Subminimal Nanofoamer Pro review 2 months of automagic latte art

for €179.95, from The God Shot.
2024, Feb 29

After our surprisingly positive experience with the Subminimal Nanofoamer, I was extremely curious if Subminimal could actually have fully automated the process of heating and frothing latte-art-worthy microfoam. The TL;DR answer is yes, but as with the original Nanofoamer, the kickstarter version has some tiny annoyance issues that will probably be fixed in the production batch.

To be perfectly honest: the first moments with this product weren't very good. Call me stupid, but I couldn't even get the box properly. When I was trying to shove the tight sleeve off the box, the bottom of the box fell off, dropping the base station and manuals on to the ground. Off to a bad start, but hey, that was just packaging.

Moving on to the first time inserting the filling the unit with milk, and turning the unit on. I went for settings 3 and as soon as the motor went on, I encountered the infamous "impeller spin-out" problem. This manifests itself in a screeching sound, a lukewarm jug of milk with no foam and a bad feeling of "did I do something wrong?". Granted, I was warned this problem existed in the early units through email but you still give it a try before making adjustments because you are not sure your unit is not affected.

nanofoamer pro shaft

Long story short, the shaft was tightened too snugly to the lid, it should be able to wiggle a little so the impeller can catch onto the magnet in the motor. After releasing the shaft slightly I was able to get my unit up and running,but even after the adjustment I encountered the spin-out once more because i didn't close the lid snugly enough. As you can see on the picture, the seal on the lid needs to close very snugly. By just closing the lid casually the lid will not seal so you really need to apply some pressure to get the lid to close properly and avoid the spin-out.

nanofoamer pro lid

With all startup issues aside, let's focus on what it is all about: the results. When everything works, the result very pretty, thick foam, with no bubbles. Very impressive, far less bubbles then I'm able to get with the original Nanofoamer.

One of the things I was most curious about was if it was possible to pour latte art straight from the jug. Every jug used has to be cleaned and I'd love to reduce the amount of cleaning when preparing a drink. First pour? Quite hard but not impossible. Compared to a milk pitcher, it's a hefty unit since the heating element is hidden in the bottom of the jug. Pouring the milk into a separate pitcher for pouring helps "polishing" the milk and improves the control you have over the pour. For me, in daily use, I catch myself rather pour a poor latte art instead of having extra cleaning work.

Settings wise, from the 5 available settings 3 still is quite thick, and hard to pour latte art with. Your mileage may vary, we were using whole milk in our tests. 2 was a lot more pourable and option 1 was most ideal for me, with thin foam for (possibly) intricately detailed latte art.

One of the biggest concerns I had before getting the unit was also cleaning related: how easy is it to clear the bottom of the jug of burned milk? I am very happy to announce it is quite easy to clean. After use, a rinse with water reveals just a little milk buildup in the bottom, which is easily removed with a wipe of the sponge. I don't have to use any detergent and can just rinse and dry. Definitely less work to clean than the previous setup with the original nanofoamer where I used a separate a pan for heating the milk, as heating in the flowtip jug did not really work in my setup, you can read all about that in the original Nanofoamer review.

nanofoamer in action

The last part I wanted to talk about is the workflow. First off, the marketing says you can let the nanofoamer create your milk while you make your espresso. For my manual espresso setup, this timing is pretty hard, and believe me I've pulled a lot of shots over the years. I would need to prepare the nanofoamer with milk first, then prepare the flair, turn on the nanofoamer and immediately start pouring water into the flair to get both to finish at the same time, leaving me with no time to immediately clean the flair filter. Having both finish at the same time is actually more stressful in workflow than just focussing on one thing at a time.

Secondly, the portability of the nanofoamer is unmatched. When going on holiday I'd rather take the nanofoamer v1 and save some space instead of taking both the fellow stagg and pro baseplates and jugs. Lastly, I have to mention the fun and craft. Because yes, automation is great but there is also something extremely enjoyable about the mastery and craft of frothing your milk with the original Nanofoamer, which is probably comparable to the art of frothing milk on an espresso machine.

As the unit is not without flaws, let's quickly run down the alternatives before we draw a conclusion

  • nanofoamer v2 lithium: I got the v1 edition, slightly modified to improve the button. I've read the v2 edition and lithium versions improved the button. I would definitely go for the lithium version because you really want fully charged batteries to get proper foam with the hand held devices. After 2 years I did got the "crack in the impeller" problem, the nanofoamer still works but definitely less consistent in foam quality
  • espresso machine steam wand: If you have got the space, I believe a steam wand on a real espresso machine is still unbeatable, you get the best of both worlds: no milk buildup and thus easy cleaning, great control over temperature and superior foam quality. But alas, if you don't want to have the space or don't want to use up you kitchen counter this solution is not an option.
  • separate steam want machine: There is just something that feels wasteful about having a machine that only steams milk. If I were to make multiple milk drinks every day I'd consider, but as it is mostly serving guests this just isn't worth our kitchen space
  • bellman stovetop milk steamer : Did your high school physics teacher not tell you to watch out with pressure vessels? This device still freaks me out.

latte art

You will still have to draw your own conclusions, as workflow and enjoyment are subjective. As critical as this review may sound, the Subminimal Nanofoamer Pro is still the best option to froth your milk consistently when operation a manual espresso setup such as the Flair devices. The unit is easy to clean, consistently produces high quality foam and the ease of use is unparalleled. I hope they fix the early adopter issues soon and allow other consumers enjoy the workflow without the hiccups.