A decade ago, the most common milk of choice to pair with coffee was none other than dairy milk from cows. In fact, not many coffee shops offered an array of dairy-free milk options, except for a select few coffee places. There has been an increased interest in non-dairy milks over the past few years, which seems to go hand-in-hand with the rise of plant-based nutrition.
Almond milk was one of the very first dairy-free milk options to reach the shelves of coffee shops nationwide. Many other nut-based and grain-based milks are gaining popularity as well.
From the way each milk tastes when paired with coffee and the nutritional information of each milk option, to the ethical matters surrounding almond milk and cow milk, as well as the price point for each of them, we are going to take an in-depth look at the differences between milk from almonds and milk from cows.
Should you make the switch and start putting almond milk in your coffee instead of cow's milk? Let's find out which milk option is better for you, your wallet, and the environment.
Which Milk is Better with Espresso and Brewed Coffee?
A common conclusion that people draw after taking a sip from a hot latte made with almond milk is that almond milk has a very nutty and almost dry aftertaste. This has more to do with the way the almond milk latte was prepared than it does with almond milk itself.
The primary reason for the reportedly odd taste is that almond milk contains a high percentage of water. On top of being more watery than most milks, almonds themselves are naturally very dry and bland. Almond milk is delicious with espresso, but if you are used to cow's milk, it will taste unusual. Like most things, first impressions aren’t always accurate. Give nut milk a few tries before swearing it off completely: sometimes you need to adjust to the different flavor to truly appreciate it.
Almond milk can taste a bit burnt and unusual when taken to too high of a temperature, so if you have ever had a warm almond milk latte that tasted off, it is possible that the barista did not properly steam the milk.
When baristas steam almond milk in pitchers, they aerate the milk until it reaches an internal temperature of between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When baristas are just starting to learn the ropes of steaming milk, it is very easy to “overtemp” the milk. The temperature of the steam wand can take the cold almond milk to an undesirable temperature, which seriously alters the taste.
Cow's milk is reliable in terms of texture and taste because it is far easier to aerate than alternative milk. Hot lattes made with steamed milk from cows tend to be more consistent from one latte to the next, especially compared to warm lattes made with steamed almond milk.
However, whoever said you have to sip on a warm latte? If you are trying to steer clear of cow's milk but warm almond milk is too different for you, try ordering an iced almond milk latte!
At the end of the day, the taste is relative, and what one person thinks about almond milk in coffee could differ from your personal opinion. The best thing you can do is give almond milk a try.
Keep in mind that almond milk tastes differently depending on the coffee bean blend that it is paired with, too. A different bean and almond milk pairing can change the flavor combinations present within your drink.
Calories and Nutritional Information of Almond Milk and Cow's Milk
Almond milk is an amazing alternative for coffee lovers who don’t want to give up their favorite milk-based coffee drinks, but also don’t want to consume too much dairy. The nut-based milk comes sweetened or unsweetened, and the option to purchase vanilla-flavored almond milk exists as well. Unsweetened almond milk also contains far fewer calories than cow's milk, which is very appealing to many people.
Eight ounces of a glass of almond milk is around forty calories, with only three grams of fat. Milk from cows, on the other hand, contains about one hundred forty calories. Skimmed cow’s milk has a similar caloric breakdown to almond milk, but sugars and other unnecessary ingredients are added to skimmed milk, so you are truly better off opting for the dairy-free alternative instead.
Many people drink cow’s milk because it contains a decent percentage of their daily calcium intake. That is an understandable reason for drinking cow’s milk, but dairy is not the only source of calcium. You can substitute calcium capsules for cow’s milk at any point in time, or even reconfigure your diet to include more calcium-rich foods. Almond milk does not contain calcium but it is fortified, meaning that various nutrients and vitamins are added to almond milk during production.
Protein is a macronutrient that people rely on cow's milk for, but the truth of the matter is that milk from cows does not contain enough protein to make much of a difference in your diet. You could eat a handful of pistachios or consume a cup of yogurt and get more protein than you would from a glass of cow's milk. Even though almond milk does not contain an impressive amount of protein, you are not significantly missing out on protein by switching over to almond milk.
Environmental Benefits of Almond Milk
One of the most amazing aspects of almond milk is that there aren’t any animals involved in the process of making it! Many coffee shops partner with independent coffee growers around the world make it a point to source their beans locally and promote an organic process. Coffee growers care deeply about the environment in which their coffee fruit grows, so it only makes sense to extend the compassion to animals.
Offering almond milk over cow's milk is a great way to show customers you care; dairy-free milks also come with the added benefit of being vegan! Almond milk is cruelty-free, whereas there is no promise that no animals were hurt in the process of making cow's milk.
Also, another bonus of almond milk is that coffee shop managers don’t have to worry about almond milk expiring before the baristas get a chance to use it. Almond milk is much easier to store than its alternative. Unlike milk from cows, almond milk does not need to be refrigerated until it is opened. As a result, there is less wasted product due to expiration when using almond milk.
Trading in cow's Milk for Almond Milk
Despite popular belief, there is little cost difference between dairy and its almond beverage counterpart; however, the majority of coffee shops do charge an additional cost for alternative milks. There is a norm that alt milk will be an additional charge - so feel free to jump on the bandwagon! If you find yourself paying more than you’d like for non-dairy beverages, offsetting the price to meet your budget is an added cost most customers are willing to shell out for (especially when the payoff tastes good).
Coffee shop owners and management teams can save money on almond milk by buying it in bulk. Online stores like Barista Underground are the perfect opportunity for coffee shops to stock up on their favorite almond milk brands.