The BEST alternative milks for coffee ranked
Ditching the dairy? Not willing to sacrifice flavour? Read on.
So you're cutting back on your dairy consumption? Great! Whether it's for environmental, ethical or health reasons, good for you. You've made a positive change for yourself and that's great but there's no getting around the fact that dairy is delicious. It adds creaminess, richness and it can enhance flavours. That's a lot of tasty bonuses. Fear not because as a species, we're getting better at replicating those taste-bud tickling qualities in plant-based form and coffee is one area of food and drink that's benefitting the most from this innovation.
Here's a breakdown of the best and worst qualities of some of the more popular alternative milks (or is it mylks?)
1. Soy Milk
Ahh soy milk. The OG. Everyone's first foray into the world of alt milk. It probably came in a single serve plastic pot and it was probably gross. Things have improved over the years, though. Soy milk foams well for a latte, it has a pretty neutral, creamy taste and it's one of the more affordable options. The downsides include the chance of curdling if you mix your soy with a particularly acidic coffee or if you heat it too much. It will still be drinkable but it will look like you're drinking a mug of watery porridge.
Get's a 6/10 for the nostalgia.
Notable brands: Bonsoy, Alpro For Professionals.
Almond milk had its 10 minutes of fame a few years ago as soy was on its way out. That being said, it's not as strong as its predecessor when it comes to coffee. The same problem of curdling in high temperatures and acidities is present with almond milk with the added hiccup of having a tendency to split when heated to higher temperatures. Flavour-wise, you'll definitely know your drinking a nut milk when it comes to almond with a distinct nutty flavour sometimes accompanied by a slight bitter taste. Opt for a sweetened version if you want to avoid the bitter end.
4/10 and that's being fair!
Notable brands: Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Plenish.
For when you're feeling tropical, there's coconut milk. Naturally it has a thick, creamy texture that promises an indulgent, fulfilling caffeinated treat when paired with a good espresso. Sadly, that's not always the case! Firstly, if you don't like the taste of coconut, this ain't gonna be for you! Most alt milks have a subtle flavour but you'll definitely pick up on the coconuttyness with this. It could even overpower the taste of the coffee! It does foam pretty well though, due to it's higher fat content than other alt milks, so there's that! Coconut flat white, anyone?
If you like coconut, go nuts but if not, keep your distance. 5/10
Notable brands: Rude Health Coconut Drink, Alpro For Professionals Coconut.
Exhausted by all the negativity above? Oat milk is here to alleviate your worries. Fast becoming the go-to alternative milk in the coffee scene, oat milk is pretty impressive. It has a thick, creamy texture, not worlds away from diary milk, it's loaded with fibre, making it a healthy option if that's what is guiding your decision and it tastes good! Not okay, but actually pretty good! The one downside I can think of is its lower protein levels than the above options. This could lead to some foaming issues but nothing to cry about.
As close as we've come to the real deal. 8/10
Notable brands: Oatly Barista Edition, Minor Figures,
So there you have it, some of the most popular plant-based milks available, ranked for their suitability in coffee. What a rollercoaster ride.
Oat milk is certainly the best all-rounder in terms of foaming, flavour and texture but when all's said and done, it's down to your personal preference, just like everything in life.
Word to the wise: If you're whipping up some lattes and flat whites, be sure to opt for barista edition/ for professionals versions of your preferred alt milk. They've been specially made with coffee in mind.