A Barista’s Guide to Popular Plant-Based Milk Options

Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Plant-based milks

“Can I get a cafe latte?” “Sure, would you like that with regular milk, skinny milk, oat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, pea milk, or hemp milk…?” 

Barista’s use to have it easy preparing coffees and foaming up milk, now they’re expected to know all the milk-alternatives by heart and serve up orders preferably in a matter of minutes. With the rise of vegans and the more questionable ways of how dairy milk is produced, a lot of coffee drinkers are switching to plant-based alternatives. But with so many options available, how do you know which milk type to use?

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what each milk alternative is, so you know what to prepare when your next coffee with plant-based milk order comes in.

Order 1. A Coffee with Soy Milk

This is probably the most popular coffee milk alternative. It became an alternative to dairy milk as its flavour it’s quite neutral and its foaming powers are similar to milk as we know it. Often times, coffee shops don’t charge you more for soy milk as it’s relatively cheap to produce.

The only difference with soy milk is the texture. Soy has the tendency to curdle in coffee, as a result of the acids in the hot coffee. If you first add warm soy milk and then slowly add the hot coffee, you eliminate this.

Order 2. A Coffee with Almond Milk

This nut milk became another favorite. Many drink either the sweetened or unsweetened version. The first one is smoother in coffee, the latter might have a slightly bitter taste.

For baristas, this coffee order is a bit of a challenge. The temperature and acidity often leave the almond milk curdled, which is why it’s important to not pour cold almond milk over a hot coffee. As for latte art, it’s possible but tricky and might negatively influence the coffee’s consistency.

Order 3. A Coffee with Coconut milk

If people are into coconut, they’ll love it in their coffee. Coconut milk is praised because of its exotic aftertaste and thick texture that doesn’t water down the coffee. That being said, it can also overpower the coffee taste completely. Latte art is questionable with coconut milk, as the foam is quite thin and contains relatively big bubbles.

Order 4. A Coffee with Rice Milk

A lot of your customers with dietary restrictions will love rice milk because it doesn’t contain dairy, soy, and nuts. Though its taste is neutral and therefore not badly influencing the taste of coffee, the consistency is not ideal. Due to the lack of protein, it’s a thin product. Rice milk will not leave you with a creamy coffee, but instead water down your latte.

Order 5. A Coffee with Cashew Milk

Chances are, your coffee shop does not offer cashew milk. Why? Because it’s relatively expensive to produce. Cashew milk is actually a great alternative to dairy milk, as it matches the creaminess of a normal latte or flat white. However, most baristas find that the cashew milk you make yourself works best for preparing a good cafe au lait (including latte art) — and this might be a little too time-consuming for most coffee shop owners.

Order 5. A Coffee with Pea Milk

Yep, you heard it right. Pea milk is made from the protein of yellow peas. But don’t worry! This doesn’t mean it actually tastes like vegetables. In contrast, pea milk has a very neutral taste and actually is the alternative that comes closest to regular milk. Plus, the high dose of protein makes it easy to foam and use for latte art.

Order 6. A Coffee with Hemp Milk

Wait, isn’t hemp related to cannabis? It is. Hemp contains THC, though the little amount that is left in the hemp seed is not nearly enough to have an effect. Depending on the country’s regulations, hemp seeds are easily or not that easily available. For baristas working with hemp, expect a milk alternative that foams well due to the high amount of proteins, but is very thin when it comes to its texture.