The Best Non-Dairy Milks For Coffee

If you have chosen a plant-based diet, a vegan diet (even if just for Veganuary) or are allergic to dairy, it no longer means you have to miss out on your favourite hot drinks and caffeine kicks.

Coffee shops now provide a huge range of milk alternatives, and supermarkets and shops also stock plenty of choices for you to use at home and for other applications. But there is no denying that some non-dairy milks are better for particular jobs than others.

For instance, one may be great at heating and bubbling in a dedicated milk frothing jug but have an overpowering taste. So which is the best all-round milk alternative for coffee? From your tastes to the coffee choice and how the milk needs to be used, we have listed them all below.

Oat Milk

This is fast becoming the number one choice for milk alternatives in coffee. It has a thicker consistency than most of the other options, akin to semi-skimmed or full fat milk.

This consistency means it is the closest alternative you can currently buy. It can also be foamed and steamed, and while it is a bit more bubbly and takes a bit longer, latte art works well.

There is barely any change in taste to the coffee with the addition of oat milk. It is creamy, just like ordinary milk, and very smooth so the texture won’t ruin the smoothness of the drink.

Good news too if you want a specific recommendation – Oatly Barista always wins the best alternative milk for coffee war in any reviews, and we have to agree. It became so popular upon release that supermarkets ran out and Oatly admitted they were struggling to keep up with demand. Look for the grey carton on your next shop.

RATING: 5/5

Soy Milk

Probably the most popular dairy alternative, and certainly the most widely available. If you are looking for a milk substitute in a cafe, then they are most likely to have this one. It is also often the most affordable, which is good for both consumer and business.

It is slightly thinner than oat so is more like using skimmed milk, and there is a slight taste alteration but nothing which isn’t easy to live with. There is also a higher chance it can curdle on contact with hot coffee and drinks, so is best slightly warmed up first then slowly pouring the coffee.

The natural oils also mean it can split after standing for a while, so keep giving it a good stir. This is why is has to be shaken before being poured, too. 

If you want to froth it, soy milk is one of the best for creating that natural bubbly texture which is good for art. The most popular brand and make is Alpro Professional Soya, which is specially blended for coffee.

RATING: 4.5/5

Soy Milk
Soy Milk

Pea Milk

One of the newest kids on the block, but consumers are quickly praising its close resemblance to dairy milk. Don’t panic – it isn’t green, and doesn’t taste like petit pois either.

Made from the protein of yellow peas, it is one of the best if you like a caffeine hit but want to keep things nutritious. It keeps those high levels of protein which could be good if you are vegan, and also contains natural potassium.

Baristas praise its texture when frothing and making latte art, and it is smooth while having no overpowering taste so is great for a range of different coffee blends. Sproud Original Pea M*lk is a bestseller.

RATING: 4/5

Rice Milk

Both nut and soy free, this milk is growing in popularity among those with allergies or intolerances.

It has quite a neutral taste as you would imagine, and a lot of people argue that it actually has the closest taste to cow’s milk. The added sweeteners also make it great for anyone who adds sugars to their coffee without being overpowering.

But it also happens to be very thin so doesn’t give the full, creamy texture which is mostly found with coffees. This could be suitable for anyone who likes just a splash of milk, though. As it is thin, it isn’t great for frothing or warming. Our pick would be Provamel Organic Rice Drink.

RATING: 4/5

Cashew Milk

This is starting to become a bit more loved than almond milk, as it leaves less of a nutty flavour and is slightly thicker so can create a creamier texture.

It gives a sweet taste, but is one of the priciest options so a lot of people actually make their own at home – you would have to weigh up the costs and effort. This means it can be a bit trickier to find in cafes, but Plenish Organic Cashew Milk is a purse-friendly make.

When foamed, cashew milk goes bubbly but these are quite large bubbles so it isn’t great for art. It can also suffer from being over-foamed, so you have to practice a little to get it just right.

RATING: 3.5/5

Almond Milk

If you are after a nut milk then this is probably the most widely available choice. It is almost as popular as soy milk, so good if you want a non-soya alternative with a similar texture.

Manufacturers make it in both sweetened and unsweetened forms so it is good if you want something pure and plain or a touch of sweetness to cut out adding extra sugar. It does leave a bit of a nutty taste though, but Rude Health Organic Almond Drink is one of the best at limiting this.

Unfortunately, as it is similar in texture to soy milk, it faces the same problems. When poured into hot coffee it can curdle, so is best warmed first, but also be aware that some types can split or curdle when heated so do this gently. It can be foamed but still largely stays quite thin so isn’t great if you want a thick traditional cappuccino.

RATING: 3.5/5

Almond Milk
Almond Milk

Hemp Milk

With the most protein content of all alternative milks, this is a well-loved favourite for anyone struggling to find their daily intake without consuming dairy.

Because of this high protein content, it is really great to steam and thickens, although it does go back to normal rather quickly so won’t remain throughout the entire cup of coffee. The flavour is quite strong, a bit of a mixture between nutty and vegetable like.

It is one of the slightly pricier options due to the hemp seed content, so won’t be available everywhere. But the Good Hemp Barista Seed Drink is one of the few specially formulated for coffees.

RATING: 3/5

Coconut Milk

One of the best for a thick texture, this is a great milk if you like to keep that creamy, smooth coffee feel without cow’s milk.

However, it also suffers from one of the strongest natural flavours – there is no escaping the slightly tropical twist. This makes it great for pouring over cereals or using in baking and milkshakes but whether you are a fan of the taste in coffee will be down to your personal preferences.

Some will love it and some will hate it. When frothing, the result is less dense than dairy milk so it could be hard to make art with. There are also some natural oils so it can split over time if left in a hot drink. Koko Dairy Free Unsweetened Coconut Milk is a bestseller and usually widely available.

RATING: 2.5/5

Which Is The Best Non-Dairy Milk For Coffee?

Overall, we think that oat milk is the best. It is the same consistency and texture as semi-skimmed or full cows milk, so still gives that smooth and creamy touch. Furthermore, it is easier to froth than some other options, and there is no taste imparted.

You do need to bare in mind that variations do change from brand to brand, so just because you don’t like one make doesn’t mean you don’t actually like that type of milk – some testing may be required. This is particularly appropriate when trying soya or almond milk.

Think about what you want from the milk too. Is frothing and warming it the most important factor, or do you want something thick and creamy? This could all depend on your favourite type of coffee or how you make it.

Tip 1
Darker roasts are usually better with dairy-free milk, as the flavour is strong and rich enough to cut through any taste imparted by the milk​
Tip 2
Bear in mind how much milk you use - they generally keep for around 5 days in the fridge, but some could last for 10 days. Most are UHT so preserved until opened
Tip 3
Your choice for coffee may not be right for tea or hot chocolate. Experiment with each form, especially as teas can have so many different tastes and blends
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