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What is the best non-dairy milk for coffee?

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you may have already been experimenting with plant-based milk alternatives for your coffee. On the other hand, you may be a veteran vegan with your own preferences firmly in place, or you may even have a dairy allergy forcing you to look to pastures new. Either way, we’re sure there’ll be something noteworthy here for you.

What difference does the milk make in coffee?

Milk can impact upon many aspects of a coffee’s final flavour and aesthetic. As we know, these factors are essential elements for any coffee lover (unless you drink it black, of course). Modern coffees use steamed milk, in an attempt to produce a foam by ‘stretching’ the milk. Many coffees, such as the latte, cappuccino and flat white, all depend on this style of the milk to fulfil their criteria.

Why does the milk matter? 

Traditionally, the majority of all milk is made up of protein molecules. The level of proteins do vary, dependent on the milk you’re using, however, once heated, they ‘melt’, trapping the air and ‘stretching’ the milk to a foam.

Given the vast differences between dairy and non-dairy milks, the performance of each does differ. The outcomes all contribute to the overall flavour and texture of the coffee, meaning connoisseurs are often experimenting, to discover the perfect cup.

Best plant-based milks for coffee

According to Allegra, the following milk’s are the most common alternatives to dairy milk. As you can see there are some clear preferences, but for what reasoning?

the best non-dairy milk for coffee

Soy milk

Soy milk already boasts a rich history, as one of the go-to dairy-free milk options. Most coffee shops will be more than experienced with using it. It’s key selling points are its accessibility and affordability, as well as its high protein content.

What does soy milk taste like in coffee?

The taste is somewhat nondescript. This is a bonus for baristas, as they know it will not compromise the flavour of the coffee.

Does soy milk make a good coffee?

Soy milk is a popular alternative to dairy milk, thanks to it’s similar protein levels and performance when heated; making it easy to replicate the smooth foamy textures of a dairy milk. However, it can curdle as a reaction to the coffee’s acidity or temperature, so be cautious.

soy milk

Almond milk

Almond milk’s popularity has steadily been on the rise. A nut milk that comes in varieties of sweetened and unsweetened, diversifies its contribution to the final flavour of a coffee.

What does almond milk taste like in coffee?

Without saying almonds, it tastes nutty with a slightly bitter aftertaste, hence why some opt for the sweetened version of almond milk, depending on the roast used for the coffee itself.

Does almond milk make a good coffee?

If you like an extra layer of flavour, almond milk offers coffee that dimension. Having said that, it doesn’t have as much protein as dairy milk and could leave your coffee with a layer of wateriness beneath the foam generated. Again, almond milk can split, like soy milk, so it’s important to experiment beforehand.

almond milk

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Coconut milk

Talk about texture. Coconut milk’s properties are creamy and naturally dense, making it a firm favourite for foam and froth. It also has a lot of healthy fats!

What does coconut milk taste like in coffee?

The natural sweetness of a coconut’s flavour is prominent. Some may argue that it distracts from the flavours of the coffee but that would depend on the coffee, of course.

Does coconut milk make a good coffee?

It certainly adds flavour by welcoming an exotic-like experience without the need for any artificial flavourings or sweetners. Moreover, its foam is also more bubbly than dairy milk, giving it a livelier appeal but a quicker disintegration rate.

coconut milk

Oat milk

Oat milk boasts many beneficial components, as it’s void of saturated fat but loaded with protein, fibre and natural sweetness. Oats also contain beta-glucans which help with aiding heart health and lowering cholesterol.

What does oat milk taste like in coffee?

As expected, oat milk carries that wheaty flavour with it. It’s malty notes are favoured by many coffee drinkers already and is probably cow’s milks biggest rival.

Does oat milk make a good coffee?

Oat milk’s naturally thick, buttery, creamy texture pedestals it alongside dairy milk for texture and flavour.  It does stretch well and create a nice foam, however, like many other plant-based milks, it can split.

oat milk

Cashew milk

This is another nut milk which echoes similarities to that of cow’s milk but can come at a cost. Cashew nuts can be pricey, compared to other, more common and accessible nuts, therefore can come at a premium.

What does cashew milk taste like in coffee?

Cashew milk carries less of the nuttiness you get from other nut milks but does give you a sample of its natural sweet flavour along the way, as well as that creaminess we love!

Does cashew milk make a good coffee?

Cashew milk does give a decent ‘stretch’ but, in doing so, it produces larger bubbles, making the foam less dense, producing a more bubble bath texture.

cashew milk

Rice milk

A dairy-free milk, void of both nut and soy, makes rice milk a popular option for coffee drinkers with nut allergies and those who are lactose intolerant. In comparison to other plant-based milks, it is light and refreshing!

What does rice milk taste like in coffee?

As you may well imagine, rice milk does not have a lot of flavour and brings quite a neutral taste, allowing the flavour of the coffee to triumph. On top of that, it is rather watery, which can dilute your coffee somewhat.

Does rice milk make a good coffee?

It’s not ideal for the speciality coffees we are used to. It’s distinct lack of protein means it does not generate a the foam-like texture you may be looking for.

rice milk

Plant-based milk alternatives for coffee 

Obviously, there are many health benefits to choosing a non-dairy milk, as well as the clear  environmental successes of it, making the big coffee chains include it ever increasingly on their menus.

Dairy-free living is becoming more common, whether it’s a lifestyle choice or something you have to adapt to due to allergies.  

As a result, the consumption of milk from animals is on the decline, making plant-based alternatives a lucrative market. Hence why so many brands are concocting multiple offerings, to please the ethically conscious audience.

It’s safe to say, vegan milks are here to stay, and with so many varieties and choices, selecting the best milk for coffee is just a matter of preference.

non-dairy milk alternatives

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