There’s no denying that coffee really shines when you add a splash of something creamy to it. Adding that sweet, rich, milky element into the mix elevates your coffee’s robust flavour and rounds out the bitterness of the bean… Plus, it can turn any brew into a luxurious work of coffee art.
And luckily for those of us living on a plant-based diet or with a lactose intolerance, we don’t have to miss out!
The increasing demand for non-dairy milks (and the curious palates of coffee connoisseurs) has seen the market flooded with plant-based milk alternatives. But when it comes to our coffee, there’s some key criteria each non-dairy milk needs to hit in order to make the cut - and find their way into our coffee cups!
Here, we tested 5 non-dairy milks and ranked them on taste, texture and foaming ability, so you can enjoy the most deliciously creamy coffee - minus the milk:
5. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk has its pluses and minuses, especially when it comes to coffee. Many people love its sweet, exotic “tropical” taste, but this lively flavour can overwhelm the aroma of your coffee if you don’t choose a bold enough blend.
When it comes to texture, coconut milk tends to have a thinner consistency, despite its healthy fat content. This is mainly due to its lack of protein, compared to other nut-based milks that have a more velvety mouthfeel thanks to their high protein count.
While coconut milk will get quite bubbly in a milk frother, this airy foam on your cappuccino will be short-lived and collapse quickly. For a more luxurious, dense foam, other plant and nut milks hold up much better.
For everyday coffee drinking, we prefer a milder-flavoured milk that won’t overtake your brew’s delicate notes.
4. Macadamia Milk
To make a great dairy-free coffee with macadamia milk, it really depends on the brand you can get your hands on. They might be a bit trickier to find, but the better brands can be good contenders in the creamy stakes. In general terms, this thick, smooth nut milk is well-balanced, with a distinct buttery flavour that mellows down the bitterness of coffee nicely.
Macadamia milk is pleasantly sweet on its own, with natural vanilla-like flavours that don’t rely on a bunch of sugar being added. This makes it great for splashing in the top of your daily cold brew or french press coffee.
As for your homemade cappuccinos, macadamia milk doesn’t pack a bunch of protein; so much like its exotic-tasting cousin coconut milk, it lacks the fat and protein combo needed to get that luxurious café-style froth.
Be sure to try this fruity and fascinating nut milk if you can, but keep in mind that the thickness and taste can vary greatly depending on which brand you buy.
3. Soy Milk
An oldie but a goodie, soy milk is still one of the most popular milk alternatives, and with good reason. It’s been around pretty much forever, which means it’s affordable and readily available in every grocery store and café. Soy milk has an earthy, neutral taste that won’t compromise the aroma of your coffee, making it an easy way to add some creaminess to your morning brew.
While it loses points with some people due to the bad rap soy has gotten in recent years, when enjoyed in moderation its health benefits outweigh any criticism.
If you’re looking for a convincing dupe for dairy in your coffee, soy milk still holds strong. With its similar protein levels to regular milk, you’ll get that rich, luxurious mouthfeel and dense foam when frothing.
If you don’t mind the trademark “soy” taste, this is a great everyday coffee addition. Keep in mind, some types have extra thickeners and vegetable oils added that change the texture or flavor, so watch out for this if you have any allergies.
2. Almond Milk
Almond milk sets a standard for plant-based beverages; but it does have a couple of quirks worth considering. Its light texture and semi-sweet, nutty taste gives coffee an extra dimension without overtaking the flavour profile.
That being said, unsweetened almond milk can cause a bitter aftertaste when added to your coffee due to a chemical reaction that occurs with the beans… So you might want to opt for a sweetened variety that has a bit of sugar added for a smoother taste!
When it comes to foamy café-style coffees, almond milk will do you proud. Its balance of protein coupled with its higher fat content allows it to froth up nicely, but be careful not to overdo it with the heat or it could split, resulting in a watery layer underneath your foam.
The growing popularity of almond milk makes it a solid, cost-effective way to add some creaminess to your coffee, and the taste is universally pleasant on most palates. Grab a sweetened almond milk for an all-round good coffee that’s sure to please.
1. Oat Milk
And the winner is… Oat Milk! This thick, rich, creamy beverage stands up as the closest contender beside regular cow’s milk, offering a luxurious drinking experience rarely seen in plant-based milks.
Its buttery texture and neutral malty flavour make for a very convincing dairy dupe, giving your coffee that creamy element and mouthfeel you crave - even if you only add a splash. Oats are naturally sweet and mild in flavour too, so it won’t overwhelm the aroma of your coffee or make your resulting cuppa too sweet for your liking. Plus, it’s packed with fibre and has around the same calories as cow’s milk, so there’s no need to worry about oat milk messing up your diet.
Oat milk is packed with protein, so it froths up beautifully and behaves much the same as dairy milk to create a densely-packed foam for cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos.
Oat milk is the overall best non-dairy milk for coffee, whether you’re whipping up a foamy barista brew with your frother or adding a splash to your cold brew. Oat milk hits all the creamy, luscious notes every coffee is asking for!
Who needs cow’s milk anyway? Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or looking out for the planet by reducing your environmental impact; your coffee can still be super creamy and delicious.
Check out the range of non-dairy milks available these days and open up a world of plant-based possibilities!
Fefe | Greens Steel Coffee Connoisseur
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