With many different milk alternatives for coffee on the market, we’re almost spoilt for choice. With alternatives such as oat milk, almond milk and soy milk in every store from Tesco to Sainsbury’s, access to dairy-free milk has never been easier. But which milk alternatives taste the best when combined with coffee?
The aim of this article is to go through each type of milk alternative and give it a rating in terms of its taste and overall effectiveness when used in coffee drinks. With that being said, let’s jump into it.
Why Milk Alternatives?
Plant-based milk. Non-dairy milk. Vegan milk. Whatever you call it, milk alternatives are here to stay. With studies suggesting that dairy milk consumption will drop up to 15% over the next 5 years, the race to produce the best alternative, and fill that gap in the market is on.
Of course, rating the ‘best’ is a fairly subjective choice so we thought it would make sense to include a few of our coffee writers to achieve a general consensus. To make our test more science based, we also tried to rate them based on objective characteristics such as how well the milk mixes with coffee and whether it curdled or not.
The first milk we tried was almond milk. Almond milk is one of the most popular dairy-free milks in the UK and is growing rapidly in popularity. In general, almond milk is made up of around 3% almonds (depending on the brand) and is mixed with water and stabiliser.
So how did almond milk perform? Well – not very well. We tried a variety of different brands including sweetened and unsweetened almond milk and you never really knew what you were going to get.
Some almond milks just wouldn’t foam whereas others had a habit of curdling. On the whole, almond milk was a bit too watery, insipid and overall just didn’t taste that great.
I think it’s safe to say that there’s still a lot of work to do if you we’re going to be using almond milk in our coffee any time soon.
Soy milk is the second most popular dairy-free milk out of the bunch and whilst its popularity has been waning in recent years, there’s still plenty of consumers who swear by it. We should also note that soy milk, unsurprisingly, is dominated by tastes of soy bean and whilst we weren’t particularly keen on it, there are plenty out there who are huge fans of it. This is why taste preferences is such a subjective thing.
When it comes to consistency and its ability to remain stable when heated up and poured into coffee it simply doesn’t stand up to the task. It gets clumpy and curdles rather easily. In fact, out of all of the soy milks we tested in coffee, there wasn’t a single one that didn’t curdle.
Overall, soy milk just doesn’t cut in when used with coffee and is best avoided.
The next milk we tested was oat milk. With one or two baristas on the testing panel, it was easy to see which milk they got most excited about.
Oat milk is probably the milk alternative that most aligns with dairy milk characteristics and it’s unsurprising to see that brands like Oatly and others are growing at an astonishing pace.
We tested a variety of brands including Oatly and Alpro as well as Tesco’s own brand oat milk and found that all 3 were perfectly acceptable to use. They all stood up well to heat, the pH values were stable and they all complemented our coffee.
Out of the three, the consensus was that Oatly was the better tasting brand.
Interestingly, the protein content, pH value, sugar and stabiliser content were all fairly similar to the milk alternatives that tend to curdle. This is likely down to the fact that oats contain different proteins to the other alternatives and these proteins don’t fail when exposed to higher heat whereas the soy and almond ones do.
The final milk we tried, coconut milk, was a bit of a shot in the dark and basically something a bit different.
So how did we find it? Interestingly all of the brands of coconut milk we tried avoided curdling which is a positive although in terms of taste each brand varied wildly. Some were weak tasting whereas others were overpowering with coconut and masked the taste of coffee.
Overall, an interesting choice but perhaps is too inconsistent as a category for use in coffee.
Overall, it’s pretty easy to see that if you’re looking for a milk alternative to use in your coffee, oat milk should be your first choice. In particular, Oatly seem to be the brand leading the way in terms of consistency and taste however we’re fairly positive that multiple brands will improve upon what Oatly are doing within the next few years so it’s an interesting one to keep an eye on.
Sweetened almond milk is an acceptable substitute and will remain stable but we’d definitely advise against trying soy milk – it simply curdles far too much to be used in a coffee.