What Is Cold Foam?

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what is cold foam

Cold foam is all the rage right now. But what is cold foam? This article covers everything there is to know about this delicious drink topping.

What whipped cream is to a coffee mocha, cold foam is to a chilled coffee beverage.

A topper that completely elevates your drink.

It’s definitely different from both steamed milk and whipped cream. 

So what is it?

As a coffee aficionado, I tried my fair share of this delight, and I just had to find out everything about it: from its origins to the perfect way to make it at home. Today, I will share it all with you.

Let’s dive straight in.

What Is Cold Foam, Anyway?

A layer of frothed milk is a key element to the velvety texture of many coffee beverages, from cappuccino to mocha.

And as you know, these drinks are made by frothing milk with hot steam, thus forming microbubbles.

But if you were to make a cold version of any of those beverages, you can’t use the same method. By pouring hot, steamed milk on top of an iced coffee, you’ll just get a mushy mixture that’s neither hot nor cold anymore.

So what do you do instead?

Make cold foam, of course!

This is exactly what the name says it is – foam made without the use of steam. 

Cold foam is creamy and thick, so it sits on top of your cold drink. It’s delicious while only adding a handful of calories to your beverage of choice. What’s not to love about it?!

Cold foam is all the rage right now. And while it might not be its invention, cold foam is mainly popularized by Starbucks.

The cold foam had its debut in Seattle’s Reserve Roastery in 2014 as a topper for Americano Con Crema.

Four years later, cold foam was introduced as a regular cold drink topping. And not soon after, many coffee chains and shops followed. 

How Is Cold Foam Made

Bottled of soy milk poured into a glass
Soy milk is the best option for a non-dairy alternative

As we already established, cold foam is made by frothing milk without the use of steam.

Seems fairly easy, right?

Not so fast. 

You see, steam plays a huge role in getting that perfect microfoam for your latte. Steaming milk agitates proteins naturally found in it, causing them to separate and form bubbles. 

So, now the question is – how does one unfold the milk’s proteins without using steam?

By introducing air at high pressures. In other words, by vigorously whipping or blending the milk.

As you can see, making cold foam requires a bit more work than steamed foam. 

Not only that, but you need to make sure the foam doesn’t disappear way before you’re done sipping on your coffee.

Starbucks does that by using nonfat milk.

While fat in milk adds sweetness to the foam, it also destabilizes it. So, while a whole milk foam will be deliciously sweet, it will disappear and blend with your drink within minutes.

If you’re looking for a non-dairy alternative, your best option is soy milk. It has a similar protein content to cow milk, so it makes a rather stable foam. It doesn’t last as long as dairy foam, though, and its bubbles are slightly bigger. 

Different Cold Foam Variations

The basic Starbucks cold foam consists of just milk, frothed into a blender until it’s rich and velvety. Since skim milk is used, the foam doesn’t affect the flavor as much as the texture.

But flavored cold foam does sound nice, doesn’t it?

Well, there are actually quite a few types of cold foam you can to your Starbucks drink.

Some of the menu staples are:

  • Vanilla sweet cream cold foam – 2% milk is combined with vanilla syrup and heavy cream.
  • Chocolate cream cold foam – consists of vanilla sweet cream cold foam and chocolate malt powder.
  • Salted caramel cream cold foam – 2% milk is blended with heavy cream, caramel sauce, and a pinch of salt.
  • Cascara cold foam – it’s made by mixing cascara syrup with milk.
  • Matcha cream cold foam – consists of heavy cream, milk, vanilla syrup, and matcha.
  • Golden cold foam – vanilla sweet cream is combined with extra virgin olive oil to make this cold foam.

And then we have seasonal classics, like pumpkin cream, strawberry, and cinnamon sweet cream cold foam. 

Of course, you can always ask for your own recipe. You can combine cold foam with virtually any syrup or sauce to get a unique topping for your drink.

Popular Uses for Cold Foam in Coffee and Other Beverages

I’m sure cold foam sounds delicious. 

Now, you might be wondering – what drinks pair best with cold foam?

Well, you have plenty of options.

Cold brew and the original cold foam is a classic. Just a hint of the added creaminess really elevates the drink.

The cold foam also works well with all kinds of iced coffee – from iced lattes and cappuccinos to americanos and mochas. The plain one is fine, but any cold foam variation can be added, depending on your preference.

Another drink that’s nice with cold foam is iced tea. It’s kind of like London Fog, which is Earl Gray tea topped with steamed milk – but cold.

Of course, the actual flavor will depend on the kind of iced tea you’re using as a base. But the addition of cold foam will make your drink more velvety and milky, latte-like.

Tips for Making and Enjoying Cold Foam at Home

The best thing about cold foam is – you can easily make it at home.

As we already established, the nonfat milk Starbucks uses will give you the most stable cold foam. But it’s not an absolute must.

Milk with a higher fat percentage will create cold foam with more mouthfeel, but it just won’t hold for very long. Of course, if you’re a fast coffee sipper, then you might not notice the difference.

As for non-dairy milk, soy works best – but again, you’re not restricted to it. But when choosing plant-based milk for making cold foam, pay close attention to the packaging. Many such products include stabilizers, like thickeners, which help in holding the shape of the foam.

Look for “barista” milk versions, which feature adjusted ingredients to create a stable layer of foam. Okay, we discussed the main ingredient. But what about the actual foam-making process?

Well, there are a few techniques you can try at home.

Special milk frothers, such as Aeroccino, make a pretty good cold foam. Using this type of frother is as simple as it gets. Just add milk, then choose a temperature setting (in this case, cold). The frother will then do its magic. 

But if you don’t have one, there are many common kitchen tools that will work just as well.

Starbucks uses a special blender that features a spinning disk with holes instead of blades. These holes help in aerating the milk and creating the bubbles needed for cold foam. 

Of course, if you own a regular blender, it will work just fine. Another example of a kitchen tool that will make a decent cold foam is a handheld frother. Depending on the ingredients you’re adding, you might have to froth for a minute or so until you reach the right consistency.

However, if you were to ask me my favorite method for making cold foam at home – it would be using a French press.

Not going to lie. Frothing milk with a French press is messy and requires more milk than other methods. That’s because the plunger doesn’t reach the bottom of the French press.

However, this method will produce a very rich cold foam that will elevate any chilled drink.

It’s very simple – just add cold milk to the French press and place a lid on top. Start vigorously moving the plunger up and down until you get the desired consistency.

To Sum Things Up

Man holding a Starbucks cold brew beverage cup in hand.
Starbucks’ menu is dominated by cold foam drinks

Nowadays, Starbucks’ menu is dominated by cold foam drinks, and for a good reason. The microfoam layer makes any cold drink velvety and even more delicious.

While regular froth is made by steaming the milk, cold foam is made by introducing air to milk by pressure. This means it won’t warm up your cold coffee, so it’s a perfect addition to all your favorite summer beverages.

From nitro cold brew to even ice teas, cold foam is a great topping to spice up your drink game. 

Trying to make cold foam at home? Here are five ways you can do that.

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Viktoria Marks
Viktoria is a writer and a journalist who can't imagine sitting by her computer without a large cup of java in her hand. She loves sampling coffee from all over the world as much as writing about it.