Let’s be real: us coffeeholics all know the struggles of finding that perfect cup of joe. We all know too much of our bank account has been spent on caffeine, we know where all of our favorite coffee stops are in town, and we all know every drink that we might as well be a certified barista. If you are like me, I need the perfect combo of slightly sweet and creamy. For years, it has always been whole milk or a no-go. Something about it just always suited my taste in flavor, creaminess and frothiness.
However, for my own personal health reasons, I am now trying to cut liquid dairy out of my diet - this means no milk. So now much of my bank account has gone to trying multiple milk alternatives and non-dairy creamers. To give you an idea of my preferred cup so that you understand where my preference lies, I like a blonde roast with cinnamon, honey, vanilla and coconut sugar for flavor, and enough milk for the drink to be no longer black but nowhere close to white.
Please note: for the sake of giving fair critique, the following creamers were bought plain, unsweetened and all organic; however, they are not all from the same brand. Also, these are my own opinions, if you like a milk I didn’t, it's okay, and if you're curious, give any of these a try.
Quinoa is a small African grain that can vary in color and thus, nutritional value and taste. Being the new “it” superfood, quinoa has a soft nutty flavor. If you have ever eaten quinoa, then you pretty know what the milk tastes like. Yes, just imagine that flavor in liquid form. I found it quite watery, so much to the point where I pretty much had a 60/40 ration of quinoa milk to coffee. I then even had to add a different dairy alternative to finally get some sort of creaminess to my drink. It by far has been my least favorite.
Rice milk, similar to quinoa, was again watery. I assume, because the grains have to be cooked in water, that they retain the water and that water is all released when the grains are liquefied. Rice is pretty plain in comparison to quinoa, whereas quinoa's nutty taste could come off as slightly earthy, rice is as it is. It's just simple. I think a sweetened or vanilla rice milk could hold potential. Essentially, all milks can be frothed. Frothing has to do with the density of the milk, the freshness and the milks proteins and how they break down. While I know that I do not have a professional-grade coffee machine with steamers and the whole bundle at home, there seemed to be no promises of being able to froth the grain milks.
I think hemp milk is just the love child of nut milks and grain milks. It's an in-between honestly. While it stays true to the wateriness of grains, this seed based liquid pertains more to a nut milk flavor. Although I claim it as watery, in comparison to grain milks which are more water than milk, this is more of a milk than water. It's not entirely creamy goodness, but just like a thin cream - I guess a decent substitute to skim milk. Whereas most of these milks mix perfectly, hemp milk creates a small film on top of the drink presumably from the oils and fat of the seed.
Not all almond milks are created equally. I find that the taste can vary from brand to brand. Some contain the skins from the almond and, more times than not, I find those to be more nutty tasting than those that do not. It is not very difficult to make your own almond milk, but if you are not a fan of it at first, do not be put out and just try a different brand. Almond milk can have a slight sweetness to it most of time. I think nut milks and coconut milk have not only more of a change to be naturally sweeter, but also have more of a chance of being frothed than grain milks. Most coffee shops today will even carry almond, soy and coconut milks. "So Delicious Dairy Free" store-bought almond and coconut milk creamers are some of the items I always keep stocked in my fridge.
Coconut is one of my favorites; however, beware that there are full-fat coconut milks and light coconut milks. Full-fat coconut milk is very meaty and thick. Full-fat can leave a thick, cloudy film on top of your drink and so it is a good idea to try to heat up your milk on the stove before use. I prefer light coconut milk because it is healthier and is more of a liquid, while full-fat coconut milk is more chunky. I think there is this concept of coconut's sweet, sweet flavor, but what most people probably know "coconut" to be has a lot of added sugar. Coconut milk pertains it's more natural flavor. Of course, you can always buy it sweetened, and there are a lot of delicious coconut milk flavored creamers. I like to make a homemade creamer by adding vanilla extract or a vanilla bean, cinnamon, and some maple syrup.
Cashew milks are very silky, in fact they are so smooth and creamy, that it is very popular to make vegan ice creams with cashew milk. Cashew milk and soy milk, to me, tastes as close to milk as you can probably find if that is your preference. For food purposes, I would probably say that cashew is one of the best to use for baking and almond is best for cooking.
Soy is another one of my favorites. To me, it tastes as close to milk as you can probably find if that is your preference. It’s creamy and pretty thick versus grain milks; however, I am very conflicted when it comes to soy. I know as a woman I am not supposed to have a lot of soy consumption in my diet. Soy contains estrogen and, let's be honest here, why do I need even more hormones? No thank you. So if you are a male, go ahead and lap this stuff up, but for me, I will only drink in moderation.
For my conflicts, my rating is: 4.5/5
With all this said and done, don't be afraid to try new alternatives. There are plenty of options out there for all you healths nuts, vegans and vegan wannabes--I did not even begin to cover the surface of all your possibilities. The ever-growing number of milk alternatives currently on the market is phenomenal. With the right diet, milk alternatives can be an easy switch to a humane, allergy-free, healthy choice.