Exploring the Best Non-Dairy Milk Options for Coffee

Over the past two years, the number of people following a vegan diet has skyrocketed by 500%.

A big challenge many vegans face is finding the perfect non-dairy milk to use in their coffee. Fortunately, there are some great vegan milk options. The top three lactose-free options for frothing are: oat milk, pea milk, and soy milk. To create vegan-friendly frothed espresso drinks like latte and cappuccino, look for a plant-based milk that is rich in both fat and protein.

Oat Milk

Oat milk’s popularity for frothing stems from its high protein content and its ability to withstand high temperatures without separating. Oat milk contains a similar amount of calcium as cow's milk and has a texture that falls between 1% and 2% cow's milk, making it slightly thinner and less creamy. As a result, you may need to use a slightly larger amount compared to cow's milk. Oat milk also takes 50% longer to froth than cow’s milk due to its lower protein content.

Pea Milk

Pea milk produces a superior foam with smaller bubbles compared to oat milk, making it ideal for creating cappuccinos with a fine, velvety texture known as “microfoam”. If you need it for cappuccino, then pea milk may be the right choice for you. However, if not, then oat milk is a more cost-effective option.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is the thickest among non-dairy milks, making it a great alternative. Cashew milk has a bolder taste than oat milk, but it is still less nutty than almond milk and therefore should not overpower your coffee excessively. Cashew milk is pricier than oat milk and can be too sweet for those who prefer unsweetened coffee.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk has a smooth texture and remains stable even when subjected to high heat and acidity. Coconut milk possesses a more pronounced taste than oat or nut milk, yet it remains understated sufficiently for widespread enjoyment in coffee.

Soy Milk

Soy milk has the highest protein content among plant-based milks and expands the most when frothed, making it an optimal choice for crafting large milk-based coffee beverages like lattes. To avoid the splitting of frothed soy milk due to high temperatures, it is recommended to froth it in short intervals, such as ten seconds of frothing followed by a five second break.

Barista Milks

In addition to these three options, plant-based milk companies are introducing froth-friendly 'barista milks' to their product line. These milks have additional vegetable fat to enhance their creamy mouthfeel when frothed. The fat typically comes from vegetable oil. Barista milks froth better than non-barista milks, but their added fat may be less suitable for those swapping dairy for health reasons.

What Milk to Avoid

Do not use soy milk or almond milk in filter coffee. Both types of milk separate easily in high temperatures or acidity, and filter coffee exhibits both of these qualities. I would not suggest using rice milk for making coffee. It is not thick enough to create the desired creamy texture when added to coffee.

The best overall non-dairy milk to use with coffee is oat milk.

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