A huge and growing number of coffee consumers are giving up on dairy milk through a switch to a more vegetarian lifestyle, and others because they are lactose intolerant. And then, of course, some just prefer the taste of the alternatives!
In such cases, there is now a huge variety of non-dairy milk alternatives on offer to give them that creamy kick they’re looking for. Plant milks contain low levels of cholesterol and are also considered environmentally friendly in comparison to dairy alternatives. Plant milk also tends to have higher levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin B12, plus lower levels of saturated fat. However, non-dairy alternatives do sometimes affect the taste and stretch of your coffee. The “stretch” ability referred to in the coffee brewing business is about the milk’s ability to produce foam for different kinds of steamed coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and flat whites.
Nevertheless, as a coffee shop business, you definitely need to stock up on various non-dairy milk alternatives to keep the rest of us happy. Here are a few of the absolute best alternatives out there!
Common Plant Milks
Plant milk varieties are a great milk alternative for coffee drinkers. They’re also now widely available in supermarkets across the globe.
The most common plant-based milk alternatives include:
- almond milk
- coconut milk
- rice milk
- soy milk
- hemp milk
- oat milk
- pea milk
- cashew nut milk
Almond milk has a naturally slightly bitter taste and minimal fat. There are some barista-friendly alternatives (with higher fat content) that have been thickened to help provide a creamy texture to your brew.
Almond milk has been a major player in the plant milk scene for as long as it’s been around. Almond milk usually comes either sweetened or unsweetened and this variety diversifies its contribution to the final flavor of a coffee.
What Does Almond Milk Taste Like in Coffee?
Almond milk has a slightly nutty taste and usually comes with a slightly bitter aftertaste, which makes a lot of coffee drinkers choose the sweetened versions that are now commonly available. Cold almond milk has sometimes been known to curdle in your coffee so watch out for that! When it doesn’t though, almond milk can be good in iced coffee as well as hot coffee.
Almond milk is low in proteins meaning that it does not easily thicken. However, some companies have manufactured barista-friendly versions that are perfect for fancier creations such as a flat white or latte.
Another hugely popular non-dairy alternative is oat milk. Oat milk is a little sweeter than most nut milks and there are also many specially designed barista-friendly versions. These allow the Oat milk to be frothed and added to traditional coffee shop drinks with ease. It should be heated to no more than 60°C if you want the perfect texture in the finished product.
Does Oat Milk Curdle When Overheated?
Oat milk can curdle when heated to temperatures above 60°C and added to a hot espresso drink. Naturally, coffee is an acidic drink and the addition of hot oat milk can lead to the separation of milk and water components.
If you’re in the coffee shop business, you need good milk frothers that have an accurate temperature setting of approximately 60°C. These frothers will help you to avoid this kind of overheating of the milk and its subsequent curdling.
How Does Oat Milk Taste in Coffee?
Oat milk is a super versatile ingredient that can be used in various drinks either in coffee shops or at home. Oat milk has a naturally thick and creamy texture for coffee and tea. You can also add it to your iced latte since it has a very neutral taste. As expected, oat milk carries an oaty flavor with it. Many coffee drinkers prefer these malty notes to regular milk and it is already probably cow’s milk’s biggest rival.
In addition, oat milk is lactose and gluten-free. It does not contain nuts and soy ingredients which are the main allergens. The product is suitable for vegans which makes it a super popular choice for the more conscious consumers out there.
Besides, oat milk has proteins, vitamins, and fiber which are good for your health since they lower blood cholesterol. And to top it off, oat milk contains more than 10% iron which makes it a good source for your daily iron needs.
Does Oat Milk Make Good Latte Art?
Oat milk, and especially the barista-friendly varieties, are a perfect candidate for producing stunning latte art due to the thick, creamy texture and their high capacity to be frothed. Just keep an eye on that temperature!
Supermarket shelves commonly include at least a few coconut milk varieties. Coconut milk is fast becoming another favorite milk substitute for coffee drinkers. We’d recommend you aim for creamy coconut milk with as thick a texture as possible.
When comparing it to dairy, it can’t really be stretched in the same way and like always, it should be heated above 60°C. Note that coconut milk can be strong in flavor, so it’s important that you actually like the taste of coconut if you choose to use it!
How Does Coconut Milk Taste in Coffee?
Most coffee and coconut milk consumers claim that coconut milk has a strong taste and flavor that overpowers coffee. However, coconut milk is creamy and naturally dense which makes it easy to froth and foam. It comes down to personal preference and whether you personally like the taste!
Blending hemp plant/Cannabis Sativa seeds with water will give you hemp milk. Although the hemp plant also produces marijuana, hemp seeds have the lowest levels of THC- the psychoactive compound found in the leaves, so the milk definitely won’t get you high! Hemp milk has a nutty and earthy flavor with a high level of consistency.
In the past decade, hemp milk’s popularity has grown leading to its increasing availability in most online and brick-and-mortar supermarkets. It’s also easy to make yourself; you only need hemp seeds, water, and a good blender.
How Hemp Seed Milk Tastes in Coffee
Most people say hemp seed milk has a kind of nutty or vegetal flavor and a thinner texture than its competitors. I’d maybe describe it as almost beetroot-like!
Can Hemp Seed Milk be Foamed?
Hemp seed milk usually steams well as it contains high levels of protein. Industry professionals tend to say the ability to stretch hemp milk is similar to soy milk. Bear in mind that hemp seed milk also contains omega-3 fatty acids that promote a good heart and brain.
Hemp milk has low levels of calories and carbs but higher amounts of fats. It has all the proteins that the human body needs which makes it a superfood. It is free of soy, nuts, lactose, and gluten which are common allergens affecting a large number of people.
Soy milk is another popular plant milk for coffee and tea drinkers. It’s made from soybeans that are cooked, ground, and pressed to extract the milk. It can be thin or creamy depending on the production process, as well as the sweeteners and flavors that are added.
Soy milk has a low-fat content that makes it sensitive to heat. If you overheat soy milk and add espresso coffee, it will tend to curdle easily. The key features in terms of taste and usability are a relatively high protein content, a slightly nutty taste, and a slightly thicker consistency than rice or hemp-based plant milks.
Additionally, there are many barista-friendly soy milks available to make milk texturing easier.
Does Soy Milk Form a Good Stretch?
Without the enzymes present in cow’s milk, soy is a little harder to stretch. We’d recommend oat milk for maximum stretchability!
How Does Soy Milk Taste with coffee?
Soy milk has a neutral flavor which allows the coffee taste to enrich your coffee experience. Soy is one of the best choices of non-dairy milk since it easily foams. Besides, it is easy to pair it with any coffee and you will get a nutty and creamy flavor that excites your taste buds. Most coffee drinkers claim that soy milk is the best non-dairy milk given its taste when combined with coffee.
Does Soy Milk Foam?
Soy milk has froth but you should make sure you have a frother with pre-set temperatures. If you overheat soy milk to more than 60°C it becomes difficult to froth, instead, when you add coffee, it will curdle. Therefore, the temperature of soy milk and coffee will dictate the frothing experience to a large degree.
Cashew Nut Milk
Cashew nut milk is extracted from cashew nuts. Given the high price of cashew nuts, cashew nut milk will set you back a premium price. This is another nut milk that echoes similarities to that of cow’s milk but can come at a cost.
Cashew nut milk is made by blending whole cashews and water. The resulting cashew milk has a rich consistency and is creamy which makes it taste good with coffee. Cashew nut milk contains a high level of calcium, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins.
You can get sweetened cashew nut milk and non-sweetened cashew nut milk varieties from stores. Commercial cashew nut milk usually has a higher level of minerals and nutrients than your blended version of the same.
How Does Cashew Nut Milk Taste in Coffee?
Cashew nut milk is the least nutty nut milk when combined with coffee if you compare it to the likes of almond and peanut. It has a creamy texture which makes it perfect for coffee drinkers. However, it may not be the best for people who prefer unsweetened coffee – most coffee drinkers like it because it has a slightly sweet taste.
Does Cashew Milk Foam?
Cashew nut milk froths well. However, you need to use a frother with accurate set temperatures as with other non-dairy alternatives. If you overheat your cashew nut milk, it will curdle and spoil your coffee drinking parade.
The protein of yellow peas is used to manufacture pea milk. Pea milk has a higher protein content when compared to other alternatives such as oat and soy, and also comes with a hearty dose of potassium. Pea milk has a smooth and neutral taste which allows a coffee drinker to enjoy their favorite coffee blend.
How Pea Milk Tastes in Coffee
Pea milk is a less popular alternative than many other plant milks but actually has a great taste! The texture is smooth, and the taste is very neutral. One thing’s for sure – you don’t have to worry about it tasting like the peas in your freezer, and it won’t leave an earthy aftertaste in your coffee creations. Some people compare its taste to almond milk although it’s more neutral and smoother.
Can Pea Milk Make Foam for Coffee?
In common with the other high-protein milk alternatives, pea milk is pretty awesome at making foam for coffee. However, you need to make sure you use an accurate frother because overheating plant milk will make it curdle when you go to add the coffee. Temperature control is very crucial.
Pea milk is also high in heart-healthy omega 3 fats due to the sunflower oil and algal oil added by most manufacturers, and it’s fortified to be an excellent source of vitamin B12.
Rice milk is one of the best kinds of milk for some coffee drinkers since it has the lowest allergen levels. It is naturally sweeter than others and has no cholesterol which means that it is a very healthy option. However, it is high in carbohydrates and lower in protein than a lot of the other alternatives.
How Does Rice Milk Taste with Coffee?
Rice milk is light and refreshing. It is however more on the watery than the creamy side. When added to hot coffee, it has a slightly higher likelihood of curdling, especially if it has been heated too much.
Does Rice Milk Foam?
Rice milk is thin and has a lower level of proteins and the probability of making foam is almost zero. Therefore, using a frother to make foam is almost impossible.
You can purchase a huge variety of milk alternatives from most online and physical stores these days, and many companies offer barista-friendly plant-based milk options designed specifically for coffee beverages. These barista-friendly choices are modified to increase the stability of proteins to prevent a rapid change in pH when the plant-based milk comes in contact with the acidity of the coffee.
Non-dairy milks also often have a superior level of fiber, protein, minerals, and other nutrients than traditional cow milk. When making your decision about which to choose, bear in mind your personal tastes, whether you’re looking to froth it, and the textures you look for the most when it comes to your idea of a perfect cup of coffee!
Barry Konkin is the founder of HotShot Coffee Sleeves. With over 30 years experience in commercial offset printing, Barry utilized his diverse printing background and creativity in developing new coffee sleeve designs that were granted Patents in both the USA and Canada. Barry’s goal is to assist businesses with brand promotion through the use of high quality custom printed cup sleeves. With an understanding of your marketing and operational objectives, Barry can recommend the ideal coffee sleeve solution for you.