thermos. I've owned two of these for years, and they rock. If you preheat the thermos with boiling water before putting the hot milk in it, it'll stay hot for a very long time.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 9:56 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

My own (admittedly imperfect) solution to this problem is to warm up my mug first with hot water from the tap on the coffee maker and let it sit there warming up the mug while the coffee brews. Takes the icy edge off, at least.
posted by lvanshima at 10:13 PM on May 19, 2011

Powdered milk made with the hot water. This is what I do. You can get powered whole milk with fat in it, if you want fat in your coffee (it makes it taste better to me).
posted by fifilaru at 10:13 PM on May 19, 2011

Hot milk in a thermos seems like the simplest, least messy, least 'weird guy in the office'-y to me.

But... if you're going to bring hot milk in a thermos, you might as well just make the coffee the way you like it at home, and bring that to work in a thermos. (Especially if you're only making coffee in the morning anyway.)
posted by Kololo at 10:22 PM on May 19, 2011

Can you use one of those mug warmers with a metal milk frothing pot? to heat it faster?

You CAN NOT put an Immersion heater into milk!
Immersion heaters get really hot - above 100C - and so will burn the milk that it is in contact with.
posted by mary8nne at 4:03 AM on May 20, 2011

Oh just remembered - I used to do this all the time at home.

WATER BATH METHOD: If you have a metal jug for the milk and a bowl slightly larger as a water bath. Fill the large bowl with hot water. And stick your metal milk jug in the water bath. let it sit for a few minutes. I used to do this all the time when i was too lazy to 'froth' my milk.

you can get the milk up to about 30-40C pretty easily this way which I find is enough to avoid cold coffee.
posted by mary8nne at 4:08 AM on May 20, 2011

Response by poster: The mug warmer might be the easiest idea, but would it actually heat cold milk to a reasonably warm temperature? I've tried putting my mug on one of the coffee maker's burners while it's heating, and it basically makes the bottom of the mug really hot, but doesn't affect the liquid in the mug.

I've done the thermos thing in the past, but my commute is about a half hour (walking + subway) and nothing seems to be hot by the time I get to work. Granted, I'm not using a very serious thermos, so I suppose I could invest in a better one and try it.
posted by pourtant at 5:27 AM on May 20, 2011

FWIW for the frothing part, I've had excellent results with this frother. Build quality is good, and it's much cheaper than I've seen similar ones locally for. Takes a little while to come in the mail though as they ship from Hong Kong.

At home, I usually heat up milk in the microwave and then froth from there.

I have a USB mug warmer and confirm that it doesn't do too much in terms of keeping coffee warm; I don't think one would heat the milk enough, unless you get one that's significantly beefier than mine.
posted by reptile at 5:44 AM on May 20, 2011

You could get a glass fish tank heater. They will get hot enough for your purposes and because they are glass are much easier to clean. It looks much cooler too.
posted by JJ86 at 5:59 AM on May 20, 2011

Best answer: This thermos will ABSOLUTELY keep your milk hot for 30 minutes. I have two of them. I can actually no longer drink hot tea from it because it never. got. cold. I left my hot tea for almost 24 hours and when I checked the next morning, it was still steaming, the thermometer read 140 degrees after an entire day. I'd say they'll do the trick.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:02 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have the same Thermos as ThaBombShelterSmith and it makes it through a hour long Minnesota walk + bus in the dead of winter with hot coffee until lunch time. It may go longer, but I haven't tested it.
posted by advicepig at 7:13 AM on May 20, 2011

I bought this Nissan Stainless Thermos a couple years back and it's great. One recommendation for when you're making french-press coffee for work: pour any extra hot water into the thermos and seal it in until your coffee's ready. Then just pour out that water, add cream/sugar/coffee to the thermos and you're all set - the prewarmed thermos will give you hotter coffee once you get to work.
posted by ethand at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2011

Baby bottle / baby food warmer.

My primary problem with these devices for heating baby bottles is that it is too easy for the contents to get too hot depending on the starting temperature since most of them are time based. This seems ideal for your use, however.
posted by rocketpup at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2011

This is the specific travel mug I use for my tea and it keeps it so scalding that if I want to actually drink the tea I have to take the entire lid off. The downside is you probably couldn't put it directly into a microwave, but you could heat the milk at home some other way and I bet it would keep hot through the whole day.
posted by marylynn at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2011

An unsightly but cheap and general solution: electric water kettle in which you boil water plus small jam jar full of milk that you drop into the cold water before you turn the kettle on.
Bonus, you can pour off the boiling water for oatmeal.
posted by aimedwander at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2011

We bought this hot chocolate maker for my grandfather (he would make hot chocolate every morning and we started to notice the stove being left on) for christmas and it seems to work great. I realize it is kind of expensive but I think there are cheaper ones available.

It doesn't take up very much counter space so could probably fit pretty easily on a desk and it doesn't make noise like the frothers do.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:01 PM on May 20, 2011

Ok after looking at it more closely apparently it does froth, interesting. Well I'll say I've never really noticed a lot of noise coming from it.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:03 PM on May 20, 2011

Is there any reason you couldn't buy a microwave for the coffee area? They're pretty cheap at big box stores, and you can put yourself in charge of wiping it out every day so it doesn't get gross (Clorox-type wipes work wonders for this). Might be easier/cheaper/less weird than any of the above methods.
posted by radioamy at 1:21 PM on May 20, 2011

Response by poster: Radioamy, there's really no room for a microwave, since there's not really a kitchen area. It's just a coffee maker and and mini-fridge, so I need to keep any other "equipment" at my cubicle.

I think I'll try a more serious thermos first.

I'm also wondering if I could fill a small metal jug with milk and put that on the burner of the coffee maker to warm it up. I've tried putting my ceramic mug on it, but only the bottom actually gets hot. I wonder if I'd get a better result with the metal though...
posted by pourtant at 7:58 PM on May 20, 2011

Response by poster: The thermos worked pretty well. It might not be a long term solution, since I can't comfortably fit even a small thermos in my purse, but it beats investing in a pricey gadget.
posted by pourtant at 5:51 PM on May 23, 2011

« Older baby birds, nest, robin, death   |   Please help me navigate the waters of fashion in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.