For most coffee drinkers, milk is an essential part of a great cup of coffee. But dairy milk consumption is on the decline for a variety of reasons, from dairy intolerance to the rising popularity of vegan and plant-based diets.
There are many positives to substituting dairy milk, but with so many alternatives on the market, how to know which one to use in your morning latte? Your coffee’s final flavour is greatly impacted by the addition of milk, reducing acidity and adding different notes. Each milk alternative contributes to a different overall flavour, texture and performance.
HOW MILK FOAM IS CREATED: THE SCIENCE
Fat and proteins are important elements in making a strong, creamy and stable foam texture. When foaming your milk with the pitcher, it undergoes structural changes to reach the final taste and look. Milk proteins stabilise air bubbles, but milk fat destabilises the foam. This makes the process complex and requires an interplay between milk proteins and milk fat to make the perfect microfoam.
NON-DAIRY MILK ALTERNATIVES
Coconut milk is a popular choice amongst coffee drinkers. With a more dense and creamy texture, it’s a go-to choice if you like your coffee extra frothy, creating a bubbly texture when foamed. Distinguished by a naturally sweet taste, coconut milk adds a subtle tropical note and velvety consistency, although some find it overpowers the taste of the coffee.
Coconut milk also contains nutrients such as magnesium, iron and potassium, and has many health benefits.
Almond milk is another dairy milk alternative increasing in popularity. Made with ground almonds and water, this milk is lower in calories and saturated fat. It’s a perfect alternative for those with lactose, soy protein or gluten intolerance (although not suitable for people with a nut allergy).
Almond milk comes both unsweetened and sweetened, which also has an impact on the coffee flavour. Almond milk has a nutty, slightly bitter aftertaste and is not as high in protein as dairy milk, which can result in a less creamy consistency. Foam with almond milk has a silky texture and can create beautiful latte art.
Oat milk is often the preferred choice for health-conscious coffee lovers as it’s low in fat, high in protein and has a naturally sweet taste. Oat milk gives coffee a wheaty flavour with thick creamy notes and good foam, and is subtle enough to not overpower the coffee taste, making it a great option to rival dairy milk.
While it takes a little longer, oat milk is perfect for making foam for your latte or cappuccinos. It has a lower protein content than dairy milk and therefore creates larger bubbles in foam.
Soya milk has long been a popular diary-free milk substitute, preferred by some people due to its high protein content and wide availability. It has a similar texture to dairy milk, with a light taste that doesn’t change the coffee flavour, which is a big positive for this milk alternative.
Soya milk has a good stretch and can create a foam similar to that of dairy milk, although certain brands can curdle in coffee because of the high temperature.
Cashew milk is very similar in taste to dairy milk, but it is also a more expensive option. Cashew milk has a lighter nut flavour than almond milk, but still adds a creamy and naturally sweet taste. It creates a more bubbly foam than dairy milk and most other plant-based milk alternatives.
Rice milk is known for its light and refreshing taste, and is often a preferred milk alternative by coffee drinkers with lactose intolerance or nut allergies. Rice milk doesn’t have a dominant taste, thus resulting in a more prominent and strong coffee flavour. However, as rice milk doesn’t have much protein and density, it can result in a less creamy coffee.
What’s your non-dairy milk of choice for your coffee? If you’re trying to perfect your dairy-free coffee, we recommend trying our Martello blend. This coffee has been designed by experts to be as versatile as possible, and will adapt to a variety of techniques and milk options without compromising on taste.