4 Reasons why your Matcha Doesn’t Foam

Why matcha doesn't foam

Matcha with few foam

I’ve received questions by readers regarding the foam of matcha.

First of all I must warn that some schools of the Japanese tea ceremony prefer less foam or not at all, so it’s basically an aesthetic thing.

Also, I don’t think that a matcha that froths easily always tastes better.

The foam that you see on top of a whisked matcha occurs because of a compound called saponin. Some matchas have a higher saponin content than others.

These are the 4 reasons why your matcha isn’t frothing:

1. Not sifting your matcha

Sifted matcha is easier to dissolve in water.

While I personally don’t sift my matcha at home every time, it does make a difference regarding the resulting foam.

2. The water isn’t hot enough

Cold water results in many lumps, and hence less foam.

80 °C (176 °F) water is recommended, but you can use hotter water, even boiling.

When preparing loose leaf green tea, high temperature can be a problem because you may extract too much catechins and the tea becomes very bitter and astringent.

In matcha, however, the powder will dissolve completely. So you can definitely use boiling water, but a lower temperature is recommended because a very hot matcha is harder to drink.

For a hot matcha one has to wait until it cools down, otherwise you’ll burn your tongue and won’t be able to taste it well 🙂

3. The matcha to water ratio is too low

Using too few matcha powder and too much water makes for a weak matcha. It’s obviously harder to froth.

People that prepare matcha for the first time often think that they have to fill the entire matcha bowl. You don’t need to, it would be too much matcha.

The reason the matcha bowl is big is because it allows the whisk to fit, and so that it won’t spill while whisking.

You only need 60 to 70 ml (2 to 2.3 oz) of water, it’s about a fourth of my matcha bowl, but it depends on the bowl.

Regarding the matcha, 2 grams is usually recommended. That’s roughly about 2 scoops of the tea scoop (chashaku), or one teaspoon.

However, when I weight the matcha that I use, it often ends up being about 1.6 – 1.8 grams. It doesn’t have to be exact.

4. Whisking skill isn’t good enough

I have to admit that I’m not very good at whisking. I must practice more.

If it’s your first time whisking matcha with the tea whisk (chasen), don’t expect a nice foam.

As with many things in life, you’ll get better eventually if you keep doing it.

Matcha frothing experiment

I prepared two matchas using the same ceremonial grade powder. The idea is for you to see the results in the foam with different parameters.

For the picture at the top of this post, the water was at 80 °C (176 °F),  I used 2 grams of matcha which I didn’t sift, and 100 ml  (3.3 oz) of water.

Matcha with good foamFor the picture at the right, I sifted the matcha, the water was near the boiling point, and there were 2 grams of matcha with 60 ml (2 oz) of water.

As you can see, the first matcha has less foam and big, course bubbles. It doesn’t look good.

In the second attempt, the layer of foam is more uniform and the bubbles are smaller. This one also tastes better than the other one, mainly because the matcha to water ratio is correct.

There’s another thing that I haven’t mentioned. At first whisk your matcha with a little bit of water and then add the rest of the water. This way you’ll have less lumps of matcha.

Again, depending on the school of the tea ceremony too much foam may be undesirable.

But for a good looking matcha prepared in a casual way, keep this four points in mind.

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15 Responses to 4 Reasons why your Matcha Doesn’t Foam

  1. Wataru says:

    Good job! It’s easy to understand that I keep them in mind.

  2. Oca Ocani says:

    Hi Ricardo,

    Matcha powder do not dissolve in water. It will settle out of suspension after some time.

    It is definitely a matter of taste, but my experience tells me that the brewing temperature influences the intensity of taste perception of tart, bitter and sour, not sweet.
    The intensity of “tart” is longer and more intensively at warm temperatures.
    The taste of bitter is stronger at low temperatures but brewed at hot temperatures it lasts longer.
    Therefore I like to prepare my bowl of Usucha at lower temperatures.

    • Hi Oca

      Thank you for your comment. You’re right, I looked it up and it stays suspended. The goal is to have less matcha lumps in the water, I don’t know what the technical term would be.

      Yes, things taste differently depending on temperature. I also prepare my usucha at a lower temperature, the boiling water was used as an experiment. Anyway you can let it cool down before drinking.

      • Oh, and about the temperature, from what two Japanese tea instructors told me and what I commonly see in matcha recipes, the higher temperature does help in mixing, but if it’s not dissolving then in must be some other thing that happens.
        The saponins that are said to be the source of foam in matcha have a fat-soluble part and a water-soluble part. I think that some compounds in matcha do dissolve in water, the same as what happens with loose leaf tea.

  3. lochan says:

    Hi Ricardo,

    This is very timely for me as I have been struggling to get proper foam in my matcha. I also found that, all things being equal, some matcha foam much better than others. Maybe the quality of the matcha itself also explains part of this problem of foaming. That I suppose is related to your saponin argument.
    Anyway, this is a great post and I think I need to note down the points including those in various replies to you. Thank you once again.

    • Hi Lochan

      Some matcha definitely foam better than others. I have a culinary grade matcha that foams very quickly, while a ceremonial one I have is hard to froth, although the quality is superior. In some time I will share the review of that matcha in this blog.

  4. Hi Ricardo,

    Thank you for this very clear and consise explanation and pointing out of some very concrete points of attention when it comes to whisking matcha.

    Having given a ton of “how to whisk matcha” workshops over the past few weeks, I came across a few additional discoveries which I would like to add to your “4 point guideline”.

    1. Not sifting your matcha.
    It is mostly because of static electricity that matcha sticks together. You can release this tension by sifting the matcha and allowing space and air in between the grains.

    2. The water isn’t hot enough.
    When your whisking technique isn’t good enough and you aren’t able to create a sufficient amount of foam, the answer is not to whisk longer. The longer you whisk, the more you will cool down the tea and the less likely you will be able to create a beautiful froth.
    The trick is to whip-up a good foam in a matter of seconds and then cleaning up the surface, breaking up larger bubbles to form a more minute foam.

    3. Balance
    I have nothing to add to this as this is very basic. Find the right balance between water and matcha powder.

    4. Skill
    Practice is key; a good teacher is gold. Once you learn how to ride a bike, you will remember forever.

    One additional tip I can give.
    Don’t cool your water. Pour it in at 90℃ right after it has boiled. It will cool down instantly when it hits the bowl and more when you start whisking.

    Apologies for my boldness.
    Tyas

    • Hi Tyas

      Thank you for your detailed answer, I especially liked what you say about whisking too long.

      Why do you think that hot water helps? I believe that the water-soluble components in matcha dissolve easier in hot water, just like in loose leaf tea, and the reason that there are sediments that settle, is because some of the non-soluble components remain.

      • Ricardo,

        I am not much of a scientist when it comes to explaining why certain components do things, whilst other components do otherwise.
        You may have a point there with your explanation which appears very plausible to me.

        I find it interesting that you mention saponins as the source of matcha foam. I understand saponin as the base for what is called “egumi” in Japanese, which translates as a “disturbing taste”, something I wouldn’t want to have too much of in my tea.

        I think it is a very interesting question and something I should look into more myself as well. Why does hotter water result in a better foam? Could it have to do with the movement of CO2 in the hot water; or does it relate to the release of soluble components as Ricardo indicated?

        Tyas

  5. Lu Ann says:

    Definitely going to have to share this post. I get this question often as well! Sometimes I have incredible foam, some days it’s not my best work. I can’t wait until I can master the art of whisking! 🙂

  6. Bianca Cordeiro says:

    I don’t know much about tea, but I do know a thing or two about food science. There is protein in matcha tea, and protein breaks down and can reform bonds at high temperate (or high acidity) with manipulation (in this case whisking). This could be an explanation for why it is much easier to create a foam when the water is hotter.

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