Ask the milkman, white with foam.
July 18, 2014 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Is there something I could add to whole milk that would make it froth better without affecting it negatively in some other way?

My milk can't quite get it up when I try to froth it. The web tells me that it's protein in the milk that makes it foam. Before you tell me that I should buy my milk elsewhere if my local store sells me protein-deficient milk, that's not what I'm asking. What I want to know is if I can add something, e.g. casein, to it and fix the problem. One website, probably crackpot, says that casein promotes cancer, hence the second part of my question. I want this additive to not affect the taste or other properties of the milk negatively. Just to make it froth better.
posted by Obscure Reference to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What are you using to froth it? I've never heard of putting additives in milk to make it foam up better, but little changes to technique can make a huge difference.
posted by catalytics at 6:15 AM on July 18, 2014

I'm using an electric milk frother and then microwaving to heat it up. This used to work well in the past.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:21 AM on July 18, 2014

I use cream of tartar when making a meringue. It stabilizes the egg whites and makes them more firm. That wikipedia article also says it's used in whipped cream, so it might work for whole milk.

I don't think it would affect the milk, but I can't really taste it when I use it in a meringue. It takes very little to be effective. Like maybe a quarter teaspoon for 4-6 egg whites, so don't overdo it.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2014

Heat first, froth later. Warm milk will froth better than cold.
posted by phunniemee at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Adding a small amount of solids might help. You could get milk powder and add a little bit before you start. Also fresher milk froths better.
posted by aka burlap at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2014

Warm the milk before frothing, say 30 secs in the microwave, froth, then heat to desired temp, the heat stabilizes the foam. Add a little cream or half and half, that can help too. If it's only recently stopped happening changes in cows diets can alter milk protein levels, so the change from winter feed to summer feed is probably the culprit.
posted by wwax at 7:37 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Could you add malted milk powder?
posted by spunweb at 7:54 AM on July 18, 2014

My experience is that heated mild froths worse, possibly because it breaks down some of the protein. The web says that fat works against frothing. Malted milk powder tastes, uh, malted.
Cream of tarter sounds interesting.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:16 AM on July 18, 2014

UC Davis's Diary Research Center (links to a .doc) says:

one way of improving the frothing capacity of milk is to heat it and cool it before trying to froth it

They also say that it's the whey protein that makes it froth, so I wonder if an unflavored/unsweetened whey protein powder would help?
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2014

I used to work in a coffee shop. When using a steam wand to do it, skim milk froths much more than whole milk (and produces almost "crispy" foam, rather than the soft peaks of whole milk's foam). Have you experimented with 2% or skim milk? Even mixing a little of one of those with your whole might make a difference.
posted by belladonna at 11:10 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this would be easier with warm milk if you are using full-fat, however if you heat milk over 140 F it denatures the proteins and you won't be able to froth with any device. Aim for 105 F. If you are using low-fat (not recommended because it makes a thin and coarse foam), it froths more easily at cold temperatures.

Look for dried milk powder if you want to experiment with adding protein. However if the problem is with temperature or your frother, I don't think it will help. I don't drink powdered milk so can't tell you if it will change the taste.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:18 PM on July 18, 2014

I don't drink powdered milk so can't tell you if it will change the taste.

Adding powdered milk to milk makes it taste super extra milky! If you like the taste of milk, you'll love the taste of milky milk.

I should probably get more interesting hobbies.
posted by phunniemee at 1:27 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are you trying to froth milk for lattes and so forth? If so your main concern should be your equipment, not your milk. Keep the milk cold and I have always have had better luck making smoother foam with whole/higher fat milk (bless those who like half and half). Following any of the guides online to proper foaming technique will get you there, but ultimately the ceiling on your foam quality is going to be your machine, not the milk or even necessarily your technique.
posted by MadamM at 4:47 PM on July 18, 2014

Powdered gelatin should work. I have no idea how much would be needed, but you could experiment.
posted by Gneisskate at 5:28 PM on July 18, 2014

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