Whether you’re an at-home barista or within a café setting, learning to steam your milk correctly is half the battle of perfecting lattes and other espresso drinks.
You might have your steaming method down to perfection, but then you try a different type of milk and it can feel like relearning all over again.
When steamed, dairy-free milk like almond or soy creates delicious and smooth microfoam that is on par with steamed whole milk. But others, like pistachio milk or coconut milk, can be a bit harder to get good quality microfoam from while steaming.
Oat milk is yet another contender and is one of the more popular alternative beverage choices for those who stay away from dairy. So, how easy is it to steam? Let’s find out.
Making Microfoam with Oat Milk
To get a thick, smooth texture for your latte, you have to use a steamer that heats the milk and introduces air to create a microfoam.
A handheld frother won’t have the same effect as frothing milk creates only fluffy foam and does not heat the milk or add steam to it.
A lot of espresso machines will have a steam wand as a feature, but you can get stand-alone steamers as well. Steamers not only heat the milk but add air to the milk, creating a deliciously thick and smooth microfoam.
Steaming oat milk follows the same form as steaming whole milk, but with some slight differences. After purging your steamer and ensuring it’s heated and ready, submerge the steamer tip just under the surface of the milk and close to the side of your jug.
Leave the tip just barely submerged for a few seconds to bring air into the milk and then lower it further into the milk and angle it towards the center of the jug, creating a whirlpool.
With oat milk, you really want to avoid pulling in big air pockets, as they will create a bubbly effect that will ruin your microfoam. To avoid this, keep the tip below the surface at all times.
Keep your steamer steady and fully submerged until the milk is at the preferred temperature.
Oat milk is not very forgiving when it comes to temperature and can get thicker and curdle if overheated. This will ruin the flavor and texture of the milk and make it far too hot to drink.
With dairy, you can usually gauge temperature with how hot the jug feels to your touch, knowing it’s done when it’s too hot to handle.
But with oat milk, you will want to stop before this, aiming for 149* C, which will feel hot to the touch but not unbearable.
Turn your steamer off before removing it from the milk. Give your milk a few swirls and taps to create the perfect pouring texture for your latte. Oat milk separates quickly, so you’ll want to pour directly after steaming and swirling.
If you don’t have a duel boiler espresso machine or one with a heat exchange that allows for brewing espresso and steaming simultaneously, you’ll want to pull your shot first so it is ready once your oat milk is steamed.
Tips for Getting More Foam In Oat Milk
The best tip for getting the foamiest oat milk is actually based more on the type of oat milk you get rather than a technique.
What makes whole milk the best for steaming and getting good quality foam is the combination of proteins and fats within the milk that wrap around the air bubbles.
Where else, normal Oat Milk has very low fats and proteins which is what makes it more difficult to steam and get a good foam.
Getting a barista blend oat milk is going to help with this issue, as they add stabilizers like Xantham Gum that help thicken the milk and allow for a better froth.
Best Barista Blend Oat Milks
There are quite a few oat milk varieties out there, but not all of them have a barista blend available. This type of blend allows for much more frothy milk when steamed!
Often seen in cafes is the Oatly Barista Blend, which is high in saturated fats while having no added sugars. Its creaminess is on par with whole milk and it steams up very nicely with great texture and taste.
Another popular one with baristas is the Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend. This brand does have some added sugars, which makes it cheaper than the Oatly edition, but it still works up beautifully and makes great latte art.
We suggest shopping around and trying different types of barista-grade oat milk blends to see which you like best in taste and that works with your espresso machine.
Note: You should always check your espresso machine user manual to see if it’s compatible with alternative milk.
Most, if not all, manual espresso machines with steaming wands are made to accommodate alternative milk.
However, many super or semi-automatic espresso machines that steam the milk internally are not able to make this accommodation.
Ways to Steam Milk Without a Steamer
There are quite a few methods for getting deliciously frothy warm milk without the use of a steamer. From using a French Press to shaking vigorously in a jar, each method works well with milk that is high in fats and protein.
Unfortunately, many of these methods do not work well with oat milk, as it doesn’t have the same chemical makeup. The best way to get frothy, warm oat milk is to warm your milk in a saucepan over low heat and use a handheld milk frother once heated.
Another method is microwaving your milk for 45 seconds in an open jar. Put a lid on the jar and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Microwave again for 30 seconds.
These two methods may get you frothy, foamy oat milk, but it won’t be close to the texture of the microfoam you get with a steamer.
We hope this article helped you on your journey into the world of steaming Oat Milk. There are now so many options for alternative and more ethically sourced milk sources, and oat is a great option. It is delicious and easy enough to steam once you get the hang of it.
Try out our very own Cinnamon Oat Milk Latte to get you started!