A Beginner's Guide to Non-Dairy Milk

What you should consider before making the switch to non-dairy milk.

5 Minutes

By EarlyBird Coffee


It seems like these days there are an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to alternative milk. Almond, oat and soy milk and just a few of the popular options that you will find at your favorite coffee shop. This article is meant to be an introduction to the differences between these options and hopefully will allow you to make a more informed decision when you are shopping for yourself. 

Why Consider Going Non-Dairy?

There is no denying that dairy milk is still the dominant option when looking at sales volume in supermarkets. Dairy milk is high in calcium and protein which aids in bone and muscle health. However, people over time have begun to understand the benefits of trying plant-based milk and other milk alternatives. 

One of the main benefits of trying milk alternatives is to help relieve digestive issues related to lactose intolerance. When consuming dairy milk is not an option, plant-based milk helps to add a little flavor in your diet. Another reason why consumers have been making the switch is due to environmental concerns that the dairy industry poses. It takes over one hundred and forty gallons of water to produce one gallon of finished dairy milk that is ready to sell. Also, dairy milk produces over three times as much greenhouse gas emissions compared to plant-based alternatives. Finally, when trying to adhere to a diet that is lower in calories and fat it can not be overlooked that plant-based milk has 40-70% less fat when compared to dairy milk.

What Options Are Available to Me?

Soy Milk is one the most popular alternative milk options available today. Soy milk has nutritional content that is similar to dairy milk, is low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and high in protein. This particular option frioths well due to the higher protein content which has made it a barista favorite for decades. However, soy is a potential allergen and if you are allergic to soy unfortunately you will have to try another option. 

Almond Milk has been steadily rising in popularity to become one of the most well known milk alternatives. Almond milk is a great source of Vitamin E and is low in saturated fats, similar to soy milk. One of the main drawbacks, however, is the lack of protein. Per cup, almond milk has roughly 1g of protein compared to soy milk which has roughly 9g of protein per cup. Also, if you have a nut allergy be very careful to avoid this option. 

Oat Milk has quickly become a favorite of both professional and at-home baristas due to how well it steams and its texture when used for espresso based drinks. One big advantage that oat milk has over almond milk is that it is free of nuts along with dairy, soy, and lactose. This makes oat milk very desirable for consumers with either lactose or nut allergies. One potential drawback is that oat milk generally has more calories and carbs when compared to other milk alternatives. One cup of oat milk depending on the brand has roughly 100 calories which might make it a dealbreaker for consumers that are trying to cut back on calories.     

Coconut Milk

If unsweetened, coconut milk is naturally low in carbs and calories which can make it a good option if controlling calories is your goal. However, coconut milk, unlike dairy or nut based milk, lacks the needed protein to properly froth. When frothed, the bubble-like microfoam quickly dissipates and remains thin. Also, on the nutritional side, coconut milk is higher than other options in saturated fats which should be kept to a minimum if you are on a heart healthy diet. On the plus side, Coconut milk is also naturally sweet which means additional sugars might not be needed in your drink. 

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is generally milder in flavor than almond milk and more environmentally friendly to produce. However, due to the labor involved, cashew milk is more expensive and at times more difficult to source. When it comes to texture, cashew milk is thinner overall which does not make it the best option to froth. When frothed, the microfoam bubbles tend to be larger which makes it less dense.  Cashews are lower in calories, may lower cholesterol, and are high in Vitamin A and E.

Rice Milk

Rice milk has the most neutral flavor when compared to the other options and is on the thinner side. Since it is low in protein, rice milk may not froth as well as you would like for a latte drink. However, it does have a sweetness to it which makes it a good option to add in drip coffee. If your goal is to get a thick foam for your latte or cappuccino, this will not be your best option. Even though rice milk is free from dairy, nuts and soy, this milk is usually processed which might not make it the healthiest option. 

How to Pair Milk with Coffee

Drip Coffee

There are a few different options to consider when you just need non dairy milk that you can add to your black coffee. You can consider adding coconut milk since naturally it is sweet and also hypoallergenic. Coconut milk does not have any dairy, nuts, and soy. You can also consider almond milk if you do not have a nut allergy. Almond milk is one of the most popular options available on the market today because of its texture and nutty flavor. It is also low in saturated fats and high in Vitamin E


When looking for non dairy milk for your latte you need an option that will froth well and produce good foam. Oat milk is highly recommended for lattes and is loved by baristas for its creamy texture. It actually foams very similarly to dairy milk and has a similar texture when steamed and frothed. Another option is soy milk which due to its high protein content froths well and has been a popular option in coffee shops for many years.


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