Getting out of bed isn't always easy. For some, it helps to visualize a mug of coffee topped with clouds of hot foam. In the past, the only way to get that kind of froth was by driving to your favorite barista or by investing in an espresso machine with a gizmo for steaming milk.
But stand-alone milk frothers have been gaining in popularity. I tested several. I considered the quality and volume of foam they produced, speed, design, ease of use and ease of assembly and cleaning.
I used nonfat milk in all the tests.
Emily Dwass wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.
BEST EVERYDAY MODEL
BONJOUR RECHARGEABLE PRIMO LATTE FROTHER
What it is: This is a cordless wand-type frother. A sleek base holds the wand and serves as a charger for the enclosed batteries. The whisk rotates at about 14,000 rpm.
What's the difference: You heat the milk, then insert the wand for about 30 seconds. (Or froth first, then heat.)
What we thought: The BonJour performed consistently, doubling a cup of nonfat milk into thick foam, with just enough liquid below. Its ease of use and small countertop footprint make it a good choice for daily frothing.
How much: About $30 at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and amazon.com
FROTH AU LAIT FROTH 'N SAUCE
What it is: This frother, which looks like a cross between an electric kettle and a blender, has a 500-watt, 120-volt motor and a pitcher that holds 8 to 12 ounces of milk. It comes with two sets of whipping blades, one for froth, another for making sauce.
What's the difference: It heats and aerates simultaneously. The heating / frothing cycle takes about three or four minutes, depending on the milk used. Shuts off automatically.
What we thought: Makes a lot of wonderful, creamy froth with incredible staying power. Assembly and operation of the machine is easy, but cleaning is tricky: You have to wash the pitcher without getting the underside wet.
How much: About $65 on amazon.com or directly from Froth au Lait, 310-212-5345
What it is: A small electric machine -- it looks like an oversized mug -- this frother has a chrome-finish exterior, a nonstick interior and a plastic handle. The unit attaches to an electric base. It comes with two whisks, one for making frothed milk, the other for hot milk.
What's the difference: This model, which simultaneously heats and froths, is designed to make individual portions. It froths half a cup of milk in 50 seconds or heats one cup of milk in two minutes.
What we thought: Though it's a handsome gadget that gets the job done, and the foam had a nice, full texture, there wasn't enough of it to top off my morning cafe au lait. And it seems expensive for a single-serve frother. It's tricky to clean without getting the underside of the milk jug wet, and the nonstick interior means you can't use a metal spoon.
How much: About $90 at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and amazon.com
AEROLATTE STEAM-FREE FROTHER
What it is: This is a wand-style tool that operates on two AA batteries.
What's the difference: There's no option for recharging, and no base. You can heat the milk, then froth it, or vice versa. Either way you'll get good results.
What we thought: This affordable wand doubles the volume of one cup of milk in about 30 seconds, producing froth equal in quality to more expensive frothers. The battery cover is somewhat difficult to insert, and you have to avoid getting the battery compartment wet. Though a good value, it's not ideal for frequent frothers because it's not rechargeable.
How much: About $20 at Bed Bath & Beyond and at amazon.com