Food52 in 5

The 5-Minute Coffee Miracle That Turned Me Into a Morning Person

June 11, 2018

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My alarm clock and I have been feuding for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was little, when my mom’s gentle-turned-unrelenting nudges forced me to rise and shine, I've always preferred sleeping in an extra five—okay, 40—minutes to getting a jumpstart on the day.

As an adult, not much has changed.

Few things can lure me from bed before my wake-up call, which typically leaves just enough time to look presentable for work (shower not necessarily included) and rush to the subway. That means making a full breakfast, leisurely perusing the morning paper, or—heaven, help me—fitting in a workout will simply never be a part of my a.m. routine.

One thing I do, however, always manage to find time for is coffee. Why? It feeds my sluggish, cranky soul in those first minutes of the day when I would much rather still be asleep.

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Top Comment:
“This makes a stronger, richer coffee than it does with the French press. Your faux coffee house drink will be even closer to the real deal. Folks, Erin is not exaggerating about this. We actually stopped visiting our local famous brand coffee house for this. In the end, you are saving a bundle if you regularly stop somewhere for your coffee.”
— mary

My typical coffee routine is a simple one: Boil a pot of water, toss a tablespoon or two of ground coffee into my French press, drown it in hot water, give it a shake to incorporate, and let it brew until the point where I’ve almost forgotten I was making coffee in the first place. If I’m feeling especially rushed, I'll turn to my Keurig.

That was my routine. Until I met the milk frother.

We happened upon each other one Saturday afternoon on the Upper East Side at one of my favorite shops, Flying Tiger: an eclectic Danish retail chain where you can find everything from colorful plastic champagne glasses to office supplies wrapped in tropical prints. I was casually browsing the store’s latest influx of seasonal goods when this tiny, unassuming gadget caught my eye. It wasn’t something that I necessarily needed, but with a price tag of just a few bucks (and no more than $5), I was intrigued. I picked it up and took it home, unaware of its transformative powers.

Dip These in your coffee

The next morning I indulged in my Sunday ritual—watching CBS News’ Sunday Morning while whipping together a French omelet—and decided to give my milk frother a whirl.

It was, in a word, a revelation.

I filled about one-third of my coffee mug with whole milk, then heated it up in the microwave for 30 seconds, added a pinch of sugar, and finally whizzed the frother to work while a French press brewed in the background. After a minute or so, the milk had doubled in size to form a soft cloud. I gingerly poured the hot coffee into one corner of the mug so as not to disrupt the foam (it's more fragile than professionally steamed milk), and in just five minutes total, I had something vaguely resembling a latte in both taste and texture.

I was hooked. And like magic, I rose from my bed Monday morning five whole minutes before my alarm started screeching, excited to start the day with my fancy, faux–coffeehouse drink. I followed the same routine: Prep the French press, heat the milk, toss in a pinch of sugar, and whiz away until the milk froths to perfection. I settled into the couch and used those extra few minutes I had given myself that morning to watch Good Morning America, blissfully sipping on my coffee miracle.

Depending on the season, I’ll make tiny additions here and there: a dash of cinnamon, cardamom, or cocoa powder (or a bit of everything) in the fall and winter; in the summer I’ll occasionally swap in coconut milk, or add a teaspoon of lavender syrup.

It's a weekday habit I've tried to keep up with, although there are—more often than I'd care to admit—days when my lethargic impulse is simply too powerful to overcome. But even though the spark has fizzled somewhat, I'll always look back fondly on those first few months we shared together, when everything was exciting and new.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • patricia gadsby
    patricia gadsby
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    Darilyn Schlie
  • Cheryl
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Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Brand Partnerships at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


patricia G. September 12, 2018
Try using a wand to froth cold whipping cream into foamy clouds to top your desserts. You can only foam a cupful/small jug at a time, but it takes just seconds. Different wands, you may notice, produce foams with slightly different textures. Whizz away!
mary June 17, 2018
My husband and I have been making ours almost the same way...for 7 years. The only difference is in how we make our coffee. We use an Italian stovetop espresso machine (@$25) by Bialetti. This makes a stronger, richer coffee than it does with the French press. Your faux coffee house drink will be even closer to the real deal.

Folks, Erin is not exaggerating about this. We actually stopped visiting our local famous brand coffee house for this. In the end, you are saving a bundle if you regularly stop somewhere for your coffee.
Erin A. June 18, 2018
Ohhh, that sounds delicious. I'll have to give your method a try, Mary!
mary June 25, 2018
Ps. For wand style frothers: Simple hot desired amount of dark chocolate chips in a mug. Add enough milk to still be able to use the frother. Heat milk and chocolate in your microwave to desired temp. Add a pinch of salt, spices such as ginger, cinnamon and/or vanilla and froth away. Enjoy. If using a little frother machine, this generally doesn’t work as well because it doesn’t make the milk quite hot enough to melt the chocolate.
Darilyn S. June 17, 2018
I was more interested in the fact that I’m not the only one who has timed everything almost down to the second just to stay in bed for another five minutes! Thanks for a great read.
Cheryl June 17, 2018
Just so we understand, you are gleefully crowing about a $5 milk frother while referring your readers to a $70 milk frother being sold on a site that pays you to write the article about your $5 milk frother. No one notices a problem with that? I certainly do.
Erin A. June 17, 2018
Hey Cheryl, I totally understand where you're coming from. The milk frother I link out to in the piece actually costs just $7 and is very similar to the one I use!
Cheryl June 17, 2018
You're right. I apologize. The link I followed led me to the one sold on Food52 for $70.
Lois S. June 24, 2018
Cheryl, being able to say "You're right, I apologize" shows you are good person, even if you may or may not be a morning person. LOL. We could all take a lesson from you!
Cheryl June 25, 2018
Thank you. I can't even use lack of coffee as an excuse :-) There are no excuses. I missed the first link and let my judgement (and mouth) fail on lack of facts through my own fault. No excuses.
Joyce June 17, 2018
I also fell in love with the milk frother. It came with the Nespresso machine I got for my husband. Sadly, he didn’t like the Nespresso system and we returned it. I have been eyeing milk frothers ever since. Your article makes me want one even more!
Melody June 24, 2018
Ikea has a frother for $1.29! Works great, yippee :)
Debby B. June 14, 2018
I just use my stick blender. Works the same!
creamtea June 12, 2018
Probably this item, available at Target, but a photo would have been helpful, rather than having to guess:
creamtea June 12, 2018
Agree with dsaf, what does this item look like? Are we supposed to google $5.00 milk frother? No link.
dsaf June 12, 2018
Wow.. Three pictures for other articles and ads for a French Press and coffee mugs, but not a single picture of an actual milk frother - the subject of this post? That would have been helpful for those of us who have no idea what it is.
Erin A. June 13, 2018
You are so right! It's become such an engrained part of my morning routine I didn't even think to include one. I've attached a link in the article to a similarly budget-friendly milk frother in case you want to try it out for yourself. Unfortunately, Flying Tiger doesn't sell their products online, but this one is nearly identical! Our shop also sells a gorgeous, pro-grade version that'll get you to the coffee of your dreams in just 80 seconds. Here's the link:
Hana A. June 11, 2018
Love Flying Tiger, and love a good frothy drink!