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Not All Plant Milks Are Created Equal

Many coffee drinkers are steering away from dairy milk for dietary or ethical reasons. However, plant milks are not the straightforward alternatives that some may think. The market for plant-based milks is constantly innovating, but one should first consider what coffee pairings work best with their vegan products. Soy, cashew, almond, and coconut milks tend to pair better with bright and floral light roasts, while oat milk’s neutral taste makes it a great option for all coffees.
Not All Plant Milks Are Created Equal
Finding The Best Milk For Coffee
Espresso and frothed milk is a classic combination. A delicately steamed microfoam can enhance the aromatic characteristics of fresh coffee. When combined correctly, the final product is something full of delicious contrasts. Sweet and bitter. Light but sharp. Balanced yet intensely flavorful.

Today, many coffee drinkers are steering away from dairy milk for various reasons. Some might have dietary restrictions, while others prefer plant-based milks for ethical reasons. However, plant milks are not the straightforward alternatives that some may think.

When combined with espresso, cow's milk tends to feel neutral on the palate, whereas plant milks have distinct aftertastes. To choose the best milk alternatives for your coffee, one should consider the bean variety and level of roast being used.
Soy Milk
Soy milk is crafted from crushing soaked soybeans. One of the best milk alternatives for coffee, soy milk is creamy, high in protein, and has a mild earthy flavor when using unsweetened brands. Soy milk is also a popular option for lattes because of its stable structure when frothed.

When paired with full-bodied coffees with higher acidity levels or intense floral and earthy notes, soy milk does an excellent job of balancing out these flavors without diluting them. Here are some excellent pairings:

Arabica & Robusta Blends with MEDIUM DARK and DARK roast. 100% Arabica MEDIUM DARK and DARK roast.
Single-origin Robusta Coffee: Indonesia Java, India Cherry, MEDIUM DARK, and DARK roast.
Single-origin Arabica Coffee: Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, MEDIUM and LIGHT roast.
​​​100% Arabica Coffee Blends LIGHT roast.
​​​Single origin Arabica coffee: Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, India, Jamaica Blue Mountain MEDIUM roast.
Oat Milk
Oat milk is a recent phenomenon that has won over coffee drinkers with its natural creaminess and gentle, sweet aftertaste. This milk alternative is made from soaked whole oat grains, giving it a higher fat content, as well as high amounts of fiber and protein.

Besides its ability to froth beautifully like dairy milk, oat milk in coffee adds a more neutral taste than other plant-based alternatives. This makes it a great option for all kinds of coffee. Oat milk's delicate sweetness pairs wonderfully with the floral aromatics of light roasts and enhances the earthy chocolate notes in dark roasts. Here are some recommended pairings:

100% Arabica Coffee Blends LIGHT roast.
Single-origin Arabica Coffee: Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, MEDIUM and LIGHT roast.​​​​​​​
Single-origin Robusta Coffee: Indonesia Java, India Cherry, MEDIUM DARK, and DARK roast.
Almond Milk
Almond milk certainly has its pros and cons. Although it tends to froth decently well, many brands of almond milk can have high water content and chalky texture. Almond milk is also the sweetest of plant-based milk alternatives, making it trickier to pair with coffee roasts.

Light roasts with noticeably fruity and floral flavor profiles typically pair the best with almond milk. Here are some recommended pairings:

​​​​​​​Single origin Arabica coffee: Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, India, Jamaica Blue Mountain MEDIUM roast.
Single-origin Arabica Coffee: Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, MEDIUM and LIGHT roast.
100% Arabica Coffee Blends LIGHT roast.
Coconut Milk
​​​​
Coconut milk is made from grated coconut flesh that is soaked and strained. The final product is naturally sweet, nutty, and velvety in texture but not necessarily the best option for crafting coffee drinks. Coconut milk tends to curdle when placed in very hot or cold environments. In other words, this is not the most structurally stable plant-based milk alternative, but it fares better in iced coffee than hot.

Coconut milk usually pairs better with lighter coffees that have nuttier, more floral profiles. A rich, full-bodied coffee will completely overpower coconut milk's delicate body. Here are some pairings if using coconut milk:

100% Arabica Coffee Blends LIGHT roast.
Single-origin Arabica Coffee: Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, MEDIUM, and LIGHT roast.

Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is typically more neutral in flavor than other nut milks and slightly less 'nutty' than almond milk. While it's naturally more dense than almond, cashew milk still doesn't steam as well as almond. That is why some baristas prefer cashew milk for cold coffee drinks rather than lattes or cappuccinos.

Because of cashew milk's neutral taste, it won't overpower your coffee's unique flavors, but it still won't add much body to darker roasts. Stick to lighter coffee roasts to find a balance between your brew and cashew milk. Here are some recommended pairings:

Single origin Arabica coffee: Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, India, Jamaica Blue Mountain MEDIUM roast.
Single-origin Arabica Coffee: Ethiopia, Kenya, Panama, MEDIUM and LIGHT roast.
​​​​​​​100% Arabica Coffee Blends LIGHT roast.

Other Plant Milks To Try
The market for plant-based milks is constantly innovating and releasing new non-dairy alternatives for coffee drinkers. Feel free to sample other variations like hazelnut, rice, and pistachio with your morning coffee. Remember, sample your plant milk independently, take note of its aftertaste, and consider what coffee pairings you think would work best. After all, it is a balancing act.

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