I don't particularly like regular coffee, but I love a good cappuccino. The only problem is cappuccinos cost $4 to $6 and I'm notoriously frugal.

I decided to learn how to make my own cappuccinos at home after watching a cooking show where the host made cappuccinos with a Bialetti Stovetop Espresso Maker and a glass mason jar full of milk.

I did try the mason jar shaking method, and it worked, kind of, but to get that truly rich, creamy, foamy milk texture cappuccinos require, you need a milk frother.

It turns out that milk frothers are finicky. I tried battery-operated ones and electric ones, ranging in price from $50 to $100, and none of them really worked the way I wanted them to. They usually broke after about a week or two of use, were incredibly frustrating to clean, or were simply too expensive for me to justify the price. I must have returned at least five milk frothers during my quest.

Then I stumbled upon HIC's $25 manual milk frother at a coffee supply store and decided to try it. After a good bit of trial and error and YouTube videos, I figured out how to use it to make the perfect foamy milk for cappuccinos. Six years later, I'm still using the same milk frother to make cappuccinos every single day.

HIC's milk frother is deceptively simple. It's just a simple stainless steel pitcher with a lid and a mesh plunger. It sort of looks like a small French Press coffee maker.

Because it only has two parts, it's very easy to clean. I just wash the stainless steel pitcher and the mesh plunger with soap and water after each use. Occasionally, you may want to unscrew the top of the mesh plunger and separate the parts so you can clean every nook and cranny in the lid.

The frother is super easy to use — you just put milk in, pop the lid on, and move the mesh plunger up and down to aerate the milk — but making the perfect foamy milk texture is all about the technique.

The milk foam grows creamier and frothier as it heats until it's perfect for cappuccinos, chai tea lattes, and hot chocolate. You can use the foamy milk in just about any hot drink that typically calls for milk.

When the milk is heated for a hot drink, the foam maintains its integrity longer, but you can use it for cold drinks if you don't heat it up. I use my milk frother to make Thai iced tea and iced coffee occasionally, but the foam does gradually disappear as the air bubbles inside the milk dissipate.

The low upfront cost of HIC's milk frother convinced me to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. It's amazing how much money I've saved by making my own cappuccinos at home over the past six years. It paid for itself in about a week.

Of course, not everyone is as crazy about foamy milk as I am, but if you want to make cappuccinos, chai lattes, and creamy hot chocolate at home regularly, it's a no-brainer.

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