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The barista guide to non-dairy

Lots of people are swapping milk or cream in their coffee for dairy alternatives, but which is the best non-dairy for coffee? Here’s how they affect taste and texture, and a bit about how they’re made.

Oat-based drinks

  • GOOD TO KNOW...

    These are many people’s favourite alternative to dairy milk. They often have a full-bodied consistency that can help create a rich and satisfying drink. And, because oats themselves have a mild taste, oat-based drinks shouldn’t change the taste of your coffee that much.

  • HOW DO THEY TASTE?

    These are many people’s favourite alternative to dairy milk. They often have a full-bodied consistency that can help create a rich and satisfying drink. And, because oats themselves have a mild taste, oat-based drinks shouldn’t change the taste of your coffee that much.

  • HOW ARE THEY MADE?

    Usually, they’re made from oats that have been roasted at low temperatures to add flavour. That’s really similar to coffee-roasting: using heat to release flavours that would otherwise be hidden. 
    Water is then added to the roasted oats, then it is filtered to create the final drink.

Soya-based drinks

  • GOOD TO KNOW...

    These have been available for many years, but they need to be treated with a bit of care. Soya drinks without preservatives can separate when added to the hot coffee. That’s why experienced baristas pay particular attention to the temperature of the soya drink when they’re adding it to the coffee.

  • HOW DO THEY TASTE?

    It really depends on which one you choose. Soya drinks can make your coffee taste a bit “beany”, but they usually give coffee a nice, smooth consistency. Some baristas say that the soya flavour can complements South American coffees but can be too powerful for the fruity notes of African beans.

  • HOW ARE THEY MADE?

    They’re made from soya beans, which are usually soaked, ground, boiled and filtered. The different brands of soya drink are made using slightly different techniques, and that’s why there are drinks that range from thin and watery to thick and creamy.

Coconut-based drinks

  • GOOD TO KNOW...

    Coconuts are naturally quite sweet, so these drinks are sometimes blended with other non-dairy alternatives so that they appeal to as many people’s tastes as possible.

  • HOW DO THEY TASTE?

    Coconut drinks can make your coffee taste sweet, so you might want to test a few different types to find the one that truly tickles your taste buds.

  • HOW ARE THEY MADE?

    They’re made from the white flesh of the coconut, which is usually grated, boiled or simmered, then filtered through cheesecloth. The drinks themselves can be thick or thin, depending on the exact technique and recipe.

Almond-based drinks

  • GOOD TO KNOW...

    Almonds keep a lot of their distinctive nutty flavour, so an almond drink might work well for you if you’re happy to change the character of your coffee. Try an almond alternative for yourself: it might just give your coffee a completely new deliciousness.

  • HOW DO THEY TASTE?

    Almond drinks are now a big favourite in barista-run cafés. Some people say they can make coffee taste a little bitter, so it’s a good idea to experiment with different almond drinks to find the one you like.

  • HOW ARE THEY MADE?

    Naturally, the makers of almond drinks all follow their own unique processes and ingredients, but the basic method is to soak almonds in water, then filter the results to create the final drink.

Rice-based drinks

  • GOOD TO KNOW...

    Some people say that rice-based drinks can be a bit watery, but that might be exactly what you’re looking for. Everyone’s tastes are different, so why not give them a go?

  • HOW DO THEY TASTE?

    Rice-based drinks don’t have much flavour naturally, so they shouldn’t change the taste of your coffee much. On the other hand, they’re not very creamy, so the texture of your coffee perhaps won’t feel as luxuriant.

  • HOW ARE THEY MADE?

    They’re usually made from brown rice, which is milled, diluted with water and then filtered.

Find your favourite non-dairy drink
Find your favourite non-dairy drink

There’s such a huge variety of non-dairy drinks. One of them is sure to be right for you, but it might take some experimenting to narrow down your favourite.
IF YOU LIKE…

  • Natural-tasting coffee: try some oat-based drinks, as they really can taste similar to dairy milk
  • Highly flavoured coffee: give almond-based drinks a go. You can use the almond flavour to create your very own nut-inspired taste
  • Lovely thick foam: go for almond- and oat-based drinks. Their particular blend of plant proteins build a strong foam that’s great for latte art

Which is best for latte art
Which is best for latte art?

Traditionally, the foam that baristas create comes from the proteins in dairy milk. So, if you use a plant-based drink instead, the results will usually be different.

Baristas definitely prefer almond and oat drinks. But do take your time and do some experimenting. If you’re going to make latte art at home, we recommend trying several different drinks to find the one that foams best using your equipment.

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Sip our delicious dairy alternative lattes

You asked – and we created them! The NESCAFÉ GOLD Dairy Alternative Lattes give you a super-tasty treat. Choose from oat, almond and coconut. Then sit back and enjoy.

Try our dairy alternative lattes