There are plenty of milk frothers on the market. If you’ve considered any, I imagine they’ll have been either Nespresso’s subtle tube shaped frother or Smeg’s chrome style statement. However, if you take notice of TikTok, you’ll know the most popular milk frother is the Illy.
Illy is already well-established in the coffee industry, so I expected them to deliver a pretty good milk frother. What I didn’t expect was near perfection. It’s a simple model — there are certainly more technical frothers on the market — but if you want warm, silky milk, you don’t need to look much further.
As a former barista, I’ve steamed a lot of milk in my time, so I know what to look for in the best milk frothers. I took this to our test kitchen and used both dairy and almond milk to make hot and cold foam in the Illy. Whilst the Illy isn’t without its limitations, it’s my favorite milk frother by far.
|5.9″W x 8.26″H
|5 fl oz
|hot milk, hot frothed milk, cold frothed milk, hot chocolate
Packaging for the Illy is ultra-compact. I was surprised they’d even managed to fit a milk frother into the box that was no more than a bag of flour. However, when I opened it up, there the milk frother was. Even better, all the packaging around it was recyclable, so once I had it opened, I had no clutter to dispose of.
On the countertop, it looks neat. The Illy comes in either black or white. I tested the black, which has a slick look, but, in pictures, I like the clean aesthetics of the white. They make the milk frother look a little more stylish and less functional.
Who would it suit?
Whilst the lly is a beautiful, capable machine, it’s also quite small. The 5 oz capacity is perfect for one large or two small servings and no more. If you have a small kitchen, or don’t need to serve more than one person, this is a dream come true.
As someone who always has almond milk in their coffee, I was delighted at how well the Illy frothed non-dairy milks. In fact, it’s one of the most successful milk frothers I’ve tested for nut and oat milks. If you’re a plant-based milk drinker, this is the one for you.
When in use, the Illy is close to silent, so if you need frothed milk in the early hours of the morning, you can easily make it without waking the house. I doubt someone in the same room as you would be able to hear it. Combined with the small footprint, you could almost forget that the Illy is even on your countertop.
However, if you’re a household of more than two coffee and hot chocolate drinkers, the Illy’s capacity will quickly create queues around the kitchen. There are plenty of models with more capacity which will suit your needs perfectly.
What is it like to use?
When an appliances is too simple, I start second guessing myself. That’s exactly what I did with the Illy. I plugged it in, rinsed out the jug, and that was it. It was ready to froth some milk. I double checked the instructions and they confirmed that it really is that simple.
Test 1: frothed milk
The first, most obvious, test for the Illy was frothing dairy milk to be hot and silky. I touched the icon for hot, frothing milk, and in complete silence, my 3 oz was whisked into a beautifully silky texture.
I checked on the milk periodically by looking through the clear plastic lid and lightly touching the sides of the stainless steel jug. I stopped it myself when I felt the milk looked like it was getting a bit too silky, but it will automatically stop at 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pouring it out, I had about 1/2 warm milk and 1/2 froth in my cup. That’s a really frothy coffee. I wouldn’t even use that for a cappuccino, but the texture was thick and held its structure really nicely. You can flip the whisk for less frothy results.
The fact that the Illy jug is just like a barista’s makes it easy to work with: I banged mine on the side and swirled it to reduce the foam and then could pour smooth latte milk, rather than thicker cappuccino. It has a lovely, slightly sweet flavor and really silky mouthfeel.
Test 2: cold frothed milk
The cold milk, at first, was a little less successful. My first result was bubbly with next to no texture. This might have been bad luck, because when I tried it again, I got better results. It was still a little less silky than the hot milk, but a considerable effort from the Illy. The mouthfeel was really good once I had given the jug a few knocks: it felt velvety and cool.
My word of warning would be that the Illy needs to be completely cool before frothing cold milk. That’s the warming plate underneath too. If you’ll be switching between drinks, this will take a long time, unless you remember to prioritize cold drinks before hot ones.
Test 3: hot milk
If you’re someone who doesn’t fancy froth and would prefer just warm milk, the Illy can do this easily. The setting is the same as the one for hot chocolate and it will take your hot milk up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. I tested the precision of this and it was, remarkably, accurate. My first glass was 159, the other was 160 exactly. This is a great temperature, because the milk tastes sweet without being burnt at this point.
Test 4: non-dairy
Non-dairy milks are notoriously difficult for milk frothers to handle. They don’t behave like normal milks, so can split, burn, and look, quite frankly, disgusting. I used almond milk to test the Illy and I was blown away. The first note I made just says ‘wow’. It was the best almond milk froth I have ever made. I’m a barista and often opt for almond milk in my hot drinks, so that’s a tough award to win, but this easily takes it.
The milk was thick and velvety. When I poured it, it looked like marshmallows. The almond notes had been warmed and sweetened, but not burnt. I still don’t know how the Illy did it, but I checked again, and again, and again. It was faultless every time.
Cleaning, storage, and maintenance
Cleaning and storing the Illy is easy. The jug is dishwasher safe, but I’d wash by hand to make sure that you don’t loose the all-important, frothing whisk. The lid will need to be kept clean, especially so you can keep a keen eye on your milk whilst it’s frothing.
Overall, the finish on the Illy is very glossy, which tends to be higher maintenance than matte products. I would make sure to have a clean microfiber towel nearby to give the base and stainless steel mug a wipe and a polish after use. Be careful of the base, because this stays hot after use. I burnt my hand touching it so you should be careful.
How does it rate online?
There are strong opinions around the Illy. These are all, almost exclusively, positive. I read a review where one user, who thought milk frothers were pointless, declared the Illy ‘transformative’. People love the three, easy settings and everyone commented on the touch-screen icons, which have a modern, smart feel. Many also commented on the elegant design, so even though I’ve told you about storage, it seems that most owners sit their milk frother on display.
As you might expect, the non-dairy milk drinkers particularly love this. Online, I’ve seen plenty of TikToks about the Illy. Whilst I only tested almond milk, the videos of how it handles oat, hazelnut, and cashew nut fall in line with my experience. This is a good milk frother.
As always, there are a few people who didn’t like the Illy. Capacity was an issue for many, so, take note: if you need to make more than two cups of coffee at once, look at the other milk frothers on the market. The size is also an issue when it comes to cleaning. I found a couple of people who said their hands are too big to reach inside the jug. I think most people would be fine, but if you identify as someone with particlarly large hands, this is something you might struggle to clean.
How does it compare?
Nespresso is on the obvious comparison to the Illy milk frother. I was pleased at how well it fought against Nespresso’s well-established reputation as the compact, stylish milk frother of the moment.
The Nespresso Aeroccino 3 is slightly more expensive, with a little more capacity (4-8 oz) and, I do really like it. However, the Illy’s jug shape is really useful for when you want to pour in patterns or play a little with the texture of your milk. There’s not much between the two: Nespresso is better for capacity, Illy has better ergonomics. You can’t go wrong.
If you’d like even more capacity and luxury, but don’t want to compromise on style, let me introduce you to Smeg’s milk frother. This was my kitchen crush for years. I’ve admired the range of colors and retro style from afar. In terms of aesthetics, the Smeg is better. It’s beautiful, but harder to keep quiet on your countertops. The dial on the Smeg is more interactive and, I actually find it a little more reassuring. The Smeg also has an 8 oz capacity and can froth milk nearly as well. I don’t think it’s as good on plant based milks, but that’s a marginal fault. The biggest deal breaker is that the Smeg is over double the price of the iIly. You need to be desperate for more capacity and a stand-out milk frother to pay that.
Should you buy it?
If you want a small and stylish milk frother, you can’t go wrong with the Illy. It’s excellent across a range of temperatures and milk types. You won’t taste better warm almond milk than that made in the Illy. However, if a compact milk frother wasn’t what you wanted, there are plenty more options.
How we test
At Homes & Gardens we want to give practical advice. That’s why all our reviews are unsponsored and done by our team of expert product testers. They take every appliance we recommend to our dedicated test kitchen. There, they’ll make sure to use every feature on a milk frother, so that they can report back to you in deep detail on what each model is like.
We also make notes on unboxing, cleaning, storage, and maintenance, so that you know everything you need to know before making a purchase. If you’d like to find out more, you can visit our dedicated page for how we test.