Milk from a cow is becoming less and less popular these days, especially in the world of coffee. You’ve likely been to many coffee shops with an ever-growing list of dairy substitutes available to try in your latte.
Luckily for you, there are a seemingly infinite number of milk alternatives out there for you to try in your coffee. They’ve figured out how to make milk from pretty much anything.
So today, we’ll walk through the top milk alternatives for your coffee. Each one has pros and cons, so read closely, and you’ll find the one that best suits your taste buds. Let’s get started.
Why Use Milk Alternatives?
Milk alternatives are becoming increasingly popular these days, and there are loads of reasons why you might want to make the switch.
Millions of people throughout the world are lactose intolerant. Your body needs an enzyme called lactase to digest milk properly. Your body produces this enzyme naturally when you’re an infant, but for many people, production drops off after infancy.
If your small intestine has a decreased production of lactase, you are considered to be lactose intolerant. This can cause abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products.
Lactose intolerance is incredibly common. Approximately 65% of the human population is lactose intolerant. That’s a lot of people who can’t digest milk properly.
This is an evolutionary trait. People of Northern European descent have historically depended on cow’s milk for nutrition, so their ancestors have developed the need for lactase for thousands of years, giving them an evolutionary advantage in lactose digestion. Only about five percent of Northern European people are lactose intolerant.
But people groups who did not historically depend on milk never developed this trait, so rates of lactose intolerant in places like east Asia are between 70% and 100%.
There are also people with dairy allergies. This is when the immune system thinks dairy is a foreign pathogen and responds with symptoms like hives, wheezing, digestive problems, and even anaphylaxis.
People may also want to avoid milk because of environmental concerns. The dairy and cattle industries are known to have a relatively large environmental footprint. They take up a lot of land space, require lots of water and grain for cattle feed, and output a lot of greenhouse gases.
Many people are turning to non-dairy milk to shift toward more eco-friendly options. Most milk alternatives are produced in ways that require less from the planet. So if you’d like to reduce your personal footprint, you may want to switch to a milk alternative.
Many people simply like the taste of non-dairy milk better than dairy milk. Milk alternatives have distinct flavors and textures that are slightly different from regular milk. It really is just a matter of personal preference.
Many people love the nutty taste of almond milk or the sweetness of soy milk. These flavors might work better with certain flavor combos in a latte, for example. You might want to get creative and try new flavor combos with all sorts of different types of milk.
You might also want to switch to milk alternatives for the health benefits. Cow’s milk is perfectly healthy and has a lot of valuable nutrition. But many people might want to prioritize a different nutritional layout.
For example, cow’s milk has more calories and fat than any other alternative. If you’re trying to go for a lower calorie, lower fat option, you might want to switch to a milk alternative.
The Best Milk Alternatives
Now it’s time to dive into the best milk alternatives out there. All of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, and this list is in no particular order. Just go with the milk that best suits your individual needs.
1. Almond Milk
Almond milk is the most popular non-dairy milk out there. It has been well-loved by coffee shops and cereal bowls alike for decades. The biggest accolade that almond milk has to its name is its incredibly low in calories, making it very trendy for people on a diet.
Almond milk is also low in total fat levels and has no saturated fat at all, making it a very healthy option. Just make sure that you get a brand with no added sugars.
People also love almond milk for its unique taste. The delightful nuttiness of almond milk is pretty prominent, making it great for adding flavor to whatever you’re making or drinking. For example, this Honey Almond Milk Cold Brew leans on the almond flavor to make an amazing drink.
2. Oat Milk
This trendy milk alternative has exploded in popularity since it hit the shelves. This non-dairy milk wasn’t developed until the 1990s and didn’t become popular until very recently, but now, people are raving over this amazing milk substitute.
It’s got plenty of calcium and vitamin D, so it’s comparable to regular milk in that regard, but the real reason oat milk has become so popular is because of its taste. It’s incredibly creamy, but its taste isn’t super overpowering, making it great for coffee and lattes. Not to mention, oat milk is a favorite of baristas due to its unique ability to foam, just like regular milk does.
On top of that, oat milk is the most environmentally friendly milk. It creates 80% fewer greenhouse gases than regular milk and uses 60% less energy. It also uses 80% less land and uses the least water out of all the different kinds of milk.
All in all, people can’t get enough of oat milk, especially in the coffee scene. From oat milk iced lattes to oat milk cappuccinos, this dairy substitute is a force to be reckoned with.
3. Soy Milk
Soy milk was the most popular milk substitute for a while, but it has since lost the top spot to almond milk and oat milk. Soy milk is sweet and silky, making it great for use as a coffee creamer. However, soy milk doesn’t foam super well, so it might not be the best for your latte.
Soy milk is the only milk alternative that compares to cow’s milk in terms of protein. Cow’s milk typically has about seven grams of protein per serving, and soy milk typically has about six grams. Considering that most other milk alternatives only have one or two grams of protein, that’s a pretty big statement.
4. Coconut Milk
Although not as popular as the ones we’ve mentioned so far, coconut milk has a special place in the non-dairy world. Its sweet coconut-y flavor is pleasant and delicious, making it a favorite of many.
This milk is higher in fat than most milk substitutes, so it’s a favorite of people on the keto diet. It’s also high in important minerals like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin B12. It has great nutritional value, is delicious, and you can find it in most stores.
5. Cashew Milk
Another popular milk from nuts is cashew milk. Cashew milk has made a name for itself because of its delicious creaminess and subtle flavors. It’s a fantastic milk for those who enjoy that nutty flavor of almond milk but could use a bit rounder mouthfeel.
Cashew milk is relatively similar to almond milk in nutritional value, but it has a bit more vitamin K and iron. It’s also pretty low in calories, making it a big fan favorite. Cashew milk also works well in baking for those bakers who need to cut the dairy out of their homemade sweets.
However, like almond milk, cashew milk requires a lot of water to make, so it isn’t as environmentally friendly as some other milk alternatives.
6. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk may be a bit harder to come by, but if you ever see it in stores, it’s definitely worth a try. It’s a popular choice for people with nut allergies, but its real appeal comes from something else.
Hemp milk has a nice thick texture, much thicker than almond milk or cashew milk. It steams well, so lots of coffee shops carry it. It’s also rich in calcium and healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6.
7. Rice Milk
Rice milk is another milk alternative that can be tough to find in stores, but it’s another dairy substitute worth mentioning. Rice milk is made by milling brown rice; most of the time, it’s fortified with calcium so that it is more nutritionally similar to cow’s milk.
The real strength of rice milk is that it tastes more like cow’s milk than any other milk alternative. It’s smooth and creamy, so it’s a great entry point for people trying to ease into milk alternatives gently.
Milk Alternatives for Your Morning Cup of Joe
All of these milk alternatives work great in coffee. They can be used as a creamer for your cup of drip coffee or as the milk base for your flavored latte. In any case, you’re in good hands with these milk substitutes.
But, all things considered, oat milk seems to be the best option for your coffee. It has a relatively neutral flavor profile and steams super well, giving it a similar texture to regular milk. Not to mention, it’s good for the environment, nutritionally rich, not an allergen, available everywhere, and tastes great.
So go and get the best milk substitute for you and your life. There’s plenty to choose from, and you really can’t go wrong.
For more info about coffee and for a delicious selection of cold brew concentrate, head on over to Javy.
How to choose milk for yourself and the environment | University of Wollongong
Lactose intolerance | MedlinePlus
Plant-Based Milks Guide | Oldways