Why Does My Frothed Milk Collapse?

why does my frothed milk collapse?

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Are you having problems with your frothed milk? No matter what you do, your milk foam doesn’t seem to hold up.

I can help.

You know that long-lasting milk foam is one of the key elements to crafting a perfect cappuccino or latte.

So when you’ve spent a good amount of time hunched over your espresso machine frothing milk with the steam wand to then watch in dismay as the milk foam slowly collapses a few minutes later is a big letdown.

But don’t beat yourself up. There’s likely a simple reason why your frothed milk keeps on collapsing.

So if you want to become a pro, stick around. Because in this article, I’ve shared some insider tips and tricks to ensure your milk foam really stands out and always holds firm.

✔ Quick Answer

Your frothed milk may collapse due to insufficient steaming time or incorrect temperature, resulting in unstable foam; overheating the milk can break down the proteins that help form and maintain the foam. Also, using milk that’s not fresh or has a lower fat content can affect the foam’s stability, leading it to collapse more quickly.

Increasing Your Chances Of Quality Frothed Milk

To make the best-frothed milk, you always need to start with cold milk because the proteins inside the milk are still completely intact. The size of the frothing pitcher also significantly affects how your milk turns out.

Always use a pitcher that is slightly larger than the one you need. For example, a 6oz/170ml of milk would require an 8oz/220ml pitcher.

The marginally larger pitcher will allow you to swirl and work the milk far easier.

Don’t underestimate swirling.

This process is a crucial part of creating high-quality frothed milk. The swirling technique allows you to incorporate air as well as making sure the milk is evenly heated.

frothed milk collapses on a spoon

The milk frother also plays a big part in the process. The hot air that shoots out from the tip of the steam wand acts as a makeshift whisk and adds more air into the milk, which in turn generates more bubbles.

If the tip of the steamer is held too far above the surface of the milk, the burst of hot air will typically produce larger bubbles and an uneven texture.

On the flip side, if the steam wand tip is held too far below the milk’s surface, the milk will heat up (steamed milk) instead of producing any froth, foam, or bubbles.

Simply put. The position of the steam nozzle can make or break the texture of your frothed milk.

So keeping that in mind, ensuring that the wand is in the correct position is a sure way to improve the texture and consistency of your frothed milk.

Adjust this before anything else, and you might be surprised with the results.

Still struggling? Keep on reading.

6 Common Reasons Why Milk Froth Collapses

Mastering your technique is only one piece of the puzzle. If you think your steaming skills are spot on, but you still have problems, keep reading.

Below I have listed six common reasons that can cause your precious milk froth to collapse.

Wrong Type Of Milk

Before anything else, you need to check your milk. Nine times out of ten, the quality of the milk or just using the wrong type of milk can be enough to set you up for failure.

types of milk for frothing and not collapsing

Using the best milk for frothing has to be your number one priority. Otherwise, everything else is just going to be a waste of time.

You will be chasing the milk around your pitcher with your steam wand, wondering why nothing is happening.

Forget about using Macadamia, Rice, Cashew, or Oat milk; these types are just impossible to froth well.

For the best-frothy milk and microfoam, you really need to stick with good ole whole dairy milk.

Dairy milk has just the correct ratio of proteins, fats, sugar, and water and yields a velvety microfoam that isn’t overly creamy – it’s just right.

Skim milk is also ok to use, but keep in mind extra work is required to get to the right consistency when frothing.

I find that bumping the pitcher on the countertop a few times helps to pop the larger bubbles, which creates a smoother texture.

Flushing Out Water From The Steam Wand

Due to how the steaming wand functions, some excess water will always be lingering in the nozzle.

Obviously, you don’t want this water in your milk. So before you steam, open the valve and purge any residual water into the drip tray or empty cup.

Once you have finished steaming, the chances are that a small amount of milk will get sucked up inside the steam wand nozzle.

So after each use, make sure to purge the wand again.

This will keep your coffee brewing station smelling fresh, and the last thing you want is old stale milk ending up inside your next batch of foamed milk.

Also, remember to wipe down your station and the wand at the end of the day; old milk tends to stick on the wand like super glue.

cleaning steam wand

Holding the Steam Wand Too Low

Where you place the steam wand in your pitcher could be why your frothed milk keeps collapsing.

If you hear a high-pitched screeching noise, your nozzle is likely sitting too low in the pitcher jug.

When your nozzle is this low, you will struggle to get a nice rolling current to break up the air in the milk, which is needed to produce a thick and creamy froth.

For best results, you’ll want to hold the tip of your wand just below the surface of the milk.

Holding The Steam Wand Too High

But you have to be careful. Placing your steam wand too high in your milk will also cause some problems.

Not only will you run the risk of splattering yourself and your workstation with milk, but the bubbles will be far too large. And they won’t hold for any amount of time and are definitely not usable for a sweet, creamy latte or cappuccino.

Place your nozzle just below the surface of the milk. If you need to aerate the milk slightly, slowly move the tip up just a little so you can hear an occasional ripping sound.

When you’ve added enough air, move the nozzle down again to just below the surface to get the milk moving. Repeat the process until your milk begins to froth.

frothing milk testing temperature milk collapse

No Roll In The Pitcher Jug

This is another rookie mistake I often see.

Moving the steaming nozzle everywhere quickly and giving the milk a chance to roll.

As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. The more you froth milk, the more you will get a feel and a sense of how to move the nozzle around the pitcher jug.

For beginners moving the nozzle slowly around the pitcher in a “W” pattern is an excellent method to get your milk to roll.

Remember, the “roll” helps to break up large bubbles and helps to produce an even creamy consistency.

frothing milk temperature

Incorrect Milk Frothing Temperature

And lastly, overheating your milk will likely cause your milk froth to collapse quickly.

If you find that your pitcher becomes so hot you can’t hold your palm on the base, you’ve overheated your milk.

You have probably seen baristas placing their palm on the bottom of the pitcher, and this is the reason – it gives a basic gauge of the temperature of the milk.

Regular milk starts to burn at 165 degrees, so always try to keep the temperature lower than that. When I’m frothing milk, I aim for around 140 degrees for small drinks and 155 for larger ones.

When you’re just starting out, using a thermometer is a good idea until you grasp how the temperature feels when holding the pitcher jug.

But keep in mind that there can be some delay with the temperature of the milk and the reading on the thermometer. Your milk could be 5 to 10 degrees hotter than the thermometer shows.


It’s always a bummer when your awesome-looking frothed milk deflates after you’ve spent time setting up your workstation and rolling your milk around the pitcher.

There can be many reasons why your frothy milk collapses, but if you follow the above tips and tweak your technique, chances are you’re going to get some fantastic results.

I get it. At first, frothing milk can feel intimidating. There are so many things to keep in mind: temperature, where to place the steam wand in the milk, what type of milk to use, etc., etc.

But don’t overthink it. Practice makes perfect, and you’ve got this!

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