Demand for animal products is on a downward trend, with more brits than ever looking to either reduce their meat consumption or adopt a completely meat-free lifestyle.
According to research conducted by Finder, 2021 will see the largest recruitment in ‘meat-free’ diets. It’s estimated that by the end of 2021, 11 million brits (26%) will be following a meat-free diet, with veganism accounting for 7% of that, an increase of 132% in 2020.
In addition, nearly a quarter of Brits consumed plant milk in 2019 and 56% of Brits adopt vegan buying behaviours, according to research carried out by Opinion Matters.
Whatever the reason, ethical or health-based, interest in dairy-free milk is definitely on the rise. To help those looking to make the transition to a vegan diet or for those just looking to experiment with their coffee, we thought we'd provide some information on the best milks for your coffee.
6. Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is usually a blended milk, meaning its mixed with a number of other milks to reach the final product. These other milks maybe hazelnut, walnut or almond, with a large variety of other nut-based milks that could potentially be used in these blends.
With its creamy texture and natural sweetness, cashew milk is growing in popularity within the plant-based milk community. It garners further praise for its more subtle nutty taste, which doesn't overpower the palate when compared to its other nut-based cousins.
However, it's number 6 on our list for a reason. Unfortunately, cashew milk underdelivers when its steamed, often curdling when heated past 60°C. This makes it acceptable for use in a domestic environment, but not a professional one. Due to the milk generally being blended, you’ll often also find that it separates in your coffee, even at lower temperatures. From a flavour standpoint, this wouldn’t affect anything. However, it would be enough to put some customers off of it.
5. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, unlike other milks, is a staple across the world of food. Coconut milk is used in abundance in curries, stews and host of other savoury dishes. But is it any good in coffee?
Coconut definitely isn’t to everyone’s taste, especially those without a sweet tooth. The sweet coconutty taste has a tendency to be prominent, distracting from the flavour of delicate coffee, however, this depends on the quality of coconut milk you buy.
Similarly to cashew milk, coconut milk tends to also curdle at any temperature above 55°C. The milk curdles because of the acidity of the coffee. Depending on how it's ground, roasted and brewed, one cup of coffee can have more or less acid than another. It’s this acid that acts as a coagulant and curdles any non-dairy form of milk.
However, it’s not all bad. Many people drink coconut milk, or are at least researching the possibility of drinking it, based on it’s supposed health benefits. Coconut milk is high in fat, but it seems they’re healthy ones. Firstly, coconut milk fat is high in MCTs - medium-chain triglycerides - which can help you feel fuller after eating, exercise better, and even provide immediate energy to the brain. Coconut milk also contains lauric acid, which has been proven for its antimicrobial (defensive) properties.
Almond milk has become one of the most popular milks to use in coffees, when at home, as well as in professional cafes. You can find almond milk in several flavours, and many suppliers produce both sweetened and unsweetened versions of the drink.
Unfortunately, for the same reasons as coconut milk, almond milk can curdle. In order to reduce the risk of curdling, you should avoid pouring almond milk into hot coffee. It’s reaction with the acidity and heat of the coffee may vary between coffee roasts, grounds and brands, so be sure to experiment with several options.
In terms of taste, almond milk (as you would expect) has a nutty flavour. Similarly to coconut milk, due to its nutty flavour, almond milk has a tendency to overpower the flavour of your coffee. For this reason, be careful what coffee you decide to pair with this milk from a flavour point of view.
Soy is perhaps the most established dairy-free milk on this list, being used in both domestic and commercial environments for years now. Soy milk's attractive price point and availability make it a popular choice for use in coffee shops and cafes.
Due to its creamy texture and neutral taste, soy milk won't smother the flavour of your coffee - one of the reasons why soy milk remains so popular to this day.
Some soy milk curdles in coffee as a reaction to the acidity or hot temperature. In order to negate curdling, avoid pouring your soy milk into a hot coffee or think about warming your soy milk prior to pour. However, take care of the temperature as soy milk will just as easily curdle as a reaction to heat as it will to coffee's acidity.
If you’re seeking the closest replacement to dairy milk, pea milk could be your answer.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, pea milk isn’t actually green. That’s because it’s made from yellow split peas, or golden peas. Importantly, this means it looks, and behaves, like dairy milk.
The texture of pea milk is probably the closest to dairy milk on this list. In addition, because of the high protein content found in yellow peas, it steams well and produces thick, long-lasting foam. It also has less of a tendency to curdle, although we'd still advise warming it before the pour.
Many people state pea milk as the best substitute for dairy milk in terms of taste. Unlike some of the other non-dairy milks on our list, such as cashew milk and coconut milk, it doesn’t have an overpowering taste. This means more flavour can be extracted from the coffee. Also, it doesn’t taste like peas - win, win!
Oat milk is probably the most popular dairy-free alternative milk around, being used in cafes, restaurants and extensively in consumer homes. Due to its qualities, some oat milk companies have even developed speciality ‘barista’ oat milks, which are the perfect addition to a coffee. It’s made from a combination of oats, water, and occasionally oil. This results in a preferred, full-bodied dairy-free milk, that may say rivals the real thing!
One thing that's unique about oat milk is it’s extremely high fibre content. This makes oat milk a fan favourite for the more health-conscious coffee customers, as it contains very little fat without having to sacrifice any protein that you get from dairy milk. The addition of fibre, however, is what sets this dairy-free milk apart from its counterparts, making it the ultimate healthy milk on our list, deserved of our top spot.
Oat milk has a creamy taste that is very similar to both pea milk and full-fat dairy milk in coffee. Similarly to pea milk, it has a smooth texture but doesn’t possess the same overpowering taste of other milks on our list, such as cashew milk and coconut milk. These qualities explain why it is growing in popularity so rapidly.
Offering a variety of dairy-free milk is important when accommodating lactose intolerant, vegan and plant-based customers. With the vegan market set to double in 2021, tapping into this market early may be what sets you apart from your competition. When picking which milk to offer, it's a good idea to stock the popular milk as a minimum: oat, coconut, soy and almond. From there, you can experiment with other milks such as pea, as well as ask for feedback from customers, in order to focus your offering.