Plant-based milks in preparing coffee drinks

In recent years there has been a growing trend to reduce products of animal origin in daily consumption, and this also applies to the consumption of milk. In the search for alternatives to milk, a number of plant-based milks have become popular, also called non-milks and milk alternatives, which can also be used quite extensively in preparing coffee drinks. We will discover some useful tricks, so that the result does not disappoint the fans of classic values.

The milk alternatives are very suitable for desserts, smoothies, porridges, pancakes and other dishes, but they can also be used to prepare delicious espresso-based drinks, such as latte and cappuccino. The milk alternatives or plant-based milks will behave slightly differently at frothing compared to cow’s milk, as the composition and nutritional values of the milk alternatives differ from those of regular milk. For this reason they are also somewhat more difficult to froth to achieve the required texture of milk, especially if it is intended to be used for cappuccino and latte drinks. However, this is possible, if some basic rules are taken into account.

How milk alternatives differ from regular milk

Two magic components – proteins (whey and casein) and fat – are responsible for creating the creamy consistency of cow’s milk with a beautiful micro-foam, which is used to decorate cappuccino and latte drinks. What does protein do? It is able to hold the air incorporated into the milk during the frothing process. The fat, on the other hand, allows this consistency to be held together, adding additional texture and creaminess. It is slightly harder to achieve it with plant-based milk, as the nutritional value of it is slightly different. It contains less protein and fat. One of the tricks that can be applied in selecting milk alternatives – follow the nutrition table* and compare it with the nutrition table of cow’s milk. The amount of proteins and fat in the milk alternatives should be as close as possible to the content of cow’s milk.

Nutritional value of regular (cow’s) milk:
Protein 3.3%; Fat 3.2%
Soya milk (“The Bridge” brand) value:
Protein 3.6%; Fat 2.8%

* When choosing the milk alternative, it does not matter whether it is soya, almond, oat, rice, quinoa, coconut, etc., the nutritional table of cow’s milk can be used as the guide. The closer the nutritional value of the non-milk is to the nutritional value of regular milk, the more similar it will be in its consistency to the texture of regular milk.

When selecting the milk alternative to be used for frothed milk beverages, it is advisable to choose milk especially produced for this purpose with indications – barista edition, professional, etc. This indicates that the milk has a fairly high fat content (about 3%), as well as it contains additional food stabilisers.

TOP 3 plant-based milks

As Top 3 alternatives to milk soya, almond and oat milk can be highlighted. How good or bad the milk alternative will be at frothing depends on the skills of the barista, as well as on the content and quality of the product. For example, plant-based milks of “The Bridge” brand are suitable for preparing coffee drinks from the point of frothing, as well as the taste.
For example, soya milk will be suitable for people who are not only lactose intolerant, but also allergic to gluten. In terms of taste soya milk is quite nutty, so the compatibility of espresso base with soya milk should be considered. Coffee of different regions will have a different balance of taste with soya milk. It will fit well with coffee blends, which do not have pronounced juiciness of fruit and acidity, and will be better suited for coffee blends with the basic nuances of nuts, cocoa, chocolate and caramel.

Important details to consider when using soya milk (and also almond milk) – if the coffee base is too hot, it can make the milk curdle (the temperature will accelerate this reaction). To prevent this – the espresso base should be cooled by thinning it with slightly lukewarm water, making it even more neutral, as another enemy of soya milk can be acidity (too low pH of the coffee).

Oat milk has the most neutral taste – it will not overpower the taste of coffee as much as soya and almond milk might. If the basis is coffee from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica or Ethiopia, it will be felt. Oat milk has a very creamy texture, so it is a great alternative to cow’s milk. Oat milk does not tend to curdle.
As for rice and hemp milk, they are too watery for the frothy milk drinks, while coconut milk is too rich in fat – it will have pleasant creaminess, but the specific taste and fatness will give a strange flavour, overwhelming the coffee.

The quality of taste

Not all plant-based milks will match any coffee base. You should definitely consider the country of origin, the variety and the taste nuances of the beans. When choosing the milk alternatives, it is recommended to taste them separately – both cold and heated. Repeat the same with the coffee base (espresso base) and only then consider combining both these substances and whether they will create a good balance of taste. If the coffee base has been selected, the task of the barista is to try not to spoil the base by making the wrong selection of milk alternative.

Most importantly – be it a cappuccino or a latte with milk alternative, the drink should be tasty, have a nice texture and be at the right temperature. The main task is to replace cow’s milk with an alternative and to preserve exactly the same quality of the beverage and to retain the flavour level, as it would be with regular milk.

The Bridge milk alternatives and Andrito coffee beans are available at Gemoss sales locations or at Gemoss sales representatives.