It used to be that there was one kind of milk everyone drank with their coffee. Cow's milk. Now there are multiple choices. There are variations of cows’ milk, dairy substitutes, and gluten free choices.
Which one is best? Which is cheapest? Should you offer a few dairy alternatives? The jury is still out on these questions, but we can offer some help in making a choice.
Whether it's dairy or non-dairy, milk is the primary ingredient in most cafe specialties. The alternatives to the traditional dairy option are plentiful. Soy, Almond, Hemp, Rice, Coconut, Hazelnut, & Cashew are among the most popular. Within each of these options there are different brands to choose from.
Soy milk is the most popular alternative. It's made from soy beans and water it is completely lactose free. Due to its widespread popularity and its general dependability soy has worked its way into most cafes and huts around the globe. It is as close to dairy milk as you can get when it comes to steam-ability.
Almond milk is the next in the standings of most popular non-dairy alternatives. It has a slight nutty taste that you won't find it soy milk, however it is recommended that it should be steamed only to 140 degrees Fahrenheit due to its delicate flavor.
Some lesser known but still viable options are coconut milk (made from the pulp of coconuts and water), hemp milk (yes it is made from the nuts of the marijuana plant, and no it does not make you high), rice milk (made from rice or rice protein, water, and sweetener), hazelnut milk (made by blending hazelnuts or hazelnut butter, sugar, and water), and cashew milk (uses cashews or cashew butter blended with water).
So how do you go about choosing the alternative or alternatives that are right for your cafe? Here are a few things to take into account: how it does it steam (burning quickly or foaming easily); how does it taste- both hot and cold (there is a difference between cold and steamed milk); and what is the mouth feel (the texture)? Lastly, any budget conscious cafe will need to ask, what is the cost and does it come in bulk?
When it comes to managing the change or addition to your menu some helpful ways to transition include getting customers to weigh in on their favorites and what they like about it or using social media (Facebook, Blogs, Email, and Twitter) or advertising to let people know you'll be serving up some new delicious options.
If you're in the market for a dairy alternative, start experimenting, you don't know what you like till you try it!
Fresh Cup-April 2013 Issue (pg. 32)