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Homes & Gardens
Homes & Gardens
Laura Honey

Looking for an easy-to-use affordable milk frother? I'd recommend the Instant Pot 9-in-1

Instant milk frother on a marble countertop with coffee.

Instant, best known for their speedy air fryers and smart slow cookers, has released a whole range of coffee-related products. I've used them all and, I think their milk frother is one of the stars of the range.

I’ve been testing the best milk frothers, looking at the market-leading brands from Breville to Nespresso. I've tested Instant's 4-in-1 milk frother, so was keen to see how the 9-in-1 compared.

As a former barista, I have high standards for what I think a milk frother should be capable of. I tested the Instant on dairy and plant-based milks, making cold froth, hot froth, and hot milk. I have to say that the Instant is impressive, especially for the price. Here's everything you need to know.

Specifications

(Image credit: Instant)

Unboxing

(Image credit: Future)

There’s not much of a story to tell with the Instant’s packaging. It’s simple, and the product arrived in perfect condition. Whilst the cardboard box is recyclable, the Instant does come with a fair amount of soft plastic, which is much harder to sustainably dispose of. 

Lifting the Instant onto the countertop, I felt that the plastic body was a little cheaper than what I would have liked. However, this is a $60 appliance, so I wasn't expecting much more. Plus, it's still relatively durable and robust. 

The milk frother stand comes out quite far onto the countertop, so you’ll need to have wide sides to accommodate this without it dominating your space. However, it still looks smart and slick and the sheer size of it means that you get the benefits of a 17 oz capacity milk pitcher. 

Who would it suit?

(Image credit: Future)

The Instant is perfect if you’re shopping on a budget, but don’t want many compromises. It covers a range of texture and heat options and works just as well on plant-based milks as it does on straight-up dairy. If you're someone who drinks water-based hot drinks and you want something that can warm them up too, this is a great appliance. 

It’s better suited to larger homes. The 17 oz capacity means that you can texture milk for two cappuccinos (or three small drinks). Whilst this is a big bonus for families, it also makes it hard to texture milk for simple, single servings. 

What is it like to use?

(Image credit: Future)

As soon as I plugged this in, the base lit up with three texture settings and three temperature settings. These navigate through cold, warm, and hot temperatures and plain, foam, and extra foam settings.

The touchscreen is easy to use, but it makes chimes for turning on, adjusting features, and when the milk frother is done. This is great for some people who want a prompt or confirmation of the changes that they’ve made. However, if you are texturing milk first thing in the morning, the chimes are likely to alert the rest of the house that you’re awake. I'm a bit of a Scrooge before my morning coffee, so I'm not sure how I would feel about the happy chimes, but there are plenty who wouldn't mind.

Hot settings

(Image credit: Future)

I tested both the warm and hot milk settings, as well as the three different levels of froth. I measured the warm milk at 140 degrees, which is about what I would expect for drinkable, simple milk. The hot milk was the perfect temperature too. I measured it at 167 degrees, which is getting close to too hot (I'd aim for 165), but it was still drinkable and delicious.

I tested these for single servings and a full carafe. My 8.5 oz heating time took two and a half minutes, which is a reasonable time, if not a little long. I could texture milk in about 45 seconds to a minute on an espresso machine, so it felt slow to me. The full 17 oz carafe took three and a half minutes to complete its cycles, both for warm and hot milk. Standing in the kitchen for this long feels like an eternity (even when I'm not being dramatic), so it's worth doing some washing up or kitchen chores whilst the Instant is working. The chimes will let you know when it's finished.

The different froth levels were distinct. The stir function did, as promised, warm my milk with no froth. The foam setting turns your milk into about one-third foam and two-thirds hot milk. I was impressed with the glossy, smooth texture that the Instant created. I'm not sure a barista could do any better. This was the same for oat and almond milk. I tested both and could achieve cafe-quality results on each setting. 

The extra foam setting really lives up to its name. At first, it looked like my whole glass was foam. In reality, it was a 1/3 milk and 2/3 foam split. This seems excessive. In my eight years as a barista, I've never needed to texture milk to this extent. However, if you really love a foamy drink, this is perfect. The structure of the extra foam milk was impressive, especially on the oat milk. I left mine on the side and it held its own rather than dissolving into nothing like I thought it would.

Cold foam setting

(Image credit: Future)

Cold foam is a feature that gives milk frothers the edge on more standard espresso machine steam wands. You can't texture milk without heating it on an espresso machine, so if a steam wand can do it well, it's a brilliant feature. 

I couldn't see the point in using the stir function on cold (there wasn't any point), but I did test it anyway. I used both dairy and plant-based milks on foam and extra foam settings. These took about two minutes and twenty seconds for single servings and three and a half minutes on a full pitcher. The dairy milk was light, cold, and silky. It's perfect for an iced latte. I couldn't fault it. 

The non-dairy milks boasted some impressive expansion, meeting the same foam levels as the hot milks. However, I noticed more air bubbles and texture in my drink, making it less smooth to drink and a lot quicker to dissolve. It was a decent result, but I've tested better. 

Cleaning, storage, and maintenance

(Image credit: Future)

The stainless steel jug is dishwasher safe, so you can pop it in the dishwasher once you're finished with it. The base is shiny and so it will be prone to greasy fingerprint marks, but after all my tests it still looked spotless. I gave mine a wipe down and that's all I needed to do.

My word of warning would be that the heating element can get quite hot and takes a while to cool down. Be really careful with storing this, because if you pack it away instantly, you'll be putting a very hot appliance into your cupboards.

How does it rate online?

(Image credit: Future)

As a relatively new milk frother, the Instant Pot doesn't have a ton of reviews online. On Amazon, out of just over 200 reviews, the Illy has 4.3 stars. People were impressed with the Instant's quality, simplicity, and capabilities. Everybody said that it textures milk well, even on coconut and skimmed options.

People criticized the noises that the Instant makes. It's relatively quiet when it's working, but the beeps, as I suspected have a divisive effect on reviewers. Some found them helpful, others found them frustrating. People also said that this was slow, which is a fair comment to make. Three and a half minutes to texture milk does seem like a long time, even if the results are good.

How does it compare?

(Image credit: Future)

The Instant covers a lot of functions for a low price point, so it's hard to beat. Breville's The Milk Cafe offers more precision between different temperatures. The Instant has more of a vague guide, whereas the Breville will let you choose between 120 and 160 degrees. It also offers 25 oz of capacity, so it's 8 oz bigger than the Instant. In spite of its size, I think the Breville still performs better on smaller quantities. It has the edge on precision. 

The drawback with the Breville is its lack of a cold froth setting, so if you like an iced coffee, you can't make one. Plus, it's nearly three times the price of the Instant, so it's much more of a luxury investment. I would bet that it will last longer, but it's nevertheless a big upfront cost.

If you like the low price point of the Instant, but think that you don't need the capacity, you're in luck. Illy's milk frother is designed for single servings. It doesn't have the same range of settings as the Instant, you can only choose hot, hot froth, or cold froth, but that's really all you need. Plus, it's much smaller than the Instant, so you can easily keep it in a cupboard or tuck it away on the countertop. I'm often only frothing single servings at home and this is my milk frother of choice. 

Should you buy it?

(Image credit: Future)

If you're on a budget and you want versatility, the Instant is the perfect option for you. It was close to faultless across dairy and plant-based milks. However, if you're looking for a sleek or luxury option, you'll do better with other models. Equally, if you're just one person, you'll want a smaller model, like the illy.

How we test

(Image credit: Future)

At Homes & Gardens we put a lot of thought into how we test milk frothers. We make notes on every part of our testing process from unboxing to cleaning-up, so you'll know everything you need to know about what your appliance is like.

We measure the time it takes to texture milks to every setting on offer. We'll also let you know about the temperature, texture, and taste profile of both dairy milks and plant-based options too, since these can be temperamental. Milk shouldn't be heated to more than 160 degrees. If it burns it will taste bitter and have a strange texture. Plus, if a machine burns milk, it can be very tricky to clean. We'll let you know if a machine has any issues with them.

We'll make hot chocolates and coffees to test how versatile an appliance is, so that you know all about your milk frother's capabilities. For more information, you can visit our dedicated page for how we test.

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