Homemade vanilla steamer is an incredibly comforting drink. Warm, fluffy milk with a touch of cinnamon and maple syrup – such a simple, delicious, and winter-worthy warming drink for both kids and adults!
Learn how to froth milk at home without any fancy gadgets, to make this delicious vanilla steamer!
Back when I used to work as a trained barista during my university days, the least complicated drink I had to make was a “fluffy” (also called a babyccino).
It was a drink made for kids who were too young for coffee, but still wanted the “coffee experience” with their family. It was simply steamed milk, with a sprinkling of cinnamon or hot chocolate powder on top, and topped with a marshmallow that sweetened the drink as it melted.
A vanilla steamer is the slightly sophisticated cousin of that babyccino. A babyccino flavored with vanilla syrup. But I do like my homemade vanilla steamer to have even more flavor!
Ingredients you need to make vanilla steamer
You only need four ingredients.
- Cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon
- Just a touch of maple syrup to sweeten the milk (you can also use sugar or honey).
How to make the froth in the homemade vanilla steamer
Obviously not everyone’s going to have a coffee machine with a milk steam wand. BUT, there are a few ways to create that lovely froth without a pricey coffee machine.
- A mason jar (and preferably a ball whisk) – least expensive option
- French press
- Frothing wand
- A milk frothing mug like an aeroccino – most expensive option
You can make this steamer using any of these methods.
How to make a vanilla steamer
Couldn’t be easier!
Place the milk, maple syrup, and a cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Alternatively, you can heat the mixture in the microwave too (in a microwave-safe container).
Heat the milk mixture slowly on medium low heat (not high heat). This lets the cinnamon infuse into the milk well. If you use ground cinnamon, the flavor will infuse faster.
When the milk is steaming (no more than 180 F), it’s ready. Now your vanilla steamer is ready to be frothed.
Frothing with a jar
Remove the cinnamon stick and add some vanilla to the milk. Pour the milk into a jar with a tight-fitting lid (like a mason jar). Shake vigorously to create some foam.
With a jar, the foam bubbles will be large and also disappear quickly. So, as soon as you have enough froth, quickly pour it into serving glasses or mugs. Serve the vanilla steamer with an extra sprinkling of cinnamon.
Frothing with a French press
As far as cheaper options go, this is my favorite way to create foam in my milk. I relied heavily on my French press to create steamed frothy milk and latte art when I didn’t own an espresso machine. So this is perfect to make this homemade vanilla steamer.
Place the hot milk in the French press after you remove the cinnamon stick and add the vanilla.
Then press the plunger, keeping it just under the surface of the milk. Next, vigorously move the plunger up and down, keeping it just above and below the surface of the milk. You will see the milk frothing BEAUTIFULLY right before your eyes!
Just check out the image below and compare it to the one above. All that extra white on top is 100% foam.
Once you have formed the foam, swirl the French press to slightly mix the milk and the froth layer, and pour it into the serving glasses. Be careful not to dispense all the froth into the first glass.
Frothing wand and aeroccino
You can use both of these gadgets as well to create frothy milk. The method is pretty self explanatory for either of these tools, as they come with an instruction manual. So I won’t go into detail here.
You could also make a delicious vegan vanilla steamer at home, if you like.
Homemade vegan vanilla steamer – Substitute the milk with a barista quality plant based milk. I love using barista oat milk. In fact, I make this vanilla steamer much more often with oat milk than with regular milk.
Maple syrup substitution – You could actually leave out the sweetener entirely, if preferred. I like my steamer to be just a tad sweet so I don’t usually add much maple syrup. But you can also add honey, sugar, or even sugar substitutes to suit your preference.
Cinnamon stick – You can use ground cinnamon instead as well. You can also use Ceylon cinnamon for a more floral, earthy flavor.
Vanilla extract – A crucial ingredient for a vanilla steamer, obviously. I used vanilla bean paste in this post, but you can use vanilla extract too. If you only have imitation vanilla, please use less of it. Imitation vanilla essence tends to be bitter in larger quantities.
You can also use fresh vanilla beans, or just the vanilla bean husk (once you’ve used the vanilla caviar for something else).
Other additions to your vanilla steamer
The great thing about a homemade vanilla steamer is that you can make it your own.
Nutmeg – Add some nutmeg for more flavor.
Marshmallows – Just like the fluffies I used to make, a marshmallow makes this vanilla steamer even better (and sweeter). You can use vanilla marshmallows, or chocolate marshmallows, or butterscotch marshmallows, or even mini marshmallows.
Whipped cream – Spice your whipped cream with some nutmeg, and top your vanilla steamer with spiced whipped cream!
Boozy vanilla steamers – For the adults, a dash of bourbon, rum, brandy, or whiskey would be a fun addition as well!
I’ve been on a vanilla steamer kick lately, and it’s been such a comforting drink during these cold winter days. Especially, without the added richness of chocolate.
And since there are several options to froth your milk without any expensive tools, it’s a “gourmet” drink that you can easily make at home, any time you like. And it’s very kid-friendly too.
It’s perfectly sweet (i.e. not too sweet at all), and refreshingly warming and soothing. This homemade version tastes just as good (or better) as a fluffy, foamy vanilla steamer you’d get in cafes!
Homemade Vanilla Steamer Recipe
- 2 ½ cups full fat milk or barista oat milk / almond milk (see recipe note about milk)
- 1 stick cinnamon (about 3 inches) or scant ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 – 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Whipped cream
- Place the milk, cinnamon, and maple syrup in a saucepan, and slowly heat the milk mixture over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
- Heat the milk until it's steaming (about 170 – 180°F). Do not let the milk boil, as it can scorch the milk, which will make it taste quite off-putting.
- Remove the cinnamon stick (if used), and set it aside. Do not discard it.
- Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour the milk into a French press (1 L capacity – see recipe notes).
- Push the plunger until it’s just below the surface of the milk.
- Then start moving the plunger vigorously up and down, while keeping the plunger just above and below the milk surface for the whole process. This will help create small milk foam (microfoam).
- Once you've created enough foam, gently swirl the milk inside the French press, until it looks a little shiny.
- Pour the milk into two mugs, dividing the foam as equally as possible.
- Split the cinnamon stick in two and add them into the two mugs (optional), or sprinkle the surface with extra ground cinnamon (and nutmeg, if you like).
- Mix nutmeg with some whipping cream and whip until you have firm (but soft) peaks. Then spoon it over the surface of your vanilla steamers.
- OR top with a marshmallow (or two). The marshmallow will soften and melt as you drink.
Tips & Tricks
Note on milkFull fat milk froths much better compared to low fat. You could also use 2% milk if that’s what you have. But 1% or 0% fat milk will not give you the same results or flavors in this recipe. For a vegan option, my go to is barista oat milk. You can also use barista quality almond milk.
Note on using a French pressI use a 1 L capacity French press to make 2 servings. If you only have a small French press, and you don’t want to froth twice, you can froth only half the milk as stated in the recipe. Then divide the remaining milk between the two mugs, and top the two mugs equally with the milk and froth from the French press. You can also use a mason jar with a whisk ball and a lid. Vigorously shake the milk until you form enough froth, then quickly pour it into two mugs and serve.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”