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Difference Between Froth and Foam in Coffee: A Detailed Guide


Brandon Pierce
March 1, 2023

It's tasty, it's fluffy, it's creamy. It gets on your mouth when you take a sip. Of course, we are talking about coffee foam and froth! If you're a real fan of coffee, you may have come across frothy art or syrup-topped foamy beverages at your favorite coffee shop. 

What's the difference between froth and foam in coffee?

Foam and froth are the two components within some of the most popular coffee beverages, but are they the same?

Is froth the same thing as foam in coffee drinks? The most straightforward answer is, "No," at least not entirely. 

Our mission is to discover what foam and froth are, compare the two, and see what their similarities and differences are. We'll start with the basics.

What is the Difference Between Froth and Foam in Coffee?

Before we go deeper into the difference between froth and foam, let's get a high-level overview of both.

Coffee froth and foam are both created when air is incorporated into a liquid. The most common liquid for both is milk or cream. However, coffee itself also creates a crema when brewed. It is a functional part of coffee froth and is essential for creating froth art.

Coffee Froth

Coffee froth is created by heating milk and then aerating it with a steam wand, usually attached to an espresso machine.

froth coffee art

This aerating wand is responsible for the whooshing sound you occasionally hear behind the counter, but aside from contributing to the coffee shop atmosphere, it is also responsible for creating extremely small bubbles that give the milk a creamy, gooey, or velvety texture. It has a "wet" sheen to it resembling melted marshmallows.

Frothed milk is also known as "microfoam" and is often used as a topping for hot coffee drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.

Coffee Foam

Coffee foam, on the other hand, is created by whisking air into the liquid, usually with a handheld frother or electric mixer.

You may also see coffee shops dispensing foam from nitro canisters.

Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew

This foam is typically lighter and airier than froth, producing larger bubbles that don't hold their shape as well. For this reason, coffee foam produced this way is also known as "macrofoam" to reflect the larger bubbles it create.

Due to how quickly this foam dissipates,  you'll find it topping cold coffee drinks like iced lattes and cold brew more than hot beverages.

To quickly reiterate, the main difference between froth and foam in coffee is the way they are created and the texture of the resulting product. Froth (microfoam) works better for hot beverages, and foam (macrofoam) works better for cold brews.

Now that we have a distinct difference between the two, let's discover more about coffee forth and foam.

The Coffee Froth Phenomenon

Froth in coffee is a unique phenomenon that combines an espresso's natural crema with a heated milk froth mixture on its surface.

You may have seen one of these sporting different designs on the internet.

Some coffee shops create these intricate, but always impressive designs as a way to delight their customers, but it requires a chemical process to serve as a pillow for this art to work.

The Coffee Froth Phenomenon
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The natural frothy layer that forms at the top of your espresso and instant coffee beverages is known as crema.

Carbon dioxide produced during roasting is responsible for creating crema in espresso.

coffee stains

Protein-like fractions and polysaccharides derived from roasted coffee, respectively, increase foamability and foam stability.

Coffee Froth Art

Crema with a unified texture keeps the volatile aromatic compounds in the espresso and prevents it from cooling too quickly.

It tastes quite like a frothing cappuccino.

The molecules contained in steamed milk attach to the crema. This phenomenon allows a talented barista to create artwork using the crema layer as a canvas and the milk froth as the paint. 

Some creative baristas often combine the two types of foam when creating 3D art on your coffee beverages.

The milk froth can hold other fluids, yet remain elastic enough to be manipulated using various froth art techniques.

coffee stains


What is coffee froth?

Coffee froth is the white fluffy layer in hot coffee beverages created from combining aerated steamed milk with a coffee's natural crema.

Are coffee froth and foam the same?

There is a slight difference between froth and foam in that froth is created with an aerating wand from heated milk or cream, while foam is whisked or dispensed from a pressurized canister.

Is frothing milk the same as cold foam?

No. Frothing milk only works with hot beverages. Cold foam, while using similar ingredients, would break down too quickly in hot beverages, since the foam bubble sizes are much larger than aerated froth bubbles.

Does a frother make foam?

Yes, a frother can make foam  as long as the cream, milk, or milk alternative is cold.

What is foam called in cappuccino?

Depending on the type of cappuccino, the foam can either be a froth (microfoam) for a "wet" cappuccino, or a foam (macrofoam) for a dry cappuccino.

What is the difference between milk froth and foam?

Frothed milk (microfoam) has a stronger structure than foam, which spreads quickly  when exposed to hot beverages.

Is frothed milk the same as milk foam?

No, frothed milk is not the same as milk foam. Frothed milk holds it's shape better when exposed to hot liquids than foam, which is why foam is used more in cold beverages.


So now we know the difference between froth and foam in coffee. We know that froth is created using an aerating wand to steam heated milk or cream, and that it mixes well into the natural crema of espresso drinks. Froth is used for creating 2D latte art and to serve as an additional layer for preparing 3D art combined with cold foam. We also learned that foam can also top hot beverages, but its structure works best with cold beverages. Foam takes up more 3D space, but melts away easily.

Brandon Pierce

About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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