If you’ve been on the Internet recently, you may have seen a new phenomenon – the Starbucks cold foam. And you may have some questions! We’ll be answering them all, including what it is, if it’s any good, and how exactly you can make it at home.
What is cold foam?
To understand what the Starbucks cold foam is, you need to first understand what makes regular foam! Normally, milk foam is found atop hot drinks like lattes. Milk is frothed with a hot steam wand (or with another foaming method) to create tiny microbubbles. It can then be combined with other elements like hot water and espresso, or even used as latte art.
But cold foam is a bit different. As the name suggests, it is a foam that has been created without using heat or steam. It is also only used on top of cold drinks, like iced lattes or cold brew. Like normal milk foam, it creates a think and creamy topping that can be layered – but cold foam takes this to the extreme! It creates a very layered effect which looks amazing when photographed.
Where did it come from?
Well, Starbucks definitely didn’t come up with this idea on their own! There are lots of places that have been using thick, foamy layers on top of cold drinks for a while now. For example, in 2012, Japanese beer company Kirin created a machine to dispense frozen beer head onto its beverages. And of course, the foamy head of a Guinness is always popular!
But we think that the Starbucks cold foam is more directly inspired by the rising popularity of bubble tea, and in particular cheese tea. This is iced tea that is topped with a thick, foamy mixture of cream cheese, whipped cream, milk, and salt. It may also have been inspired by Vietnamese egg coffee, which also has a thick, custard-like topping.
\An example of cheese tea
While the Starbucks cold foam doesn’t quite have the same thickness as cheese tea or egg coffee, it does have the same striking appearance. This is almost certainly part of the current popularity of cold foam, as it looks great when photographed.
Is Starbucks cold foam good?
It really depends on how you like your iced coffee! If you enjoy an iced latte, for example, this might not be the drink for you, as the cold foam sits on top of the iced coffee, and doesn’t incorporate all that well. However, if you’re a fan of cheese tea or like the idea of having a thick, creamy head resting on top of your iced coffee, then you should definitely give this a try. It adds a fun extra dimension to a cold brew, especially when you flavour the cold foam itself.
For the cold brew:
- 1.4 L of water
- 220g of coffee grounds (see what coffees we have available)For the simple syrup:
- 100g of granulated sugar
- 60ml of waterFor the cold foam:
- 120ml of whole milk (a barista-style oat milk would also work)
- 120ml of heavy cream
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- Ice for serving
- First, make the cold brew. Combine the water and coffee grounds in a large container like a jug. Stir until all of the grounds are properly incorporated into the water, and then cover and refrigerate overnight.
- At the same time, you can make the simple syrup. Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of your water to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, which should take around about 3 minutes. Then increase the heat to medium and let the mixture heat. Do not disturb it for at least five minutes, or until the mixture is caramel-coloured.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Carefully pour in the remaining water and stir to incorporate. Transfer the syrup to a heat-proof container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- The next day, filter your cold brew through a sieve with a coffee filter over a large bowl. You may need to pour slowly and in batches to make sure that the use grounds don’t overflow. Now you can transfer your strained cold brew into a clean container. Taste it at this point, because it might be a bit too strong for your liking. Just dilute it with more water if that is the case. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
- Finally, you want to make the cold foam! In a medium bowl, combine the milk, cream, and sugar. Whip it with an immersion blender or hand mixer until it is foamy – this should take between 2-4 minutes. (You could also use the French Press technique).
- Now you’re ready! Fill 2 large glasses with ice, and pour 240ml of the cold brew coffee into each glass. Stir some of the caramel syrup into each glass – how much is up to you. Then Top with the cold foam and serve immediately!
- One of the easiest ways to mix up this recipe is with different syrup flavours. A particular favourite of our is honey syrup. This is very easy to make: simply combine 1/2 to 1 cup of honey and 1 cup of water in a small pot. Use a medium heat and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes while stirring occasionally. Then remove from heat, and let it cool for 20–30 minutes. You can use it just like the simple syrup. You can also try some of our other simple syrup recipes too!
- A salted cold foam is also delicious! You can make it using the same method that we describe above. Just add a pinch of salt before frothing up the milk, cream and sugar. We love following the sweetness of the coffee with the hit of salt from the foam – it gives it a great salted caramel flavour.
- You can use Starbucks cold foam with any iced drink that you would normally add milk to. So one variation on this is adding the cold foam on top of iced teas. A cold foam on top of an iced chai is particularly good!
- And if you want to be really cheeky, you can turn this into a coffee cocktail by adding a bit of whiskey into the cold brew. It’ll be cold, refreshing, and warming all at once.
- There are lots of different opinions about what milk you should use. Some other recipes recommend skimmed milk, while others recommend whole! We suggest that you experiment with the milk that you already have in your fridge. If you want to use a dairy-free option, we only really recommend oat milk, as other types of plant-based milks aren’t as good as frothing.
- If you notice that there are coffee grounds in your cold brew even after you’ve used a sieve and filter, you can absolutely filter it again. This will ensure that there aren’t even tiny coffee grounds left, giving you a silky smooth coffee.
- Don’t over-froth the cold foam. You want it to be the consistency of whipped cream. If you’ve made stiff peaks (like you’ll see with a meringue), you’ve gone too far!
- If you use the French press method, then you need to make sure that you use the right amount of milk. You won’t want to overfill it, as the cold foam will double or triple in volume as you pump the air! However, you want to make sure you don’t underfill it either, as you’ll need the strainer to be submerged completely.
If you use our cold foam recipe, tag us on social media and use #balancecoffeerecipes. And if you want to see what else to do with coffee, head to our recipes!
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