12

Tonight, while having a cup of hot-chocolate, me and my friends had a little discussion about the foam/bubbles/froth formed on the top of the drink.

While I said that it should be referred to as froth, they were referring it to as foam. Now, all my childhood, I was told that foam is used with reference to their origin because of soapy liquids; I can't accept that it should be foam.

My dictionary shows the same meaning for both the words and hence, my question:

Which of the two words, froth and foam is preferable when referring to bubble formation in drinks?

6

Froth is more common, although both are acceptable.

Note that one exception is that when talking about beer one would normally use the word head, for example:

The head of my pint of beer was white.

That pint I had the other day was awful. It was 50% head!

Note that foam is not used exclusively when talking about soapy liquids:

A foam is a substance that is formed by trapping pockets of gas in a liquid or solid. A bath sponge and the head on a glass of beer are examples of foams. In most foams, the volume of gas is large, with thin films of liquid or solid separating the regions of gas.

5

From my 10 years experience in a coffee shop, I'd say the distinction is that froth is more accidental, but foam must be created. You can make a kind of froth by shaking a jug of (very) cold milk before pouring, but to make foam usually requires steam injection or using a blender which can introduce more air into the mixture.

So, if you're ordering in a coffee shop, ask for foam rather than froth. It's a very slight difference, and nobody will think it odd to say froth. But the word foam pays a little more respect to the labor involved. It's just a little bit more courteous. Since you asked. :)

3

Both words can be used interchangeably in casual conversation. I’ve encountered the word “froth” more often in specialized writing. This article is describing an Italian technique of creating a perfect cup of cappuccino. Both words are used.

You can learn to properly froth the milk.

Correctly frothed milk = microfoam = wonderful cappuccinos

Proper cappuccinos and lattes require microfoam—a pourable, virtually liquid foam that tastes sweet and rich.

The pouring consistency runs from completely liquid for latte art

If the foam becomes thicker, like soft peak beaten egg whites,

2

Both terms are perfectly acceptable in this context. It appears as if foam is more common in this context in published works:

Ngram

A Google search for milk with foam returns about 9 times more results than milk with froth while hot chocolate with foam returns about 2.8 times as many results as hot chocolate with froth.

Thus, I think we can conclude that, at least in common usage, foam is more widely used in this context.

  • 1
    Nice. How about milk or hot chocolate with foam or froth. – EnglishLearner Mar 14 '13 at 21:14
  • 2
    On the other hand, frothy coffee: 1790 hits, foamy coffee: 234 hits in Google Books (though when I actually paged through the results, they topped out at 269 and 97). Maybe GB is wrong, maybe UK usage is out of step with the rest of the world, or maybe I'm just mistaken in assuming I hear froth more often than foam in the context of coffee. – FumbleFingers Mar 14 '13 at 22:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.