Best Milk Alternatives for Coffee
Milk is great, but there are a growing number of people who are lactose intolerant, or who are choosing to follow a dairy-free or vegan lifestyle. Some of us just want some variety and to try something new. Whatever the reason, there are some great milk alternatives for coffee out there. But which is the best?
We'll be honest up front: by the end of this article we'll say that it's a matter of taste and it's up to you. But, that doesn't mean we can't give you a few hints about where to start your search or why you might choose one over the other.
The cheapest and easiest milk alternative that we can all get our hands on is ... no milk! We know this isn't to everyone's tastes. Just be sure that you are not basing any dislike you may have on those memories of black instant coffee (probably an inferior Robusta Bean - read about Arabica vs Robusta) or old, off-the-shelf beans. Freshly roasted beans are just in another league, so if you haven't tried them black, don't be so quick to dismiss them.
But, that is a cop-out answer. You want to know how to replace the old cow-juice.
Porridge oats are soaked in water, then blended and strained to create a creamy, dairy-free milk alternative. It's that creaminess that really makes oat milk great for coffee: the higher fat content (when compared to other alternatives) helps when steaming the milk into a foam. There are even barista versions of oat milk available for an even more satisfying froth worthy of your latte art.
Oat milk has a distinctive oaty-taste (big surprise), but it can be less obtrusive than the flavour of some nut-based milks and has a pleasant sweetness.
There are studies that support the idea that the humble oat should be right up there among the pricier, health-boosting seeds and grains like quinoa and chia. Including studies that suggest eating oats can reduce risks of heart disease.
Packed with vitamins and minerals, oats are a really great choice as a milk alternative.
It's also possible to make your own oat milk if you're feeling adventurous.
This milk alternative is extremely popular. Adding a nutty flavour to your coffee, almond milk is a personal choice - but, then again, aren't all of these. Get informed with our Best Coffee Tasting Guide to really unlock your coffee.
Being low in calories, fiber and protein (and the milk typically being only 2% almond) this milk alternative isn't the best for frothing and foaming. The health benefits too may be negligible but, it sure does taste good and is one of the best milk alternatives - given how popular a choice it is around the world.
Soy has one of the strongest flavours of the milks in our list. Despite that, it is also extremely popular. It is high in protein, low in sugars and fats and is often fortified by many brands with additional vitamins - making it quite a healthy option.
The strong flavour can easily be masked by a strong espresso, but you might want to be cautious when adding it to a more fruity and lighter brew as it could easily overpower the taste.
Another thing to be aware of is soy milk's tendency to want to split when added to hot or acidic drinks. Many plant-based milk alternatives can be affected by this, so allowing your drink to cool a little before adding the milk can reduce this risk.
SPECIAL - MYLK
How about a plant-based milk specifically designed for coffee? Not only designed for coffee, but designed with input from James Hoffmann (coffee expert and Barista Champion). In their words, "It's the only plant-based alternative that tastes and works like dairy milk..."
Built on a base of oat milk and coconut cream, Mylk is supposed to be great for latte art. We've not tasted it ourselves and not much else is known about it, but we would expect similar nutritional benefits to those of oat milk.
The main selling point seems to be that it can be handled, frothed, foamed and poured in much the same way as traditional dairy - making it a great choice for those of us who value some awesome latte art.
Which Milk Alternative?
We said at the start that we would conclude with the old 'depends on your taste' cop-out of many top lists on the internet. But, here is a tip: rather than picking one and stocking your fridge to bursting with your new coffee passion project, take a trip to your local coffee shop and try them. Try your favourite coffee, freshly roasted of course, with the milk alternative. Next time, try a different one. Sample them and find out what each of them tastes like. It could be the best at making a great foam, but if it doesn't taste right then what's the point. Then you'll know which is the best milk alternative for coffee.