Whether you’re a ‘frothy coffee’ fan, or partial to a flat white, there’s something about a milk-based brew that feels like a treat. Whether enjoyed in a sun-drenched, pine-filled café that trades mainly in avocado toast, or lovingly prepped at home to take on your commute, it’s a little lift to your day.

With more of us avoiding dairy, but unwilling to give up our latte habit, the battle of the milk alternatives has begun. We’ve taken a look at three of the most popular options, and the benefits and drawbacks to each one:

Soy milk

Soy milk

Does soy milk taste good in coffee?

Soy milk has been a popular choice for a long time - maybe surprisingly so, since its got one of the strongest flavours. Against a hardy, chocolatey espresso, this might not be a problem - but paired with a fruity, floral African, it has the potential to overpower the overall taste.

What are the health benefits of soy?

For most people, soy is a perfectly healthy option - high in protein, and low in sugars and fats. Many brands are also fortified with other vitamins too, which is handy when cutting out all dairy. Inconclusive links have been made with soy’s effect on estrogen, so the NHS advises those diagnosed breast cancer avoid it.

Why does soy milk curdle in coffee?

It comes down to heat, and the coffee’s acidity - these elements react poorly with a lot of plant-based milks, so some mitigation is needed. Allowing the coffee to cool off a bit before mixing can help, as can choosing a less acidic coffee - like a Brazilian or Colombian.

Can soy milk be steamed?

As discussed, soy has the tendency to split in coffee. But if you use a low acidity espresso, don’t overheat the soy milk, and pour it in fairly quickly, you’ve got a better chance of getting a better cup.

Oat milk

Oats

How does oat milk taste in coffee?

Oat milk is a popular choice for coffee-based drinks. Creamy and thick, and with a less distinctive flavour than nut milks, it’s a close dupe for dairy. It’s natural sweetness blends well with an espresso shot. You’ll get a hint of ‘oatiness’ though (of course!).

Can oat milk be foamed for coffee?

The higher fat content (compared to other alternatives) means some people favour oat milk for steaming and frothing. While part of it comes down to technique, there’s also a number of barista-edition oat milks that’ll make it even easier to coax out those microbubbles.

What are the health benefits of oat milk?

There’s more sugar in oat milk than other alternatives, due to it being made from carbohydrate. It also has a slightly higher (unsaturated) fat content. The make-up differs by brand though, as some are fortified with calcium or vitamins.

How sustainable is oat milk?

Widely understood to be one of the more eco-friendly options, oats take less water to produce than something like almonds. They need fewer herbicides too, thanks to their hardiness against weeds. In that sense, oat is a winner.

Almond milk

Almonds

What does almond milk taste like?

Some people find the nuttiness of almond milk slightly bitter, especially if they’re using an unsweetened version. That’s clearly not true for most though, as almond milk is an overwhelmingly popular choice - though, fun fact, most almond milks are just 2% almond!

Is almond milk in coffee healthy?

Low in calories, fibre, and protein but slightly higher in sugars - again some commercial milks are fortified, but this depends. Almonds contain vitamin E, great for supporting a healthy immune system, but due to the low almond content in most milks, the benefits might be negligible.

Is almond milk good for lattes?

Your bog standard almond milk isn’t going to froth well. The low proteins means it doesn’t thicken, and any froth is likely to seperate. However, some companies have introduced barista versions which make it easier to get a good flat white out of it.

Is almond milk bad for the environment?

Though ditching dairy might seem to be an earth-friendly move, almond milk is not a much kinder choice. It takes over 6000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of the stuff - and given that most almonds are grown in drought-ridden California, that’s not ideal.

Best milk alternative: the verdict

At the end of the day, it all comes down to preference - and dietary requirements. For us though, the best bet is barista edition oat milk. Mild, creamy flavour and good performance when foamed. Not to mention, it’s less likely to split in a more acidic coffee (and as we love our Africans, that’s a big win).


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