With so many milk alternatives for coffee on the market, let’s take a look at the best non-dairy milk for coffee.
Here’s something obvious: Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages.
And if you’re a coffee drinker, you know how deeply personal coffee preferences can be.
With so many choices on roast, preparation, and additions to your morning brew, it’s easy to see how you can develop a very specific expectation for your cup of java.
One common addition to coffee is milk, but if you’re following a plant-based diet then you’re likely to turn to a non-dairy milk. And with so many options available, it’s difficult to know which is the best dairy-free milk for coffee.
Here we take a closer look at the best non-dairy milk for coffee.
The science of milk in coffee
Adding milk to coffee can significantly change its flavor by reducing its bitterness.
However, some coffee enthusiasts argue that many coffee types don’t require milk and are sweet enough on their own. Despite this, you may still prefer the addition of milk in your coffee because you enjoy the flavor.
In addition, if you want to add foam to your coffee or are making a latte or cappuccino, milk is a must. And this is where the type of milk you choose can make a significant difference.
The protein in milk is essential for creating foam. Additionally, higher-fat milks will result in a smooth, creamy texture versus lower-fat alternatives.
Adding milk to your coffee can also impact the nutrient profile of your preferred drink. For example, some non-dairy milks have significantly more protein than others.
You can also find barista blends and flavored non-dairy milks that contain added sugar, which will increase the total calories, carbs, and sugar in your cup of joe.
Milk alternatives for coffee
There’s no shortage of non-dairy milks for coffee, and each type offers unique taste and texture benefits when added to your coffee. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular choices available.
Soy milk is one of the best dairy-free milks for coffee. It’s readily available in most coffee shops and grocery stores. Its protein content is similar to dairy milk, making it a good choice if you want to add foam to your coffee.
Soy milk may be more likely to curdle in coffee, especially with more acidic brews. To avoid this, opt for a barista blend soy milk, as these blends often contain stabilizers that limit curdling.
Most soy milk is relatively inexpensive and is considered to be an environmentally friendly choice when compared to dairy milk.
You can also choose from many flavors (depending on the brand)—including chocolate, pumpkin spice, vanilla, peppermint, and others.
Almond milk has gained popularity over the last few years, with some reports showing it’s the most sold plant-based milk.
It’s a lactose-free alternative to dairy milk but is significantly lower in protein than other plant-based milks like soy.
Its low protein content makes almond milk a less-than-stellar choice for a foamy latte or cappuccino.
However, adding a splash of almond milk to your cup of coffee can still offer the same taste benefits as other types of milk.
Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of a nutty flavor to your cup of brew if you choose to use almond milk.
If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly choice, you may want to skip almond milk as it’s not known for its sustainability.
Almonds require a significant amount of fresh water to produce and given that many almonds are grown in drought-stricken parts of the United States, this pull on a natural resource is a serious concern.
In addition, almond milk is not a good source of protein, however many types are fortified with calcium.
Be sure to check the label if you’re looking for specific nutrients in your non-dairy milk, as the quantities can vary significantly by type and brand.
Oat milk is arguably one of the most popular non-dairy milks available. It’s hard to find a coffee shop that doesn’t offer oat milk as an option, and there are plenty of barista blend oat milks on grocery store shelves.
Oat milk has slightly more protein than almond milk, which makes it a better choice for adding foam to your coffee.
You can also find a variety of barista blends, as well as extra-creamy varieties of oat milk. These make for a smooth addition to your coffee that’s unlikely to curdle.
The environmental impact of oat milk is less than that of almond when it comes to freshwater use, however the land use is greater when producing oats than it is for almonds.
Despite this, oat milk is still a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to dairy milk.
Rice milk is an allergen-friendly dairy milk alternative, making it a popular choice for people who need to avoid soy and nuts.
Most rice milk doesn’t have the same creamy texture as other dairy alternatives, so you may not get the same texture change as you would with soy or oat milk.
Additionally, rice milk is very low in protein, with a cup containing less than 1 gram of protein. For this reason, it’s likely not the best choice for creating a foamy coffee drink like a latte or cappuccino.
Surprisingly, rice milk falls just behind almond milk when it comes to freshwater use—making it a less environmentally friendly choice versus oat or soy milk, which use less freshwater to produce.
Like rice milk, pea milk is a good choice for people with multiple allergies. However, pea milk is much creamier and higher in protein than rice milk, making it a great choice for adding to coffee.
One cup of pea milk contains approximately 8 grams of protein, which is similar to dairy and soy milk. The higher protein content makes it a good choice if you want to add foam to your cup or if you want to use it to make a latte or cappuccino.
Pea milk is also more sustainable than dairy milk, with studies showing lower greenhouse gas emissions to produce peas than to produce dairy herd beef.
Hazelnut milk is one of the best plant-based milks for coffee and is a great alternative to almond milk. It’s not as readily available as almond milk but is definitely worth the extra effort to find if it’s available to you.
Hazelnut milk offers a nutty flavor, which may be preferred over almond milk. However, you may want to opt for a barista blend to prevent curdling. It’s also relatively low in protein, making it a better choice for use as a creamer versus a froth in coffee.
Nut production requires variable amounts of land use, and reports indicate that production of tree crops like hazelnuts can be resource intensive.
How to stop your non-dairy milk from curdling
One of the most common frustrations with adding non-dairy milk to coffee is the tendency for the milk to curdle.
The reason this often happens is due to the acidity of the coffee, as well as the high temperature.
While you may not always be able to prevent non-dairy milk from curdling in your coffee, there are a few ways you can possibly prevent it from happening.
Try these tips to keep non-dairy milk from curdling when adding it to your coffee:
Allow the coffee to cool slightly before adding milk. You may want to make note of the time you allow your coffee to cool and adjust over the course of a few days for the best results.
The required cooler temperature may also change from one type of non-dairy milk to another.
Pour the milk first, then add the coffee. This is a simple trick that can make a difference when it comes to curdling.
Try a low-acid coffee. Some coffee brands are advertised as low acid and may be a good choice if you want to guarantee your cup is lower in acid than a traditional cup of coffee.
Alternatively, you can try a darker roast since they tend to be lower in acid than light roast coffees.
Try a barista blend of non-dairy milk. Barista blends, as well as extra-creamy blends, may be less likely to curdle due to the additional stabilizers added to the milk.
Look for non-dairy milk brands that specifically state they’re barista blends which will be clearly labeled on the front of the package.
The bottom line
When choosing a non-dairy milk for coffee, consider how you want to use it before making your final decision.
Some non-dairy milks are higher in protein than others, making them a good choice for adding froth to your coffee or for use in a latte or cappuccino.
However, other non-dairy milks may have a creamier texture, which would make them the best choice for using as a splash of cream in your cup versus as a foam.
Finally, the flavor of the non-dairy milk you choose can significantly impact the flavor of your final cup of coffee. We covered many options here, but even more exist––such as pistachio milk and potato milk.
Stick to unsweetened, milder varieties of non-dairy milk like soy or rice milk if you prefer not to add a lot of additional flavors to your cup.
If you’re looking for a change to the flavor profile of your coffee, you may prefer a sweetened non-dairy milk or a nutty type like almond or hazelnut. Let us know which is the best dairy-free milk for coffee for your tastebuds!
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