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Best Non-Dairy Milk for Coffee

If you own a coffee shop or cafe, you know that there are many ways to make a good cup of coffee. Each customer has different preferences, and your offerings need to be diverse enough to accommodate them. Beyond differing tastes, some patrons may have dietary restrictions or dairy allergies that prevent them from enjoying traditional coffee offerings like lattes and cappuccinos. If you want to offer options for lactose intolerant and vegan customers, it is important to know what kind of non-dairy milk is best in coffee. In this guide, we examine six alternatives to dairy milk and the key factors that determine their compatibility with coffee.

What Makes a Non-Dairy Milk Good in Coffee?

For each option in this blog, we’ll tell you how the milk alternative affects the taste or texture of your coffee and whether or not it has a good “stretch:” its ability to produce foam for steamed drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. Protein molecules melt when they are heated, so incorporating air into heated milk or non-dairy milk causes these proteins to trap the air and “stretch” the milk into a foam. With these factors in mind, you can decide which options are best for your establishment’s coffee service.

Soy Milk

Most coffeehouses are accustomed to using soy milk in coffee, as this type of non-dairy milk has been a popular option for many years. Soy milk is easily accessible in most areas, and its relatively affordable price makes it an attractive option for many businesses.

Some soy milk curdles in coffee as a reaction to the acidity or hot temperature. Soy milks without preservatives may be more prone to separating in your customers’ coffee. If you think temperature is the problem, try pouring warm soy milk into your serving cup and slowly adding the coffee.

How Soy Milk Tastes in Coffee

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Soy milk has a smooth and creamy texture with a relatively neutral taste. Many brands do not leave any noticeable aftertaste.

Can Soy Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

Soy milk’s good stretch is one reason it has been a popular alternative to dairy milk for so long. Knowledgeable baristas can produce a foam similar to that of dairy milk when using soy milk.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the most popular nut milks to use in coffee. In the past few years, its popularity has grown to nearly match that of soy milk. Almond milk comes in several flavors, and many manufacturers produce both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

Unfortunately, almond milk can curdle in coffee for the same reasons as soy milk: temperature and acidity. To combat curdling, avoid pouring cold almond milk into very hot coffee. Its reaction with the acidity of your coffee or espresso may vary from brand to brand, so be sure to try several options if you want to make almond milk a mainstay on your beverage menu.

How Almond Milk Tastes in Coffee

Almond milk has a nutty flavor that can sometimes taste bitter. Your customers may prefer sweetened almond milk in coffee for a smoother taste.

Can Almond Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

You can create a silky foam with almond milk, but this non-dairy milk has a tendency to separate when heated. Latte art made with almond milk may look nice on top of the beverage's foamy layer, but it could leave a watery drink underneath.

Rice Milk

Because this dairy alternative is both nut- and soy-free, it is growing in popularity for coffee drinkers with allergies and lactose sensitivities. If you want a hypoallergenic option for your coffee shop, rice milk could be the non-dairy milk for you.

How Rice Milk Tastes in Coffee

Rice milk has a very neutral taste that allows the flavor of your coffee to come through. However, it’s thin and watery texture does not give coffee the creamy consistency that some customers want with their beverage.

Can Rice Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

Rice milk does not contain enough protein to create a satisfactory foam in steamed drinks.

Cashew Milk

More and more people are reaching for cashew milk because of its creamy texture that mimics dairy milk in coffee. This being said, many baristas argue that house-made cashew milk is better for taste and steaming. If you want to incorporate cashew milk into your coffee offerings, weigh the costs and benefits of producing your own.

How Cashew Milk Tastes in Coffee

Cashew milk has a slightly sweet taste that is less nutty than other nut milks.

Can Cashew Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

Cashew milk has a decent stretch when it comes to steaming, but its bubbles tend to be larger, so its foam is less dense than dairy milk’s. If you aren’t careful, cashew milk may produce a soapy texture when steamed.

Hemp Seed Milk

Hemp seed milk is a popular non-dairy milk because of its high protein content. However, this alternative is not available everywhere. The hemp plant contains trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis. While traces are present in the plant, hemp seeds and hemp seed milk do not contain enough THC to cause psychoactive effects. In the United States, you can buy hemp seed milk or imported dried hemp seeds to make your own milk, but you cannot grow hemp plants.

How Hemp Seed Milk Tastes in Coffee

It has a slightly nutty or vegetal flavor with a thin texture that dissolves easily.

Can Hemp Seed Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

Hemp seed milk steams well because of its high protein content. Many baristas compare its stretch to soy milk’s, though hemp seed milk’s foam may dissipate faster.

Coconut Milk

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Prized for its thick texture and exotic flavor, coconut milk is quickly becoming a favorite dairy alternative for coffee drinkers. Using coconut milk in coffee can bring a tropical twist to your beverage without artificial flavors, and the naturally dense consistency of this non-dairy milk won’t water down your coffee.

How Coconut Milk Tastes in Coffee

Coconut has a sweet, distinctive flavor that some people love. However, some of your customers may not like the strength of coconut milk’s flavor, and they could feel that it overpowers their coffee.

Can Coconut Milk Make Foam for Coffee?

Coconut milk creates a less dense froth with larger bubbles than dairy milk.


If you want to accommodate lactose intolerant and vegan customers in your coffee shop, it is important to select a non-dairy milk option that can create delicious coffee drinks. Some options dissolve better than others, and some milks are better suited for making foam in lattes and cappuccinos. Additionally, you may want to choose an alternative that does not take away from the taste of your house blends. As you search for the best non-dairy milk to incorporate into your coffee, remember to weigh these factors and use this blog as a reference.

Posted in: Foodservice Trends | Coffee & Tea | Menu Tips | By Christine Potts
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