How to Make DIY Cold Foam Just Like a Coffee Shop

Drive or stroll right past the coffee shop—here’s the ultimate formula for homemade cold foam that’s just as delicious (and far more affordable!). Learn how to make DIY cold foam to top your favorite iced coffee, hot coffee, or tea drinks.

tall glass of iced coffee with pumpkin cream foam on top
Photo: Carson Downing

For decades, steamed and frothed milk has been used to top lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and more. As of 2018, Starbucks introduced a similar but new concept nationwide: cold foam. Similar to both of those light-as-air toppings, Starbucks' signature cold foam has since been recreated by competitors like Dunkin' and Jamba Juice—and by creative at-home coffee baristas.

Ideal for topping a wide variety of coffee shop favorites, our DIY cold foam can hold its own atop your go-to coffee drink or tea; slowly seeping down to infuse it with just enough richness and vanilla flavor.

Prepare to save time and money by skipping the drive-through or coffee shop line. Ahead, we're spilling all of the details about how to make DIY cold foam right in your own kitchen.

What is DIY Cold Foam?

Cold foam is frothed milk (or nondairy milk alternative) that's often flavored with a sweetener and extract. It's similar to the steamed milk that tops lattes and cappuccinos, just at a cool temp.

Since it won't melt into your hot drink, a dollop of cold foam creates a light, sweet layer of crema that gently settles into the beverage as you sip it. For an extra 50 cents, you can add cold foam to many Starbucks drinks. Plus, it is already included in certain menu items like cold brews, iced mochas, iced espressos, iced matcha tea lattes, and the trendy "pink drink."

Ingredients for DIY Cold Foam

You need just three ingredients to make our Test Kitchen recipe for DIY cold foam.

  • Milk (or alternative "milk"): Skim milk works great. Since it has a higher percentage of protein per ounce than whole milk or 2 percent, it whips up in a thick, sturdy style. Of course, those other fat percentages work as well, as does heavy cream or half and half if you want something even more decadent. Coconut cream, almond milk, oat milk, and coconut milk work well as a plant-based swap.
  • Sweetener: Simple syrup delivers sweetness without any lingering flavor, so it's our top pick for DIY cold foam. To make it, to a small saucepan over medium heat, add equal amounts of sugar and water. Stir and cook until the sugar is dissolved, then transfer to a mason jar or other airtight storage vessel. Use within 1 month. If desired, you can use an equal amount of maple syrup, honey, or a store-bought flavored coffee syrup to sweeten your DIY cold foam instead.
  • Extract or spice: An optional—but highly recommended—part of our DIY cold foam formula, we like to jazz up our cold foam with vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Feel free to get creative and flavor your cold foam with something else. A dash of matcha tea powder is stellar to top tea lattes, or try a pinch of pumpkin spice to top your coffee latte. You can even mix in a small spoonful of fruit puree. Or try another flavor of extract like almond or maple.

How to Make DIY Cold Foam

Homemade cold foam looks impressive, but is actually a breeze to make. Before we dive into how to make DIY cold foam, round up those aforementioned ingredients and your foaming tool of choice. You have a few options.

  • Milk frother: This is the easiest, speediest, and smallest-to-store option; and costs less than $20 at most major retailers.
  • Immersion blender: Basically like a larger version of the frother (that can accomplish many other tasks like blitzing up soups and sauces, too).
  • French press: Pour the ingredients into the pitcher, then use short pumps of the press until the milk begins to foam.
  • Regular blender: For big batches of DIY cold foam, feel free to use your large countertop blender or a smaller smoothie blender. Add all of the ingredients to the pitcher or cup and blend until the milk looks foamy and full of volume.
  • Mason jar: For an arm workout and serving of DIY cold foam all at once, add the ingredients to a mason jar. Top with a lid and shake vigorously until the milk is foamy.

To make DIY cold foam, here are the ratios of ingredients you'll need.

  • ¼ cup milk (or milk substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or spice, extract, or flavor-booster of choice)
  1. Add milk, syrup, and extract to a tall glass, pitcher, or jar. Place the milk frother into the vessel, allowing the whisk portion to fully submerge.
  2. Turn on the milk frother and blend until the milk starts to thicken and stabilize, or about 20 seconds. Slowly lift the wand towards the top of the milk, then out of the glass.
  3. Gently use a spoon to transfer the DIY cold foam to the top of your drink of choice.

If you have any extra foam, transfer it to a mason jar with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. Before serving, use a milk frother to bring it back to life—or simply give the jar a few vigorous shakes until it's foamy again.

This DIY cold foam recipe can be utilized instead of the milk or cream in your usual coffee or tea drink, or in addition to it. Feel free to leave it floating on top or give it a stir into the drink; either way, you'll experience the sweet, rich flavor with each sip. To add a special touch to happy hour, you can use this DIY cold foam to top spirit-free mixed drinks or cocktails like eggnog, hot chocolate, or milk punch.

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