There’s no doubt more and more people are moving away from dairy and substituting their milk for a non-dairy alternative to have with their coffee. There’s a number of reasons why this is the case. It could be down to lactose intolerance or as a result of a specific allergic reaction linked to dairy.
Perhaps it’s as a result of personal choice to avoid or lower the consumption of animal foods and reduce the impact on the planet. The rise of veganism and environmentally conscious consumption is a hot topic at the moment. Part of the reason we’ve decided to make this blog is to support our previous blog covering World Plant Milk Day.
Or perhaps a decision has been made to choose a lower calorie and lower saturated fat option such as almond milk, hazelnut milk and rice milk, which are easier and lighter on the digestive system.
Then again it might be simply just down to the taste of the milk itself and looking for something else which they prefer the taste of.
Whatever the reason, more and more people are exploring non-dairy alternatives to have with their coffee, which is why we thought we’d better have a little look at some of the milk options available and see how they work with coffee. We’ve ranked the best non-dairy milks to use in your coffee from worst to best.
6. Cashew Milk
This is usually blended milk, in other words, this milk is made from cashew nuts mixed with other nut milks. 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.
Cashew milk tends to be pretty sweet but that’s good from an overall flavour point of view. Handily it does have a less nutty taste too than say hazelnut milk which makes it a good bet for bringing out the hidden depths of some speciality coffees and not overwhelming your palate.
However, cashew milk falls down when it’s heated past 60°C and curdles. The foam produced doesn’t hold and isn’t dense. It’s also more limited in choice in terms of the brands available on the market which is why this makes number 6 on our list.
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 all sorts 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 coconutty taste has a tendency to be overwhelming, 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: temperature and acidity. 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, but can sometimes be bitter. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to offer sweetened almond milk instead, as it will offer a smoother taste.
Most coffee houses are accustomed to using soy milk in coffee, as this type of non-dairy milk has been a popular option for many years. Soy milk is easily accessible in most areas, and its relatively affordable price makes it an attractive option for many businesses and consumers alike.
Some soy milk curdles in coffee as a reaction to the acidity or hot temperature. Soy milks without preservatives may be more prone to separating in your customers’ coffee. If you think temperature is the problem, try pouring warm soy milk into your serving cup and slowly adding the coffee.
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.
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 the 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.
If you want to accommodate lactose intolerant and vegan customers in your coffee shop, it is important to select a non-dairy milk option that can create delicious coffee drinks. You'll find that when you compare soy milk vs almond milk or oat milk vs coconut milk, some options dissolve better than others, and some milks are better suited for making foam in lattes and cappuccinos. Choose an alternative that does not take away from the taste of your house blends and remember to use this blog as a reference as you weigh your options.