Portable Chef Blog: Tasty Licks

Why Won’t My Milk Foam Up, Dammit?

I have an awesome milk provider.  Every weekend an Amish couple brings me raw milk, which would be illegal if it weren’t, um, for my pet; this stuff is a game-changer.  For the first time since 1985, I now sit down and have a glass of milk from time to time.  A straight-up glass of milk!

The biggest use we have for milk at Portable Chef Estates, though, is in cappuccinos (“cappuccini,” for the pedants among us, and I include myself in that crew).  Since receiving a Nespresso machine as a wedding gift, I’ve been on a pretty consistent four-cappuccinos-a-day habit.  The coffee’s very good but not the best by any stretch; what puts these machines over the top is how foolproof and effortless they make the process of making good coffee.  You turn it on, wait a few minutes, put in a pod of coffee, press a button, and that’s it: espresso.  To foam the milk, there’s a separate device, but just as easy: fill with milk to the line, press a button.  There’s no tamping, no cleaning, no nothing.  It is the best coffee you can make on a moment’s notice with such minimal effort.  And that’s worth a lot.

A key part of the cappuccino is the milk; a key part of the milk is the foam. Foam is what separates a cappuccino from a latte; while the foam-to-milk ratios vary from place to place, even among top-tier venues, a point of agreement is that a cappuccino is mostly foam; a latte is mostly milk.

Which made things very uncomfortable when one morning, my milk wouldn’t foam up.

It was one of the pretty frequent weeks in which my milk people didn’t deliver the goods; customer service is not the forte of the Amish. So I got a half-gallon of organic milk from the store, popped some in the milk frother, and started it up.

Nada. The milk frothed up just a little bit, and that foam disappeared as soon as the frother stopped moving around.

What gives? I did a little research.

Foam comes when you put air bubbles in milk, and the bubbles stay there. It’s the protein in milk that keeps the bubbles intact. It’s glycerol, a substance found in milkfat, that makes the bubbles pop on you. Glycerol is the cappuccino world equivalent of the problem child (John Ritter link opportunity!); if you don’t keep it busy, it’ll wreak all kinds of mischief on your ass.

How does glycerol keep busy? By anchoring fatty acids to form triglycerides (more science on that, including drawings that will induce tenth-grade chemistry flashbacks, here).  As long as they’re doing that, they can’t get into mischief (like popping your hard-fought foamy milk bubbles).

Glycerol frees itself up as milk becomes less fresh.  This happens long before milk starts getting that bad-milk smell that makes you compuslively want everyone nearby to smell it too; the freshness threshold for drinkability is far lower than the “freshold” of foamability.  And the difference is multisensory; not only can you see the absence of foam, but cappuccinos made from older milk can be heard as well as seen.  Put your ear up next to a cappuccino made with unfresh milk and you’ll hear the Rice Krispenthine snaps, crackles, and pops of glycerol sending air bubbles up to that Great Lung in the Sky.

So here’s what I’ve learned: the store brand organic milk at Trader Joe’s has that not-so-fresh feeling. So does the Organic Valley milk sold at the Whole Foods near me.  Organic Valley, a massive business, has taken to putting the names and cute cartoony images of the farmers who ostensibly raised the cows that produced the milk that is in the carton you’re buying. I have my doubts.  Organic Valley, which has done a lot of good work over the years to make organic eggs and dairy widely available for American consumers, is showing signs of ethical compromise along with its significant growth in size and presence on grocery refrigerator shelves: the company is accused of buying milk from a conventional farm in Texas and of pitching Petaluma Farms, a large-ish conventional and organic egg producer for Organic Valley, as “Judy’s Egg Farm” to the company’s board of directors to make it seem like more of a mom-and-pop operation and a better philosophical and ethical fit for the company.  Grody.

I’m suspicious about whether Mr. and Mrs. Webb, pictured on my carton, are actually responsible for this failed, frothless, little cappuccino that couldn’t. Still. I’m looking for someone upon whom to focus my bourgeois rage.  Webb Family, a pox upon you!

It’s personal

If you want a foamy cappuccino, there’s a couple of ways you can go:

1. Get fresh milk (for which you don’t necessarily have to belly-up to a dairy farmer; it can be found on grocery store shelves if their distribution system is tight.  For example, the Organic Valley milk at the unassuming bodega across the street from me foams up perfectly every time – and there aren’t even farmers on the carton.  It’ll take a little experimentation, but it’s totally doable.

2. Get skim or lowfat milk.  Less preferable, but if you’re deadset on some foam and can’t find milk that’s fresh enough, this is a way to go.  Glycerol makes up about 4% of whole milk but next none of skim, so the lower fat your milk is, the more permanent the foam, even if the milk isn’t from-the-udder fresh.  An unfortunate side effect is that in the absence of fat the milk foam takes on a different character and is much stiffer than the stuff you can make from whole milk.  Whether that offers a better drinking sensation than unfoamed whole milk is a matter of personal preference.

3. Go out and order one.  Don’t make it a habit, though.  A widely-esteemed business school professor imparted one piece of financial advice to graduating students: don’t order fancy coffees.  Two cappuccinos a day, at four bucks a pop, is $3,000 a year, which seems a ridiculous percentage of almost anyone’s income.  When I feel like flouting that advice, I enjoy Everyman Espresso (on 13th Street near 3rd Avenue in New York) and Bluefly (1st Street, near 1st avenue).  If you’re not my neighbor, then employ the strategy I use when traveling: “cappuccino” has doubled p’s and c’s; never get one from a place that can’t get that right.

110 Responses

  1. Hi Uri! I was talking to my husband about specific brand of milk not foaming up the other day! (I’m a big fan of coffee/cappuccino/hot chocolate with foamed milk) Since he owns a produce market, he was thinking of switching over to better/organic milk and I was telling him certain brands seem dicey ’cause it doesn’t foam!!! and now you’ve explained the reason for us! Thanks!

    1. I love this! And I love you, Portable Chef, whoever you are! I googled why my milk won’t foam and there you were explaining the cappuccino universe to me so clearly, succintly, and with much good humor! ❤️

        1. Hahahah SAME. I literally wanted to understand why tjs organic milk comes out of my aeroccino flat. Can’t believe i found a post dedicated to that exact topic so easily ❤️❤️

          1. We have been frothing TJs organic milk In an Aeroccino successfully for the past few years, but TODAY I’m here because it wasnt foaming! Was searching and came across this article….maybe the pandemic is causing a change here for the suppliers? But TJs was delivering until now…

        2. Brand new Walmart and Publix whole milk won’t froth (LATELY). There is definitely a chance to the milk. With Walmart I believe they’ve insourced production of their great value milk. I’m not sure what’s going on at Publix. But I’ve tried and returned numerous hugs of both because they don’t work with frothers. I thought it was the equipment until I tried the Kroger supermarket brand and it worked (and continues to work well).

          1. WOW. I just started having this issue with Organic Valley from Publix. I’ve had the same Nespresso machine since 2008 and this is the first time I started seeing weird soapy like bubbles and almost a film over the milk that was supposedly fresh. Gross.

          2. Exacto-Mundo! I was suspicious of Grocery Outlet (Crystal brand) not foaming anywhere near the Clover brand I almost always buy. Voila! Confirmed. Thx

        3. Hi all,
          I had good luck with my foam yesterday and today it went flat. (I use regular whole milk,) I searched and found this great article. Thank you! I just read all of the comments and there seem to be multiple factors involved. I just found one more factor that could contribute to this foam (lack of) issue and will have to confess my poor habits as part of the discovery. I googled glycerol and found a description of it related to making soap. I thought about the people who had good luck at home and bad luck in Florida. I thought what if a slight (but different) soap residue were left in your milk pitcher? I usually just rinse my pitcher but had washed it with soapy water this morning. I just rinsed it again completely, thoroughly and tried foaming milk from the same jug that wouldn’t foam this morning. Voila! Great foam. Maybe the folks who had bad luck in Florida were using a different dish soap there? I think freshness, way milk has been stored, % of fat, temperature and dishwashing liquid residue could all be culprits! Best regards,

      1. I buy only 3.8% organic milk and I noticed that Organic Meadow often doesn’t make froth, while Natrel organic doesn’t froth very rare. So, because of that I avoid buying Organic Meadow milk.
        I wonder why. Even if I take the freshest they have (3 weeks ahead of expiration day). I wonder why. Does it have less protein or what else? So far – I didn’t find exact answer

  2. wow, thanks for the insite on the organic labeling… i knew it was dicey but not THAT bad. plus now i know why my first cappuccino turned out to be coffee. lol……

  3. I had trouble with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s milk not foaming when an AeroLatte was used with very warm milk. When I returned to Knudsen’s, the foam returned, as it also did with generic supermarket milk.
    It seems that there is something being done to “organic” milk (what’s inorganic milk, anyway?) probably for our own good, which makes the milk impossible to foam.
    Speaking of names: I pronounce the drink “caffay lotta”, and my son didn’t know what I was talking about until he saw the “lattay” I was drinking.

  4. Thanks!!! Got a Nespresso frother for Christmas and have had poor foam from both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. But when I was last in Vermont I brought back a gallon of local milk and it foamed up like nobody’s business… I’ve been looking for the answer and you’ve really helped. My next step is regular straight up grocery store NY State milk. But maybe I can find an organic milk that’s fresher. Try and try again…

  5. Thank you for the data!
    My restaurants make cappuccinos every day, with guests from Italy
    visiting all too often, you can imagine the upset with so many incorrectly-made cappuccinos, etc. I tried Organic Valley Lowfat milk and it foamed up just right. It was our Reduced Fat milk that wasn’t giving it a go no matter what we tried and checked.
    It’s helpful information.

  6. Thanks so much for this post!
    I’ve been making cappuccinos for the past year out of my lovely Rancilio Silvia, and have been learning about the nuances of how well milk foams, pending brand of milk, freshness, fat content and temperature.
    I have the best luck with the 2% Horizon or Organic Valley milk in my neighborhood, which foams up great.
    I also shop at the WholeFoods at Bowery every so often because of the wide variety of organic produce even though it’s a small trek with heavy groceries. A few times I purchased the WF brand of organic milk, because it was a little cheaper. I used to chalk it up to inexperience with the science of milk foaming, but no matter how hard I tried, the foam I produced would die within 10 mins. I decided it was WF’s milk that was causing problem.
    On another shopping trip to Bowery’s WFs, I decided to try the grass-fed organic milk by another brand (SkyTops I think?). It was local, organic, small farmer, and ethical, so I was feeling pretty good about the foamability of this milk. Lo and behold, it foamed flatter than even the WF organic milk! And it had a bit of a off taste despite the expiration dated to last a few more weeks.
    On my most recent trip to that WFs, I decided to buy Organic Valley, which has always foamed great when purchased in my neighborhood. But to my surprise, yet again, the milk fell flat!
    That’s when I decided to do a search on the interweb to see if anyone else was experiencing the issues I was having with my milk purchases at Bowery’s WholeFoods. And here we are!
    I’m thinking that WholeFoods is not keeping their milk at the proper temperature or something else is going on. If the local farm’s organic grass-fed milk sold there isn’t faring well, as well as the Organic Valley which usually foams great when purchased anywhere else, WholeFood’s manner of keeping milk is highly sus

  7. Thanks so much for this post!
    I’ve been making cappuccinos for the past year out of my lovely Rancilio Silvia, and have been learning about the nuances of how well milk foams, pending brand of milk, freshness, fat content and temperature.
    I have the best luck with the 2% Horizon or Organic Valley milk in my neighborhood, which foams up great.
    I also shop at the WholeFoods at Bowery every so often because of the wide variety of organic produce even though it’s a small trek with heavy groceries. A few times I purchased the WF brand of organic milk, because it was a little cheaper. I used to chalk it up to inexperience with the science of milk foaming, but no matter how hard I tried, the foam I produced would die within 10 mins. I decided it was WF’s milk that was causing problem.
    On another shopping trip to Bowery’s WFs, I decided to try the grass-fed organic milk by another brand (SkyTops I think?). It was local, organic, small farmer, and ethical, so I was feeling pretty good about the foamability of this milk. Lo and behold, it foamed flatter than even the WF organic milk! And it had a bit of a off taste despite the expiration dated to last a few more weeks.
    On my most recent trip to that WFs, I decided to buy Organic Valley, which has always foamed great when purchased in my neighborhood. But to my surprise, yet again, the milk fell flat!
    That’s when I decided to do a search on the interweb to see if anyone else was experiencing the issues I was having with my milk purchases at Bowery’s WholeFoods. And here we are!
    I’m thinking that WholeFoods is not keeping their milk at the proper temperature or something else is going on. If the local farm’s organic grass-fed milk sold there isn’t faring well, as well as the Organic Valley which usually foams great when purchased anywhere else, WholeFoods’ manner of keeping milk is highly suspect. At that particular WholeFoods anyways.
    In any case, I highly enjoyed your post. I laughed because you stated your “bourgeois rage,” since I feel that way myself; I’m a spoiled cappuccino drinker complaining about the quality of her foamed milk (I can see Louis CK taking a stab at that)! I also loved the scientific approach of your post, coming from a little bit of a scientific mind myself.
    Anyways thanks for confirming my suspicions of things gone awry in the dairy department at WholeFoods!

  8. I was surfing around to see why organic milk might not froth as well. I found one website that said that because organic is sterilized at a higher temp than regular pasteurized milk, it keeps longer. That may be why the milk is still usable but later down the line, the Glycerol is running rampant not focusing on those fatty acids any longer.
    I would gather because of the longer shelf life, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stocks more and if you get the latter of what was stocked at the time, you still get drinkable milk, but… well…no froth.

  9. The 2% milk from WAWA always works in my aeroccino frother. Any other brand of 2% never froths or is so pitiful that it is not worth buying! I suppose that it is the freshness factor! I have been obsessed with why Wawa 2% works and others do not -thanks for solving the mystery. Down with glycerol- up with foam!

  10. I buy Stremick’s Heritage Foods organic 1% milk and it foams wonderfully! The foam is dense, thick and creamy and stays until the last gulp. I am trying to find another outlet besides Lucky’s to buy it b/c I’d rather spend my money in local establishments. Hence my continued search for local organic milk that foams…
    I used to buy Horizon’s 1% organic milk, which also foams great tho they’re a big outfit and don’t treat their cows that well so I stopped buying their milk.
    I just bought Clover organic 1% milk, which is local (Bay Area) tho soon after finishing foaming it up with my trusty little hand held foamer, the bubbles starting forming and popping. Within 30 seconds, there was no foam left. Bummer! No foam = a ruined perfectly good cup of coffee decadence!
    I trust Stremick’s and will continue to search for it in a smaller store or until another local organic milk appears from a farm which treats their cows well.

    1. I make my cappuccino with my Saeco Magic comfort+. I usually buy 1% regular milk from Publix and heat the milk in the micro for 2 minutes before frothing on the espresso machine. This usually gives me a fine foam. Today I used the same procedure with 1% regular Trader Joe’s milk and no foam. I was ready to go to Publix to buy milk, but decided an experiment. I threw away the cup with the Trader Joe’s milk and poured a new cup from the same and now I got foam. Looks like the old milk was floating on top. I will no longer buy milk from Trader Joe’s.

  11. I was testing my new milk frother at work (my work provides the little coffee portion of milk and cream) and trying to figure out why the foam instantly went away. Thank you for providing an explanation 🙂

  12. AH! thank you for explaining! We have a fancy Lavazza machine at work and I make a latte every day (or three)…but Ive been finding only non-organic milk foams and couldn’t figure out why! I usually buy Organic Valley for work because we have a TJs nearby, but when I run out and grab milk from the cafe here (it’s local but bigger, industrial dairy, Garelick Farms), it always foams like crazy! Now I know…I’m going to try a couple of other organic brands and see if another foams better.
    Has anyone tried the shelf stable kind? I wonder if that would work…it’d certainly be easier to keep around.

    1. Totally agree, I find the same – only the non-organic milk foams for me. The fat content will also impact the feel of the foam, some will be dryer and some will be silkier. Very cold skim or 1% works phenomenally well. I use two Nespresso, a Pixi Titan and and a Vertuoline Chrome. Maintaining your frother is of the most important thing. Rinsing it before and after every use. Making sure you start it cold! Rinse it under very cold water for at least 30 seconds. Make sure there are no milk residue at the bottom so not to create hot spots and/or burns – clean without using anything scratchy or abrasive!. The Aeroccino must start cold so it can reach the optimum temperature and complete the cycle at the appropriate rhythm +- 75 seconds. You will get the best foam ever, almost marshmallow-y-ish. My frother never failed me, had it for at least 5 years.

  13. Good stuff — thank you for this. I recently bought a Nespresso machine and am having 2-3 per day — still cheaper than a single double-shot espresso drink at Fourbucks or any place similar. But I digress: Justifying the purchase was not a big part of my “business decision.”
    My question concerns raw milk. My first Nespressos were made with low-fat (2%) milk, and they foamed satisfactorily if not completely. The second carton was full 4% milk — which didn’t seem to fare that much better. Then I bought a quart of raw milk from Sprouts; they’re one of the few places willing to carry raw milk (non-pasteurized, non-homogenized) made by grass-fed cows. Result: ZERO foam.
    Anyone have any idea what gives? WAY too much glycerol in said milk?

  14. I’m glad to find this post. I’m equally frustrated. I shop at whole foods or publix in Florida. I started buying Blue Diamond Almond milk because I love the slightly nutty flavor in the espresso for a little flavor boost naturally. I always bought blue diamond unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
    One day the milk would not foam. AT ALL. I have used 20+ 1/2 gal size cartons with no problem. I checked the exp date. It was fine. I then opened a new carton that I had as reserve. NOthing. Flat and airy bubbles. I was a little freaked out. THen I actually drive to the store and buy organic milk, and three cartons of almond milk (different brands)
    The only milk I could get to foam was the organic regular milk. I even called nespresso tech support and switched out the wire whisk to a new one. I still have not figured it out.
    Highly disappointed. Anyway – switched to regualr organic milk and it foams great until today. New carton – no foam. milk is good for a month. what gives!! very frustrating because at $6/gal I only use milk in coffee so it’s useless to me without foam.

  15. Well, now I am REALLY confused. We just bought a nespresso Pixie this week, and for the first two days I used store-bought, whole Horizon Organic milk — absolutely beautiful foam that held up really well. On Friday, I picked up our weekly batch of raw milk (not illegal here in CO, if you own a share of a cow!), and NADA. No foam. It seemed to start out just fine, but after 40 seconds or so everything fell flat. This milk is as fresh as you can get. Milked on Thursday, picked up on Friday! Ideas? Could the glycerol level be seasonal? Related to diet (these cows are 100% grass fed).
    Cheers!

    1. Hello, you are right. I don’t want to say milk quality, but the milk produced by cows will be impacted by the feed and the season as well as the stage of lactation the cow is in even the breed of cows. What I do, maybe it can help, by the way, I have no kids, I buy milk in smaller container so it is consumed faster and stays fresh longer. The milk protein will start degrading as soon as the carton is open. If milk is older than 3 days, you will see a difference in the foam. using a smaller carton, chances it will last less than 3 days. Also, I avoid using milk in pouches, but buy it in plastic containers instead (which I clean and recycle!) you can close it tightly and it is less permeable to air than using a carton or milk in clear plastic pouches (often sold in Canada). These re tips I learned and discovered over the years. hope it is helpful. geographically wise I am from Ontario Canada, so the milk I purchase will be from different local brands hence why I don’t mention any.

    2. I get terrible results with Organic Valley whole milk, but OV ultra-pasteurized and homogenized whole milk is fine. I read elsewhere that the high temperature processing enhances bubble strength due to the effect on milk protein. I froth with steam.

  16. Speaking as the owner of a cafe, I am finding the same brands that used to froth, now do not. There is much going on in the dairy world we are not made aware of. I do believe there is over pasteurization going on, like Anne Marie pointed out. It makes sense, unless the grocers are freezing the milk, which is also possible. I am living on an island, so this problem is particularly frustrating as we have no “fresh” alternatives. Sigh. I guess I need my own dairy farm. Would probably make a bloody fortune, but I’m not into the smell, unfortunately.

  17. I went to Google to see if I could find anything out about this. I also have raw milk from a local farm, grass-fed cows. Some gallons foam up wonderfully but some do not. This one is not and it’s bugging me since I have people coming over for coffee this morning. No foam at all. I use the Breville milk pot, which foams the milk with a whisk-like wheel at the bottom. I was thinking it had something to do with the amount of fat in the milk, just trying to think logically through what might be going on, But the freshness issue can’t be the issue because my milk is always local and fresh.
    Looking at some of the comments above, I have also wondered if it is seasonal. Or depends on what the cows are eating in the fields.
    Glad I’m not the only one who is talking about their local raw milk. Makes me think it is more a function of the qualities of the milk at any particular time. Still, it is disappointing. I am just hoping it is not a function of the wholesomeness or nutrition of the milk. I doubt it is the freshness in this particular case.
    I always get whole milk when I order out and they never seem to have trouble with foam apparently. Maybe the steamers on those fancy espresso machines are so much stronger that the milk is forced to foam but I am not getting one of those.

    1. Maybe one of us who has access to the actual cow should try some experiments, like kicking it in the nuts and hollering, “gimme the foam now!” before milking. Just kidding, I don’t even think they have nuts… Just trying to make a joke out of this trying subject, as I sit here and drink a messed up latte!!

  18. great information, thanks for doing the research and sharing. I use Kolona milk which is VAT pasteurized so it should be similar to fresh milk because it is only heated to 145 degrees F. However, it is NOT frothing for me.. ugg.. I do get it from Whole Foods so maybe that is my problem – will try other retailer. Thanks again!

  19. I share the experiences and frustrations of the commenters before me. I buy Whole Foods organic milk because I’m after a non-ultrapasteurized milk. When I can’t get to WF, I end up buying simple commercial milk because the thought of ultrapasteurized milk–organic or not–bothers me. My good intentions run me into trouble every time as the WF organic milk just won’t foam up. I think this is cause for some alarm. What’s going on with WF milk processing–the skulduggery that never appears on the labeling? I’m complaining WF and we’ll see if they’re willing to come clean.

  20. Thanks for this explanation. Here’s my experience from Philadelphia, PA. Wegmann’s milk won’t stay foamy long enough to pour it over the coffee. Rosenberger’s milk from Acme made it to the cup but didn’t last much longer than that. Wawa milk foam lasts to the bottom of the cup. Wawa wins! Thanks Marie for the tip about Wawa milk.

  21. Just bought a illy X7 – had the same in London and if foamed wonderfully. Here in NY Farmland Dairies milk WONT foam. I endup with hot milk. So whats the best milk in the city>

  22. Hello!
    I’d just like to thank you for this entertaining and informative article. I’ve had a milk frother for a few months now, and the results were all over the place. I assumed that fattier milk would froth better, so I’d been buying super full-fat. Now I buy skimmed milk, with the longest “best before” date possible, and consequently my cappuccinos all sport albino afros.
    Good job, sir!

  23. For those interested: Lacking all milk in my house, I improvised by trying low-fat MuscleMilk in my frother. Not recommended. There’s too much suspended matter in it that evidently clogs up the spinner, and so it bogs down and your red light flashes. It gets warm, but I suspect it’s not a good idea to use.
    Starbucks Mocha Blends (sold by the quart) are, however, quite tasty as a milk alternative. And they even froth a bit.

  24. Thanks for this! Trader Joe’s milk won’t foam for me either. And neither will Whole Foods brand milk.

  25. Thanks so much for this article! I have been losing my mind trying to figure out why my milk won’t foam in my new frother.

  26. Im thinking that it has to do with whether or not the milk is homogenized. I had great luck until I tried pasteurized that’s not homogenized. The grass fed organic pasteurized at WF is totally flat and this is the first time I have tried non homogenized.
    Can’t believe how much effort I have put into milk research lately. For Pete’s sake what kind are we supposed to drink? I was happier with less awareness and regular grocery store milk. My friend said buy organic and my research started when I saw how long the organic milk stays good. Now its ultra pasteurized, high temperature short duration, etc. What’s a guy to do? Drop a 30 year latte habit?

  27. This discussion is a great unexpected find. Entertaining too….
    My Christmas 2015 Nespresso has produced only 50% foam/50% warm liquid milk so far. I’ve tried mixing milks but never thought to the level of this discussion.
    I first tried Nespresso at my daughter’s in Boston burb – she gets fresh milk delivered. I used the non-fat at her house and got a full container of foam with staying power.
    Now I think I get it….but the variables are many!
    Thanks, Portable Chef and respondants!

  28. We live by Chicago and use the Breville foamer–totally fabulous btw.
    My husband uses whatever brand, non-organic skim milk and I use Soy, and they both foam beautifully, every day. no problem.
    We went to Florida in February and brought our machines with us since we were going to be there a few weeks. Bought the same stuff at the stores there and NO FOAM. Skim dairy or soy. Tried a few brands–no foam.
    Back in Illinois, same stuff, no problem.
    As I was just making my lovely soy latte, I wondered again, what happened, so I googled and this came up.
    Still no explanation.

  29. I thought I had this exact problem solved. I live in Wilmington, North Carolina and I had been using Harris Teeter half-n-half in my Nespresso machine with mixed results. So on a whim I switched to Land O Lakes half-n-half, and it foamed up beautifully and stayed that way. Man, what a great latte with a double shot of dark espresso! The foam mixed completely with the espresso and the whole thing was just waaaay better than any café around. The only thing better that I have had is the latte from Boxkite Coffee in NYC on the upper west side.
    Anyway, so I was happily buying my own quart of Land O Lakes half-n-half every other week, and then when I opened my fourth quart and tried it, I found the foam fell completely and utterly flat even while it was in the Nespresso machine. I am just now having the third latte from this (stupid) quart and I get the same behavior.
    I am a skinny guy and totally in shape with no cholesterol problems whatsoever, so I want to use half-n-half, dang it!
    One thought is this… When I buy milk products I always act like a jerk and reach to the back of the cooler and select cartons with the sell-by date the furthest into the future. Most grocery story clerks correctly stock them so that you can’t do this, but some lazy guys are just filling the lanes and not caring, so it is usually easy to spot the cartons that were loaded in most recently and grab one of those. Well, this week my wife did the shopping and I don’t think she is a jerk like that – she probably even is so conscientious that she took the one that a good citizen should take. So it could be that.
    This is Memorial Day weekend starting up (it’s Friday now) and I want some good lattes this weekend. So I’m going to stop by two different grocery stores and buy 4 or 5 variations of half-n-half pints. I’m a science nerd, so I will make all sorts of observations about which ones foam and which ones don’t, with all the variables that I can gather. If I find anything helpful I will post back!

    1. Did your wife use the usual supermarket? Not all markets do as good a job storing dairy as others, which my son was able to document for a science fair project. Instead of drinking it, you should return it.

    2. I am sure it is food handling that is making the organic milks not foam. When I buy my organic milk from whole foods in West Vancouver I get no foam. The same brand of organic milk bought from Costco foams just fine. Also if I buy my milk from whole foods it will start to sour prior to expiration date but Costco’s lasts the full pull.

      1. Richard –
        Your comment about food handling is spot on, and (how nerdy are we) our family documented this result for my son’s science fair project a few years back. The main purpose of this experiment was something else, but it turned out that the quality of the froth varied considerably across our different WF groceries. And yes, the one where I like the vegetables least was the one with the worst milk (although this was not formally tested).
        WF milk, if properly handled, should be better than Horizon or any of the other ultrapasteurized brands because that process affects the milk sugars. However, if not properly handled, this milk should froth worse due to decay.

    3. So what happened after your milk experiment? I just started buying “farm” milk instead of my normal 3% organic, and no foam! No problem with 3% organic though. Only difference is the farm ones say not “standardized” though from research I don’t see why that would be the problem. Maybe some process that removes the glycerol in the more widely sold variety?

  30. oh, fussy milk!
    one day you foam
    the next you are flat in my frother
    my mood plummets
    even the coffee is sad

  31. I have the nespresso aeroccino. I like to use a little half and half. It normally froths into a wonderful creamy top. Recently, several brands have not been working. I have used Horizon Organic from Costco and it worked beautifully. This morning. I opened a new Landolakes Half and half….and nothing. Flat. Not creamy. Disappointing. Clarify for me. The fresher the less foam? The older the product, the more foam?

  32. My milk did not froth for the past couple of days (I am at the end of the carton of Trader Joe’s). The best frothing milk I have found so far is COSTCO organic 1% that you buy in a carton with three half-gallons in it. I have found that the milk froths to the last drop of the supply (I use about a cup of milk a day). It last a way out expiration date on it, leading me to believe it is very fresh. Trader Joe’s has never worked for me except maybe the first three or four cups of milk. Organic Valley the same. Horizon organic seems to hold its own, but try the COSTCO!

  33. I’m Italian and have been making cappuccino for years. I have always used skim milk. Never had a problem frothing. It didn’t matter if the milk was fresh or not fresh (non-spoiled). I have noticed 1 percent milk DOES matter if it is not fresh. It will NOT froth!

  34. Awesome article and now I know why my milk will not hold the foam occasionally. Bad milk – pour it out and go get another jug. Homestead Creamery 2% from Earth Fare has been working great for me. The last generic 2% from Publix fell flat.

  35. Thank you for this article. Wegmans organic 2% milk also does not froth. Very upset this morning with my Nespresso arroccino, then came here and discovered it wasn’t their problem at all!!!!!

  36. Very helpful discussion. As a Virgo, I tend to suffer from ‘Analysis Paralysis’ & constant desire to have things work ‘Perfectly’, prior to my ‘1st Attempt”!! LOL!!
    After enjoying sweetened samples of espresso @various Cuban establishments in Miami (as well as, one ‘Bed Bath & Beyond’ Nespresso Espresso/Frothed Milk sample) — I’ve purchased a Bialetti stovetop Moka Express & a Gourmia automatic milk frother. Now, having discovered your portable chef nyc feature and read comments by fellow ‘espresso/latte/coffee’ lovers, I feel BETTER prepared to enjoy my purchases!!! Thanks!!! (No comment on Cappuccinos — never had one).

  37. Thank you!! Thought it was my new Christmas present frother but understand now that it’s the organic milk I bought at trader joes. Won’t buy that again!

  38. Thank you for your very enlightening and entertaining observations on froth and the absence thereof! I thought I had it sorted. New frothed, new carton of milk, (full cream) – wonderful cappuccino! Yesterday. This morning, same tools, same milk, same cup, no (NO) froth. I know it’s a day older and maybe those glycerols grew up overnight but I’m wondering if there’s more to it. Residue of something not fully rinsed away? Wash-up liquid? Chocolate powder? Milk not warmed enough? Investigation continues.
    (Some of my best friends are Amish Dairy Farmers, unfortunately an ocean away.) Happy foaming and happy New Year!

  39. For some strange reason, my frother only froths well with whole milk. Whenever I use anything else, I just get steamed milk.

  40. The irony of this article in my case is that my milk produces TOO much froth here in Canada. I used 2% Natrel in a 2L container (half-gallon) and the bloody thing blew out the sides two times in a row, even when I put it 5mm (3/16″) below the hot line.
    I phoned Nespresso as I have a new machine and they said it’s actually a pretty rare problem… haha – So, fellow Canadians, fresh Natrel 2% with the micro-filtering seems to produce almost problematic results here.

    1. Hello fellow Canadian. I also have a great experience with my Aeroccino. Proper maintenance is also key! 1% tends to work best for me. Milk sold in pouches (you will know what I mean!) doe snot work very well because you cant really tightly seal it back and by remaining open the protein will degrade a bit faster (protein make milk foam NOT fat!)
      I wish I had your problem! I cant live without my foam!! its a true love story :D. I also learned that UHT milk offers the best result, still trying to find out why – UHT Milk/Lait Grand Pre (milk you refrigerate only once opened. Again, rinsing your aeroccino, stating it very cold, is the best tip I can provide you.

  41. Terrible, frustrating experience with the TJ’s organic whole milk ( in the half gallon size). I never have any problem with the exact same product that’s not organic, so I’m wondering whether it’s a freshness issue, a protein issue, pasteurization issue, or what? All I know is that my satisfying little morning ritual has become very unsatisfying of late.
    Definitely a first-world ‘problem,’ I realize!
    I’m a solo gal, so I prefer to buy my milk 1/2 gallon at a time, plus I prefer buying it in the cardboard cartons rather than in plastic. But for the record, for anyone living in the Pacific Northwest, my experience has been that Safeway whole milk makes a great microphone, as does the aforementioned Trader Joe’s non-organic whole milk. I have also, under duress, bought the occasional gallon (in that ridiculous container) of Kirkland whole milk, and that also made a wonderful microfoam. Darigold is ok; there’s another with the word Valley in it that isn’t Organic Valley and I don’t recommend that one. All you people who use anything less than whole milk for your lattes or cappuccinos, good on you! I just can’t seem to get there!

    1. Terrible, frustrating experience with the TJ’s organic whole milk ( in the half gallon size). I never have any problem with the exact same product that’s not organic, so I’m wondering whether it’s a freshness issue, a protein issue, pasteurization issue, or what? All I know is that my satisfying little morning ritual has become very unsatisfying of late.
      Definitely a first-world ‘problem,’ I realize!
      I’m a solo gal, so I prefer to buy my milk 1/2 gallon at a time, plus I prefer buying it in the cardboard cartons rather than in plastic. But for the record, for anyone living in the Pacific Northwest, my experience has been that Safeway whole milk makes a great microfoam, as does the aforementioned Trader Joe’s non-organic whole milk. I have also, under duress, bought the occasional gallon (in that ridiculous container) of Kirkland whole milk, and that also made a wonderful microfoam. Darigold is ok; there’s another with the word Valley in it that isn’t Organic Valley and I don’t recommend that one. All you people who use anything less than whole milk for your lattes or cappuccinos, good on you! I just can’t seem to get there!

  42. My attempts to froth soy, almond, coconut, hazelnut milks in the Nespresso Aeroccino have been poor. This is frustrating for those of us who are lactose-intolerant ;-(
    However, I have had great success with Lactaid 2% lactose-free milk and the Kroger (available at Ralph’s) 2% lactose-free milk. They froth nicely and last until I drink the last drop.

  43. I found this thread after having the same experience with Trader Joe’s whole milk, sorry TJs-I love you for many other things, but have great luck with Horizons Whole milk with Omega 3.

  44. So, I was excited to use my Nespresso machine and the Aerocinno frother when I got it for Christmas – and it worked wonderfully for a full week. I was using half & half. So I started using the milk in my fridge. The same thing – disappointing foam. The irony is that my husband is a dairy farmer and our milk is usually hours old – with 6 of us in the house, we use at least a half gallon a day, if not more, so freshness is not even a question. Why was I using half and half? Our cows produce so much cream to the milk we could skim off a cup for every half gallon and the fat content still equals whole milk in the store. I spoke to the Nestle company (maker of the Nespresso) and they contradicted themselves – the instructions tell you to use lower fat milk for best results but the service rep told me to use higher fat milk for better foam. They sent me out a new whisk attachment, but the results are the same. I suspect the frother jug has issues with speed (though it looks like its rotating fast)…I am looking for a better frother – any suggestions are appreciated…

    1. There’s a little gizmo that ikea sells. It’s a ridiculous low price of about $2.99 and works great!!!
      I microwave about a third of a mug of milk for 30 seconds to heat it, usually with a little raw sugar in it. Then I froth it usually with great results and add coffee last.
      We usually get the PC Organics 3.25% homo milk from our local Shoppers Drug Mart here in Toronto (yes Canada.) It’s a product of Canada from Loblaws President’s Choice brand. They often sell it for $2 off the regular $6.99. This week the 3.8% Organic Meadow milk was on sale at Marchelo’s (a smaller boutique health food store) for $4.99 (2 lite/quart.) Damn them! We bought 2 cartons and it won’t foam! The exp. date is Dec. 24th and today is only the 5th!!!
      This is what brought me to this very informing blog of which I’ve read all the many comments as well. Unusual for me.
      Thank you Uri for answering my question this morning as I sip a flat coffee.

  45. So that explains it! My adult kids gave me a Nespresso for Christmas (favorite Nespresso coffee so far = Vivalto Lungo). The separate little milk frother has worked like a charm — perfect foam which held its loft! And then, four days ago alas, no froth! My early morning sacred coffee and reading time was ruined! I was all set to send the frother back and request a replacement! Then I read this article and many of the comments and boom! An ah-ha moment! Until this past Sunday, never have I bought Organic Valley Non-Homogenized 100%Grass-Fed No Grain GRASSMILK Organic Whole Milk (contemplative sweet cow sniffing grass and wildflowers like Ferdinand’s girlfriend on front panel). Sell-by date when bought 3/12 was 3/20. Old milk from a frother’s point of view. Thanks to all of you for enlightenment! Viva lattes!

    1. Frother was working beautifully, and then it happened. No froth or hardly any. Called the company. I buy my milk from a farm, so im guessing each bottle my not be equal.
      They said it could be the proteins, and to mix it ….but it is still inconsistent. Love it when it works, but its really frustrating when its not( im beginning to get use to warm milk). I get the 2%. Any suggestions are welcome.

  46. Working with almond milk and cashew milk in my nespresso foamer. Turns out Silk brand doesn’t foam at all and neither does the pricey and yummy Califia Farms . But Almond Breeze brand works just fine. No matter what the age. Haven’t tried the unrefrigerated shelf-stored variety.

    1. That is my issue this morning I have been using almond milk worked perfectly bought almond coconut Califia Farms and no foam thank you for the info it’s back to Almond Breeze!

  47. Hi everyone
    I got answer for everybody who has problem to froth milk with aeroccino.
    The problem is in the milk!
    Not with aeroccino frother .
    Aeroccino works perfect !
    Today I went to target ( not Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s) and I bought
    HORIZON ORGANIC DHA OMEGA-3
    2% reduced fat milk
    Works perfect
    Foaming great ! Super thick foam !!!

    1. I’ve tried the shelf stable milk (2%) in my Nespresso frother (it’s old) and it works great. I found this site because, for the first time, I’m trying grass fed organic milk from Organic Pastures in CA. No go. First time in 5 years of happily making cappuccinos. I’m suspecting it’s the grass from the posts above.

    2. I agree. Funny thing is that Publix milk used to Froth. Now it doesn’t. I’ve returned many hugs to Publix and to Walmart. In my South Atlanta suburb, Kroger is the only brand that froths

  48. Here’s my experience with milk foam, for what it’s worth.
    First of all, I’m based in Berlin, so milk quality, particularly that of organic types, is subject to much stricter regulations than in the US.
    That said, I found that almost all organic milk varieties I tried would foam only so-so, regardless of their freshness. I bought and tested milk that was locally produced in limited quantity and sold only in and around Berlin, and I would get the same disappointing results. This latter one is always very fresh, with a limited shelf-life as they use only a gentle pasteurization method. So in my experience, it’s not (only) the freshness that has an influence on foaming, there has to be another factor that causes those glycerol molecules to misbehave. It may come down to the homogenization process, but this is only a tentative guess.
    What really surprised me was that almost all forms of full-fat lactose-free milk (be it organic or not) will produce a solid, dense foam – even at the point of giving up on the freshness front. Luckily, we’ve recently come across a brand that managed to eliminate the off-putting sweetish aftertaste that made lactose-free milk a non-starter for me in the past. As for the secrets of foaming or failure thereof, I’m still looking for answers.

  49. Searched and searched—brand after brand, and two Aerocinnos. And then—JACKPOT!! New Barn Unsweetened Almond Milk. Consistent foam, great taste and texture. Even had to go down to setting 3 because 4 was TOO thick. Please try it—I want to keep them in business!!

  50. I was pleased to discover I was not alone in “why won’t it froth consistently?” land, but frustrated that no definitive answer has been found. I have bought Clover rather faithfully and used both 1 and 2%. It seems I should (a) try “regular,” aka in modern first world vernacular, “non-organic” milk, and I should continue not buying milk from either WF or TJs, or (b) try Horizon again (which I had given up as they seemed to become huger and huger as a brand, which I thought, perhaps naively, meant less wholesome). Up until now, I have consistently bought organic so (a) feels wrong somehow, but this is science after all. I will report back. Thank you all for this enjoyable if not completely satisfying read!

  51. Like most others on this thread I was disappointed with TJ and WF organic milk but the Trickling Spring Organic sold in glass bottles at WF worked wonderfully, and whole milk too, for a delicious cream tasting froth!

  52. The aeroccino manual mentions that milk that has been frozen won’t froth. I wonder if that’s the problem with the organic milk (and the temperatures of late!)…

  53. I disagree completely. I’ve been foaming up half and half with the same frothed at work. Suddenly my nespresso frothier stopped frothing after two weeks. The one at work (same brand) also stopped after its 1st two weeks but then started working again. In this case it’s not at all about the milk product. I and many others use half and half as a result of the amount of sugar grams in milk. Hoping someone else out there hears my concern and has a cure for me.

  54. My experience with any milk frother is the lower the fat content, the better the froth.
    I use 2% Horizon Organic milk that foams up beautifully overtime.
    I recently bought Organic Valley 2% at Whole Foods and it does not froth and it does not taste as good.

  55. My experience with any milk frother is the lower the fat content, the better the froth.
    I use 2% Horizon Organic milk that foams up beautifully every time.
    I recently bought Organic Valley 2% at Whole Foods and it does not froth and it does not taste as good.

  56. You guys! My mind is BLOWN! I’m now certain I threw away a perfectly good aeroccino machine before I purchased the one I currently own. It was working perfectly until our recent move to Florida. Was it the voltage? Did the frother break in the move? Did I not clean the whisk adequately? NO! It was Publix Organic Valley milk…neither 2% nor whole would cut it when it came to stand-up-on-your-own foam. So I tried my kids’ half-finished box of organic, shelf-stable Organic Valley whole milk. Perfection!!! Victory is mine! Thanks so much for this post!!

    1. I threw my frother away too. I had had older milk fail but milk just bought was failing after we moved to Pennsylvania. I have to find the right store/ brand.

  57. 5 years after this was published, google brought me to this article when I tried to figure out why the Organic Valley Grassfeed non-homogenized Whole Milk that I bought in Whole Foods (now part of Amazon), more than 2 weeks before its expiration date wouldn’t froth. A total disgrace, considering that I got a half gallon (they don’t sell smaller!) and we don’t consume milk otherwise. Hmmm… maybe I will try some homemade ricotta.

  58. Interesting that I was buying Trader Joes skim or lowfat Milk all along and it was frothing beautifully until recently. Ironically lately I would put the milk in my frother, turn it on and I would get no froth But after letting it sit for more than an hour and trying Again a bit of froth appeared.
    Now I don’t know whether to buy low fat non organic milk milk or high fat organic. Because I only shop at Trader Joe’s I hate having to go to another supermarket just for milk.

  59. I live in Canada, near the US border. Off the shelf Cdn milk froths, off the shelf US milk does not. I have always wondered why?

  60. I used to buy Aldi’s 2% Organic Milk in half gallon paper cartons. This milk created great foam. Recently the milk stopped foaming. I experimented with buying different gallons of a variety of expiration dates, still no foam. I even bought a new foamer. After reading this post it did occur to me that they recently remolded the store and now the milk is stored in a much larger refrigerated section. I began having the lack of foam with this new milk. Wawa is much closer, I’m grabbing a carton today!

  61. I find I get the best foam from soy milk, especially Trader Joe’s vanilla flavored, but also Costco’s Kirkland vanilla flavored soy milk. I use a battery operated wand frother and I get lots of stiff cloud foam.

    1. Hi Laurel, is the Costco vanilla soy still frothing for you? I’ve used it in my Breville Milk Cafe (frother) for years. Over the last month, however I cannot get froth from any of the cartons in the 12 pack I’ve always used. My girls 2% milk works great, so it’s not the frother. Just curious if your experience has changed. I’m so bummed.

  62. I found this article when the milk in my Nespresso stopped foaming. I had first tried cleaning and re-cleaning the components to no avail. After reading this article, I realized that although Organic Valley Skim was my milk of choice, it had became hard to find and I had switched to a local dairy’s organic skim. It produced no foam. At. All. I redoubled my search for Organic Valley Skim, located a store that offered it and voila! The milk foams perfectly again.

  63. I have noticed that I get better results with milk purchased in an opaque carton. If I buy milk in a translucent jug, no foam. I suspect that light might affect the milk.

  64. I’ve read carefully through all your thoughtful comments. Thank you all.
    We used a steam frother for over a decade and occasional (<1%) had the issue of producing poor foam. We never tied it to any specific brand or type or grade of milk
    We've had the Aerolatte for 9 months now and absolutely love it! One new problem. Now with some containers of milk the foam builds up beautifully, but collapses in a minute or two
    We are still hunting for a solution
    Thanks
    John N

  65. K so I’m kinda confused. I bought one carton of vanilla unsweetened almond milk and it frothed up beautifully. Then I bought the exact same type and it didn’t froth at all.. what gives??

  66. This is great. I was researching why my new milk frother was making foam with Organic Valley but not with 2 other brands – Trader Joe’s and Fresh Direct’s organic brand. Looks like things haven’t changed with TJ’s milk in 6 yrs. Also, Everyman does make exceptional coffee. I’ve been off coffee for a few months but will have to sneak one in soon.

  67. I had problems with Whole Foods 365 brand – it simply will not foam. I thought my machine broke! I am shocked it’s due to freshness.
    I have had fantastic results with Amish Farms organic Milk – so going back to that. Very disappointed in WF.

  68. Thank you so much for this information!!! I luvvvvvv my morning cappuccino but my milk stopped foaming. Now I know why. It’s not just cappuccino I love. I love you now too portable chef!

  69. OOOOOHHHHH, that’s it! The absolutely fresh and delicious milk (Ronnybrook) that I use does wonderfully well, but I do not use it fast enough, and now I understand why it starts to lose its froth the longer I have it. And I also use my Nespresso machine, which I bought after I was in Paris, where EVERYONE lines up to get their pods!! I love it! And of course with fresh foamy milk. Yum!

  70. I normally buy organic valley whole milk from Wegmans. Always lovely foam. One time I bought the exact same thing from P&C and the foam was crap. I’m not sure it’s the freshness so much, as my milk foams great even if it’s been in my fridge for 2 weeks. Similar story to your bodega. I think more likely it’s a different distribution chain, with different milk coming from a different place under the same label. The other day Wegmans was out of organic valley – and I bought Wegmans organic milk. The foam is crap! Sadly, because we are making larger shopping trips less frequently now, I am stuck with weak cappuccinos for the next two weeks now 🙁

  71. I’m so glad I found this article! I moved to another area of New York where there is a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s nearby. I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. After having a no-froth and quickly deteriorating milk situation with Trader Joe’s milk, I moved on to buy my once all-time favorite Organic Valley milk from WF. Another disappointment. The WF OV milk is definitely different than the OV milk from my previous neighborhood which was always fresh, lasts super long and froths like a dream. The WF brand milk was just the same. It’s like all three have the same supplier. Is it a storage problem on the part of the supermarkets? Not sure but what I do know is that I don’t buy milk from either one anymore, and I just stock up when I make a special trip back to the markets in my previous neighborhood. The WF, OV and TJs milk all have an off-white, almost yellow color too. Turned me off completely. Bummer for me cause I’m a Nespresso latte nut! Well, it’s worth making the extra trip.

  72. bc of the pandemic, i bought a gallon of milk from our local deli here in the countryside. not even the tiniest of bubbles. i have been using organic valley both grassfed and the regular both full fat and both of them foam even as they get well past expiration date. so i googled to see what others have to say. interesting how we all have such different experiences. so tomorrow doning my mask and off to a 45 mile drive to a shoprite that usually has the organic valley. it’s amazing how aeration does affects flavor. i miss those bubbles esperately and yes–i’m customer #3000 on the Nespresso site. next time if i have to get non organic valley i’ll get skim–i found that to be better as well and now thanks to you i know the scientific reason why!

  73. Wow, you nailed it sir. I wondered if I was alone in my frustration and I realize that I am not.
    The weirdest phenomenon is that the Lactantia cream used for the 1st 6 months of my aerator ownership would foam up magically and then one day it just stopped. I thought my Nespresso aerator was dying but apparently it’s just fine.
    I bought the no-name cheap stuff and I foamed up delightfully. Who knew.
    Thanks for your insight into the world of milk foam for the perfect morning coffee.

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