Coffee is loved by millions all over the world. Coffee can be enjoyed as an Americano, an espresso, or as drip coffee, but more often than not, you will see people go for the beverage with the addition of milk. Dairy milk, in its traditional form, isn’t a substance that is loved by all. This is because many people are sensitive to dairy, so they tend to avoid it at all costs! Whether it is a dietary restriction because of health, taste, or personal choice, coffee lovers want to know what the best alternative is.
So, let’s have a look at what non-dairy milk works well in coffee. One widely used alternative is to use soy milk in coffee. Yet, there are a number of other plant-based milks that you can choose from.
Soy milk has been a popular choice for many looking for a dairy substitute, but how well does it fare when put it into coffee? Below we discuss everything to know about the relationship between soy milk and coffee. Keep reading to see if it is the alternative for you:
What Is Soy Milk?
Soy milk is a plant-based beverage that is used as an alternative to regular cow’s milk. It is made by soaking soybeans in water and bringing them to a boil while crushing them. Once the emulsion is ready, all the particles are strained out of it. Commercially sold soymilk is then enriched with vitamins and calcium to fortify it.
People turn to it, as well as other non-dairy milk for many reasons; weight loss, dairy sensitivity, lactose intolerance, and even simply because they don’t like the taste of cow’s milk. It is also a nutritional alternative because of the soybean itself. Soybeans are packed full of protein and essential amino acids that are a necessary part of a healthy diet.
Soy is the same ingredient used to make tofu and has been a huge part of the Chinese diet for centuries. This is also where soy milk was first seen, but it was referred to as ‘bean broth‘; it was initially a byproduct of the tofu-making process. The formula and process were adjusted over time to taste more like dairy milk while being part of plant-based milks; thus, soymilk came into existence.
Do Specific Coffee Beans or Roasts Work Best For Soy Milk?
Soy milk has the tendency to curdling when it is in contact with certain levels of acidity. The acid content of coffee (How to Brew Less Acidic Coffee) can act as a coagulant and cause it to split when it comes into contact with hot coffee. The heat in the coffee speeds up the process of curdling. If you are using soymilk, go for low acid coffee beans when you use this non-dairy milk for coffee.
Low acid coffee beans are those that have been harvested on low altitudes like Brazil and have a darker roast. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the roast on the coffee bean, the more acidic it will be!
How Do You Heat Up Soy Milk?
Heating up your soy milk before adding it to your coffee can reduce the risk of it curdling because of the sudden change in temperature in your cup. However, it curdles at around 43°C (110°F) which is a relatively low temperature when you are heating up milk; regular dairy milk has a curdling point of 82°C (180°F) in comparison. This is why there are very specific ways that soymilk needs to be heated to avoid it turning into tofu.
You can use a saucepan with a thick bottom or a cast iron skillet to warm soy milk up. This way, the heating process will be very gradual and you can stop it before the milk curdles.
Another way to heat soy milk is by placing it in a container and placing the container in a hot water bath; this will gradually warm it up without getting it too hot. Or if you want to get a little fancy with it, you can even steam it. Read how to do it below:
Can Soy Milk Be Steamed?
Yes, soy milk can be steamed, and is actually a great way to stop it from curdling when it gets into your coffee. The thing with steaming, however, is finding the right brand. You need to find a brand that makes a product that is not too watery in consistency as you will not be able to achieve the microfoam you are looking for with steaming.
Once you have found the right consistency of soymilk, the steaming process is all about technique. Start by using refrigerated milk and pour it halfway up your desired pitcher as it will double in size. Insert the steamer just as you would for dairy milk, and slowly pull the pitcher down and turn it more often than you would for conventional dairy milk. Cut the steam earlier than you would for regular milk since it has a lower curdling temperature. Voila! Your frothy plant-based milk is ready.
Alternatively, just go to your favorite coffee shop and ask them to make your latte or cappuccino (What is a bone dry cappuccino?) with soy milk. You can rest assured that the coffee shop will have the right product and technique to steam and foam the non-dairy milk to perfection!
Can You Microwave Soy Milk?
Heating soy milk in a microwave is a big no-no! This is because microwaves are built to speedily heat up food items. It will most definitely curdle if it is heated up too fast at a high temperature. You will be left with a cup of liquid with solid chunks of a tofu-like substance floating at the top, which is extremely unappealing even if it tastes fine.
Like we mentioned above, soymilk needs to be gradually heated up to avoid curdling. If you have no other option but to heat it up in the microwave, try adjusting the settings to a lower heat level until you reach one at which your plant-based milk is sufficiently heated, but remains lump-free!
Does Soymilk Curdle In Coffee?
Yes, this is a common problem seen with people who choose to have soymilk with their coffee. It tends to curdle in some coffees, not all. It doesn’t mix well with high acidity coffees, such as high altitude, American origin, or light roast coffees. This happens because the acid content in coffee splits the proteins and fats in this type of non-dairy milk, with the heat of the coffee working as a catalyst for the reaction.
There are a few ways to avoid curdling in coffee:
- You could switch to a darker roast coffee or a low acid coffee.
- You could try cutting the acid in coffee by adding a pinch of salt during the brewing process.
- Cool your coffee a little before adding in the milk.
- Add the coffee to the milk instead of the other way around; the temperature and acidity will adjust more slowly this way.
- Try changing the brand of your plant-based milk. Some additives used by certain companies are more likely to curdle.
- Steam or froth your non-dairy milk; it is less likely to split this way.
- Add calcium lactate or soy lecithin to stabilize it before adding it to your coffee.
What Milk Alternatives Are Best For Coffee?
Milk alternatives for coffee need to have the ability to be foamed and heated; this means they need to have the appropriate protein molecules that need to be broken down in order to create the microfoam needed to create a latte or a cappuccino. Below are our top picks for milk alternatives for coffee apart from soy milk:
Oat milk tastes like full-fat dairy milk without guilt. If you steam oat milk, it produces foam with larger bubbles than regular milk but last just as long.
Rice milk is a great alternative for those allergic to nuts. It has a neutral taste so your coffee won’t have any added flavor. Unfortunately, it isn’t creamy and cannot be foamed.
Coconut milk will add a great tropical flavor to your morning cup and can be foamed to create a delicious latte. Adding coconut milk as your non-dairy milk gives your coffee a delicious flavor! So, skip the artificial flavoring in creamers you use and try a cup of coffee with coconut milk instead!
Hemp milk may leave an earthy flavor in your coffee, but it can be foamed and has a good amount of protein.
This curveball is quickly becoming a favorite alternative to dairy milk. It has a neutral taste with no vegetal aftertaste. Pea milk is also very high in protein so it creates dense foam perfect for lattes and latte art.
Cashew milk is a slightly sweet tasting milk alternative that creates airy textured foam. Cashew milk is probably the least nutty-tasting nut milk.
Can You Froth Almond Milk?
Almond milk, much like soy milk has a tendency to split when in contact with high heat. However, if you can master the art of foaming almond milk, this milk substitute creates a silky foam that doesn’t dissipate. This means that you can even create latte art on foam made from almond milk.
Unfortunately, once almond milk is foamed, it is no longer creamy or thick in any way. So, you might have great-looking foam at the top of your coffee, but the drink underneath will be very watery.
There are many great cow’s milk alternatives that exist in the market because of the growing demand. You can get all sorts of plant-based milk made from rice, nuts, hemp, and even peas!
Soymilk has been around for centuries and is a tried and tested alternative for dairy milk with many health benefits. Try it out the next time you go out to grab a coffee, or then one of our other suggested alternatives if this bean-based milk isn’t the one for you!
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