By CEO of Coffeequip, George Bertolis.

Although there is an entire segment of the population that relies on milk alternatives due to allergies the current growth in demand for plant-based milks can be attributed to the increase in customers searching for healthier options, that aren’t linked to allegations of animal cruelty or have a smaller environmental impact than their dairy counterparts. This growing demand isn’t only with regards to their personal, everyday use but has spilled over into the services industry with more and more cafés, coffee shops, bistros, restaurants, etc. offering the option of plant milks to complement their selection traditional hot beverages.

Barista-style plant milks

Sounds simple enough, right? Simply switch the one with the other. Apparently, not. For plant milks to meet the same standards as dairy when it comes to creating long-lasting micro-foam for steamed drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, baristas need to purchase barista-style plant milks that have special additives that their more commercial versions, that you’ll find in the supermarket, don’t have. The reason for this, as explained by Forbes, is that the structure of coffee drinks was originally made using diary and the proteins in plant milks don’t react the same way when exposed to big temperature changes, the acidity of the coffee or the mechanical impact of frothing and can curdle as a result. So, to achieve the same type of froth and that doesn’t curdle, barista-style plant milks may include things such as oils, gum, lecithins, and salts.

Which one will best suit you?

At the moment, the variety of milk alternatives currently on the market is almost as diverse as the types of variations of the coffee beverages you can find. Customers can choose from plant-based milks made from almonds, nuts, oats, rice, soy, yellow peas, coconut, and even hemp! But which will best suit your needs?

According to George Bertolis, CEO of Coffeequip, “That’s up to the barista and personal preference with regards to the taste and what they require in terms of foam texture. The best would be to experiment with not only the different types of plant milks but also brands for each as the water-to-oil ratios may differ for each which can deliver very different results.”

Oat milk seems to be a popular choice amongst baristas as it delivers quite similar results to dairy, doesn’t overpower the flavour of the coffee and is easy to use.

What to consider when using barista-style plant milks?

  • The acidity of the coffee beans or blends you use – the more acidic, the higher the likelihood of curdling.
  • Dairy has a higher heat tolerance, so consider heating the plant milk at a lower temperature or first add cold and then the heated plant milk to the beverage.
  • With all the different types of milk alternatives available, best to taste what goes better with certain beverages than others.