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Guides & Tips

Cold Foam: What Is It & How Do You Make It?

It’s creamy and luscious. It has the velvety texture of whipped cream and sits elegantly on top of your iced coffee drink. 

Cold foam. It’s become all the rage around the world.

Whether you’re bored with your coffee routine or just can’t resist the texture, cold foam might be your first love when it comes to iced coffee drinks.

If you long to top off your coffee with this treat, you may be asking yourself how to make cold foam at home. I have good news for you. You can easily make cold foam at home with just two ingredients and a minimum of equipment. 

In this article, I’ll guide you, so your cold foam will turn out just like your preferred coffee shop, with flavorings and all. I’ll even tell you how to avoid mistakes that could ruin your cold foam.

coffee foam

What Is Cold Foam?

Cold foam is what it sounds like. It’s milk that has been foamed up, so it’s a light and bubbly foam. The textured foam is dense because of the many layers of air bubbles that have been mixed in.

And as you might have imagined from the name, it’s cold. No heat has been applied to cold foam. Why is this important?

Think of your regular espresso-based drink with dairy, like a cappuccino. 

A barista will make hot foam for the hot drink. Then, she’ll apply steam to the dairy. As she does that, the steam introduces air into the milk, and the air creates those microbubbles that result in a foamy, creamy topping for your cappuccino.

But what if you have a craving for a cold brew or iced coffee? You want the same creamy topping. But you don’t want to turn to hot milk or foam for two reasons. 

For one, hot milk foam would heat up your cold brew. Also, hot foam doesn’t hold up well in a cold drink, and you soon won’t have any foam to accompany your coffee.

That’s where cold foam comes in. Since it’s cold, it doesn’t heat up your drink. And it doesn’t react to your cold coffee.

You want a cold foam that will conserve the chill in your iced coffee and give you that satisfying creamy feeling. But how do you create foam without the steam?

The goal is to mix air into the milk as effectively as possible, so the air bubbles are tiny and bond together to create that dense, satisfying, creamy effect.

The more air you mix in, the more bubbles you’ll create. The more bubbles you have, the thicker the texture will be.

Then you can pour cold foam on iced espresso, iced tea, and iced cappuccinos. Cold foam does not have the same pizazz as nitro coffee or nitro cold brew, but you also don’t need special equipment to make cold foam.

Where does it originate?

As with many ingenious coffee drinks and desserts, cold foam was made popular by Starbucks. As a result, Starbucks cold drinks dominate the menu these days.

You’ll find that among the iced drinks on the Starbucks menu, many carry the name cold foam. You can get a variety of flavorings added to your cold foam and top your favorite drinks with it.

At Starbucks, cold foam is made in a blender with a special blade that makes the tiniest of bubbles and results in a super thick textured foam. 

They add flavorings to the dairy and then froth it. Then they pour the cold foam over the infinite number of iced drinks and cold brew coffee you can find on the Starbucks menu.

We shouldn’t wonder how it became so popular. Those layers of light-colored cold foam atop a dark drink are so Instagram friendly. And that mouthfeel of whipped cream without the calories is irresistible.

cold foam

Nonfat, low-fat, or cream?

The Starbucks recipe generally uses nonfat milk to make cold foam. If you’re used to a decadent creamer with full fat, that might sound uninteresting.

But here’s the thing. It’s actually easier to get better textured cold foam using nonfat milk. This is because Nonfat has a higher ratio of protein that makes a stronger foam and holds more texture. 

Yes, I’m talking about the type of dairy with no fat at all, not even the 2 percent type. And definitely not a decadent full cream.

It’s harder to get the right amount of air bubbles in full-fat or whole milk. It takes a lot of practice (and a lot of cold foam drinking sessions!) to get the foam just right.

I will say that cold foam made with nonfat milk might seem to have less flavor than heavy whipped cream. It also doesn’t mix in the drink well since all those bubbles make it float on top.

Rather than stirring the foam into the drink, try leaving it on top. Then, as you sip your coffee, you’ll get a bit of foam with each sip.

At Starbucks cold foam can also be made with heavy cream, since they have the special equipment to create those bubbles. If you want a particularly creamy version at home, you can try a mix of half and half with 2 percent.

Related Read: Heavy Cream In Coffee

How can you make a cold foam recipe at home? 

To cream cold foam, you don’t need a steam wand as you do with hot milk. To mix as much air into the dairy as possible without heat, you just need a simple frothing element that you might already have in your kitchen.

Let’s get frothing, and soon you will also have a cloud of cold foam on top of your favorite drink or cold brew.

foamy bubbles

How To Make Cold Foam Recipe


What do you need to make cold foam?

Easy is always good, and cold foam is easy. You just need two ingredients to make this recipe: the dairy and the sweetener.

For the dairy, I recommend using nonfat milk. But if the foam seems rather thin, you can use half and half. For the sweetener, you can use either a fine granulated sugar or a simple syrup. 

You also need something to aerate the dairy. You can use a handheld milk frother or a French Press. Virtually no prep time is needed. Just grab your favorite dairy and the frother of choice, and let’s get to making cold foam.


How To Make Cold Foam with A French Press

You can make a perfect cold foam armed with just a French Press and some patience.

Step 1

Add milk and the sweetener of your choice to the French Press carafe.

Step 2 

Put the lid on and apply pressure to the French Press plunger. Lift the plunger up again, being careful not to pull it out of the French Press carafe.  

Step 3

Keep doing this plunging until the liquid has doubled in volume. Depending on how vigorously you plunge the French Press, it could take from about 45 seconds to two minutes.

Step 4 

Pour cold foam from the French Press onto your cold brew, iced coffee, or other beverage.

How To Make Cold Foam Using a Handheld Milk Frother

If you have a handheld milk frother, you’ll be able to make cold foam without all the elbow grease that you need when using a French Press.

The downside is that you’ll get uneven, larger bubbles with a handheld milk frother, and the milk foam will be less dense. On the other hand, a handheld milk frother may be a better option if you’re making cold foam for several drinks.

Step 1 

Put cold milk and sweetener in a mug, large jar, or another container.

Step 2

Insert the handheld milk frother. Make sure you cover the whisk part of the milk frother completely in liquid, or it will splatter.

Step 3

Turn the handheld milk frother on to low speed and froth. Gradually increase the speed. Froth for about 20 seconds or until the cold foam is foamy.

Step 4

Pour cold foam on top of your favorite iced drinks.

Flavored Cold Foam Variations

If you love cold foam, you’ll be thrilled to know there are many flavored varieties. The recipes and variations seem to be endless. You might already have your favorite, or you can try one of these.

Vanilla cold foam

One of the most popular types of flavored cold foam is vanilla cold foam. It takes the beauty of vanilla sweet cream and makes it into a velvety foam.

To make sweet cream cold foam, add the vanilla syrup before frothing. You can use half and half for a richer sweet cold foam (though potentially you’ll get a less dense sweet cold foam). We walk you through how to make sweet cream cold foam.

Brown sugar cold foam

The Starbucks menu includes a brown sugar cold foam, where they add the brown sugar syrup to the dairy. At home, you can make your own homemade brown sugar syrup for a rich taste that’s unique to your kitchen. 

Make a simple syrup by mixing brown sugar and hot water until the sugar has dissolved. Add this simple syrup to the dairy before frothing. This does especially well as a topping for iced tea.

Pumpkin spice cold foam

If you’re in on the pumpkin spice craze, you probably want your own pumpkin spice cold foam. Simply add pumpkin spice syrup before you froth.

Want to make your own flavors of cold foam? Before you froth the dairy, add your favorite syrup, such as strawberry, peppermint, or maple. 

If you want to go as natural as possible, add honey. Or sprinkle in spices like cinnamon or even powdered matcha tea.

Then froth the dairy into cold foam according to the method you prefer.

Avoid These Cold Foam Mistakes

What are some common cold foam mistakes that you can avoid?

The bubbles aren’t even

The trick to cold foam perfection is that the cream shouldn’t appear to have bubbles at all! They should be so tiny and even that they look like a cloud mass. Use the French Press method to get the best results.

You have milk all over your kitchen counter

The dairy will double in size as you foam it. Keep that in mind when filling the French Press carafe or mug with liquid and keep it below the halfway mark.  

Nothing happened

If you’re trying to plunge away with your French Press and it’s not working, make sure you add enough liquid to the carafe. If you don’t have enough volume of liquid, it won’t foam up.