The Best Non-Dairy Milk For Coffee
People have been combining milk with java for hundreds of years, and it remains one of the most popular additions to coffee today. Once upon a time, dairy was the only form available. Now though, we have several plant-based milk alternatives for coffee, such as soy, almond, and even pea milk. Yes, peas!
Whether you’re counting calories, have an allergy to dairy, or simply want to be adventurous and try something new, there are numerous alternative milk products. You’ve likely heard of or tried some already, but there are a few others that are new to the game. Here’s everything you should know.
Why Choose Non-Dairy Milk?
It’s true that dairy remains the most common choice when adding milk or creamer to coffee, but the best dairy-free milks are enjoying more popularity than ever. There are a few reasons for this, including dietary changes and a rise in food allergies.
Weight Control and Nutrients
Alternative milk products sometimes contain different levels of nutrients than their dairy counterpart. For example, almond milk contains Vitamin E, which isn’t found in dairy milk. Soy milk and oat milk both contain fiber, which is necessary for digestive health.
Non-dairy milk is often — but not always — lower in fat and calories than cow’s milk, which can be great for those counting calories. However, it’s important to note that some alternative milk products may contain more sugars than cow’s milk. As an example, a serving of oat milk generally has more carbohydrates than whole milk.
A major reason behind the increased popularity of alternative milks is that more coffee shops now try to accommodate people with food allergies. Dairy is a very common food allergy, and non-dairy milks are excellent replacements.
Plant-based milk doesn’t contain dairy. However, some plant-based milk products may contain other allergens, such as nuts or soy.
While there have always been vegans, it seems service businesses such as cafes and restaurants are trying harder to reach those customers. People who follow vegan diets choose not to consume animal products of any type, including traditional dairy products like milk or cheese.
People following vegan diets usually cite reasons such as health, the environment, ethics, or a combination of these factors. Many people believe a vegan diet is much healthier than one that involves meat and animal products, and it’s also considered to be more environmentally friendly. The best dairy-free milk products are all plant-based, so they can be a valuable part of any vegan diet.
The Best Dairy-Free Milk for Coffee
Before delving into the best vegan milks, let’s get a basic understanding of how milks can be used with coffee. For the most part, all versions contain protein molecules. When heated, these molecules sort of melt and stretch, which creates that foam you see in many coffees, including cappuccinos.
This process is why some alternative milks perform better than others when it comes to coffee. The more protein plant-based milk has, the better its quality of foam.
Wondering which non-dairy milk tastes most like milk? If so, soy milk should be on the top of your list. Plus, since it’s been commercially available for decades, it’s affordable and easily accessible in most areas. Because it has a smooth, creamy texture with a rich taste, it’s practically interchangeable with cow’s milk. This beverage has a neutral, slightly nutty flavor that won’t detract from your coffee’s taste, which makes it such a popular choice.
To create soy milk, soybeans are ground and soaked. The mixture is boiled and any particles are filtered out. Soy milk is readily available in both unflavored and flavored varieties, sweetened or unsweetened.
It contains a lot of protein, which makes frothing easy, similar to dairy. In fact, a good barista can create soy foam that looks like it’s from cow’s milk. Soy milk goes particularly well in long coffee drinks and iced coffees.
However, soy milk may curdle or separate in very hot coffee because of the java’s temperature and/or acidity. You can prevent this by either warming the liquid before adding it to your beverage or letting your coffee cool for a few minutes before adding soy milk. You can also try using another roast with a lower acidity level.
When it comes to the most popular nut milks, almond milk remains a firm favorite. This beverage comes in several flavors, sweetened or unsweetened, and has a definite nutty flavor. Some even describe its taste as slightly bitter. Almond milk is an excellent source of vitamin E.
Its unsweetened version can sometimes taste watery and feel chalky, so it doesn’t perform as well as other milks in coffee. It works best with sweetened drinks that have already been diluted somewhat. Sweetened almond milk may offer better flavor with java.
You can use almond milk to create a silky foam, but it may separate when it’s heated. It’s even possible to do latte designs, but the drink underneath may be watery. Like soy milk, your coffee’s acidity or temperature can cause this liquid to curdle, so you should avoid pouring cold almond milk directly into very hot java. Barista versions of almond milk often perform better than brands available in groceries.
Almond milk is made from crushing whole almonds and combining them with water, then sieving the liquid. For those who are environmentally conscious, almond milk does require much more water to produce than other non-dairy milk products.
Oat milk happens to be one of the most environmentally friendly alternative milks available. It can grow nearly anywhere, plus oats don’t require as much water for production as other non-dairy products.
It has a natural sweetness that complements most java flavors, while its rich taste and creamy texture are comparable to that of dairy. For the health-conscious, oat milk contains fiber, but no saturated fat. It works well with most coffee drinks, although like many other plant-based milks, oat milk can split when heated too quickly. Foam can be created using oat milk but may take longer to steam and foam.
While oat milk is an excellent option for someone with a dairy allergy, oats may contain gluten, so it’s not ideal for those with gluten intolerances. Oat milk is usually a combination of oats, water, plus sometimes oil or thickeners. It’s blended and then strained. It’s even fairly simple to make your own version at home.
Rice milk doesn’t contain dairy, nuts, or soy, so it’s an ideal choice for people who have allergies. It’s made from milled white or brown rice that has been boiled and then blended with thickeners. Sugar may also be added to the liquid, and most commercial brands of rice milk have been fortified with multiple vitamins. Rice milk is low in fat, but also low in protein.
It often has a slightly sweeter taste than dairy, plus it’s lighter than other best dairy-free milk products. Its neutral taste lets it blend well into coffee, but its texture is thin and watery. Rice milk does not have the creamy consistency that some other milks have, so foaming is difficult.
Coconut milk has a thick, creamy texture and contains a lot of fat. Its distinctive, naturally sweet flavor can easily overpower java drinks. You can mask the flavor in some coffees, especially those with added syrups, but its flavor will come through in a cappuccino or latte. It’s possible to froth coconut milk, but foam will be less dense than dairy and will dissipate more quickly.
To make coconut milk, the coconut’s flesh is blended with water. Coconut milk can be classified as thick or thin. Thin means that it has been strained more than thick coconut milk, and most canned coconut milk is a combination of both kinds. This product contains vitamins and minerals, including iron.
Cashew milk comes in both sweetened and unsweetened forms, plus it has a creamy texture that’s similar to dairy. It typically has less sugar than the dairy version, while its taste is naturally slightly sweet but less nutty than other nut milks.
This alternative milk can be made by combining crushed cashews or cashew butter with water. Cashews are not cheap, though, so this product is typically one of the more expensive alternative milks.
You can froth cashew milk, but its foam won’t be as dense as with other forms of milk. The foam will have large bubbles, and it may even take on a soapy texture. Homemade cashew milk performs somewhat better than store-bought versions.
As hemp milk is an up and coming non-dairy product, it may not be readily available in all areas. Industrial hemp growing in the United States was made legal under federal law in 2018.
To produce hemp milk, seeds from the hemp plant are combined with water. Salt, sweeteners, or thickeners may be added to it. Hemp contains trace amounts of THC, associated with marijuana, but not enough to create any psychoactive effects.
Hemp milk contains little fat but is high in protein. It’s creamier than soy milk, with a slightly nutty flavor. Its high protein content means that it can be frothed, but its thin texture causes the foam to disperse rather quickly. Because its consistency is so thin, you may need more liquid than other milks to achieve results.
Pea milk is a relatively new addition to the coffee world. It’s produced by crushing yellow split peas to get the protein and then blending with water. Because yellow peas are used, there’s no green pea milk! This beverage contains high amounts of both protein and potassium, plus it can be enriched with other vitamins.
Available in sweetened, unsweetened, and flavored options, pea milk has a smooth, silky texture. It has a neutral taste that doesn’t resemble peas at all and complements coffee well. You can steam and foam pea milk, and it even works for creating latte art. Curdling because of high temperature isn’t a problem with pea milk, which makes it a great choice.
Which Alternative Is Best?
The best vegan milk for coffee really depends on your intended purpose. Obviously, the best dairy-free milk is going to be whichever one you enjoy the most. But beyond that, the real key is whether you’re using it to top up for your coffee or foaming.
If you’re using non-dairy milk to blend into your java, then rice milk may be your best choice. Rice milk doesn’t contain much fat, has a natural sweetness, and its neutral taste won’t detract from the java flavors.
Rice milk has a thinner consistency than other types, but it works well with blending. Just remember that rice milk can split at high temperatures, so either cool your java for a few minutes before adding it or warm the liquid first.
On the other hand, if your goal is making a pretty layer of foam or latte art, you won’t be disappointed by soy milk. Its properties are similar to cow’s milk, and it’s virtually impossible to tell soy foam from dairy foam.
Adding milk into your cup of joe is probably the most common way of drinking java. While that was once limited to just dairy, there are now multiple non-dairy options. Milk alternatives for coffee can be made from cashews, rice, and even hemp.
A select few of these best dairy-free milks can do practically everything with coffee. Some are better in blended or frozen drinks, while others can trick you into believing that foam layer is really dairy. Whether you choose non-dairy milk for health reasons or you just enjoy the taste, coffee shops are paying attention and have started providing more choices while retailers offer a range of choices.
Best Vegan Milk for Coffee FAQs
What Milk Alternative Tastes Most Like Milk?
Soy milk most closely matches the taste and texture of cow’s milk. For this reason, it’s a popular choice among those who avoid dairy.
What Can I Use Instead of Milk in Coffee?
There’s a long list of non-dairy products you can use instead of cow’s milk. Oat milk, soy milk, and almond milk are the most popular choices. Read over our list of alternative plant-based milks above and see which perform best in coffee.
Which Nut Milk Is Best for You?
Almond milk is one of the healthiest nut milks. It has lots of Vitamin E, its unsweetened version is low in calories and fat, plus it may be enriched with calcium and Vitamin D.
What Is the Healthiest Milk for Coffee?
Hemp milk and oat milk are two of the healthiest alternative milks for java. Hemp milk is naturally low in fat and carbs, and it contains calcium and iron. Oat milk contains Vitamins A, D, and B12, plus it’s a natural source of fiber. According to Healthline, these are two of the healthiest vegan milk options.
What Milk Do Baristas Use?
Most coffee shops use whole cow’s milk unless you request another kind. Whole milk is preferred for how well it blends with coffee and foams.
Why Is Milk Bad for You?
Dairy can be high in both calories and fat, which can negatively impact your health. According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, milk and other dairy goods are the “top source of saturated fat in the American diet.” Too much saturated fat is linked to a range of negative health impacts, including heart disease.