What Milk Should I Use For My Cafe? 

There is no denying just how important cows are on a global scale; however, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a fan of dairy milk. In fact, recent studies show that Asians are more likely to be lactose intolerant than others- and in this fitspo era, people are actually starting to care about their intake. 

As more people are starting to include non-dairy milk substitutes in their diet, if your cafe does not provide them, you’re going to lose out. This is a growing trend that is not going away.

Whenever the topic of milk is brought up, most people immediately just think of cow’s milk. However, there are so many options available now that also include dairy-free substitutes.  However, matching the right type of alternative milk to your menu can be a tricky one.

Let us first take a look at the primary dairy milk alternatives that most coffee shops offer nowadays:

  • Almond milk

  • Soy milk

  • Oat milk

However, these are not the only dairy milk alternatives on the market today. Here are some lesser-known dairy milk alternatives that still see some use from time to time:

  • Coconut milk

  • Rice milk

  • Cashew milk

  • Macadamia milk

  • Hemp milk

  • Quinoa milk

So which is the best choice for me? Which ones will make a good pairing? Will it froth well? Wait, isn’t there soy and nut allergies as well?

Ultimately, this depends on the specific customer base of your cafe, you first have to figure out what your customers would want. 

Let’s look at why we should consider some of these alternative milk.

Almond Milk – The Safe Choice

For quite some time now, almond milk has been hailed as the most popular type of plant milk in the world. Many consumers of almond milk often praise its distinct flavor as one of the main reasons why they prefer it to traditional dairy milk. Like the seeds that it is made from, almond milk has a characteristic sweet and nutty flavor that is also relatively mild. However, that being said, a lot of the people that dislike almond milk in their coffee often state that it tends to overpower the more subtle coffee notes.

On a commercial level, almond milk has been occasionally criticized because it needs water-intensive farming methods – especially compared to other common plant-based milk. 

Barista Notes:

If you decide to incorporate almond milk into your menu, you should keep in mind that, compared to dairy milk, there are going to be some noteworthy differences. The most notable challenge that you will face is that almond milk has a relatively high chance of curdling if it isn’t mixed correctly or is heated too quickly. However, generally speaking, almond milk isn’t that difficult to handle and it is definitely one of the easier plant-based milk to work with – it is in fact far easier to steam than coconut milk.

However, if you decide to have almond milk, do note that it can overpower more subtle coffee notes and nut allergies are a thing to definitely watch out for.

Soy Milk – Beware Of Acidic Coffee

If you’re a veteran coffee drinker you have probably had a front-row seat to see the rise and fall of soy milk’s dominance. Although soy milk is still fairly popular nowadays, for many years it was once considered by many to be the go-to dairy-free milk.

So, how did soy milk get dethroned from being people’s go-to dairy-free milk?

For a long time, the primary consumers of soy milk were individuals that sought it out for its health benefits, especially compared to dairy milk. However, in recent years the “soy craze” has been quelled to some degree because it is now common knowledge that there are other plant-based milks that is just as good – if not better.

Furthermore, for many lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers, soy was the only option back then because it was the only alternative that many coffee shops offered. 

Barista Notes:

Soy milk, however, is relatively easy to foam (compared to other plant-based milk), it is relatively affordable, and it is readily available.

However, unlike almond milk, soy milk is not often praised for its flavor or texture. It also tends to curdle when heated too quickly or when paired with coffee that is high in acidity. 

For this reason, if you plan to work with soy milk on your menu, it is recommended that you brew it with beans that are of low acidity.    

Oat Milk – Not Foam Friendly

For quite some time, oat milk was viewed as a niche alternative to dairy. In fact, so much so that even some of the most prolific coffee shops were apprehensive of offering it as a part of their menu.

Today, that has drastically changed. The noticeable decline in the popularity of soy milk has allowed other plant-based milk to become more prevalent- including oat milk. In 2018, there was a shortage of oat milk in the United States (particularly Oatly branded milk) because the demand had skyrocketed at such a breakneck pace in a short space of time.

Barista Notes:

Oat milk is one of the easiest plant-based milk to work with – it is far more consistent and has a lower chance of curdling. Furthermore, oat milk has a distinctive creamy texture and a balanced flavor that is less likely to overpower the more subtle coffee notes. 

That being said, the most notable challenge of working with oat milk is the fact that it is relatively low in protein. Not only does this affect the nutritional composition of the beverages that it is used in but it can also affect their structural integrity. A lower level of protein means that any foam that oat milk creates will destabilize far more quickly.

Final Thoughts 

So now that we understand each milk better and which of them will be a better pairing for your cafe, the number of dairy milk alternatives that you offer in your cafe will ultimately depend on the scope of your operation – we understand that it is not feasible for a small coffee shop to offer 9 different types of plant-based milk.

Soy and nut allergies are also relatively common. So, if you are planning on offering plant-based milk, it is recommended that you strongly consider investing in separate equipment for each type of milk so that you can avoid cross-contamination.

Need help with your coffee menu planning and integrating dairy-free alternatives?

Your coffee blends and selection might need to be changed to suit your choice of alternative milk. Come speak with us! We have a range of coffee blends available to fit your coffee menu and we can assist in helping you figure out which is best for you.


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