Milk Matters: A Look at the Top 10 Milks Commonly Added to Coffee
Beef might be what’s for dinner, but there’s another bovine product that many folks prefer as a regular addition to their daily cup of joe.
Okay, not everyone prefers dairy milk in their coffee, but for those that do, we’re looking to explore the ins, outs, ups, and downs of this delightful addition.
And, while we’re at it, of course we’ll include a few non-dairy options as well!
Below we’ll highlight the ten milks most often used in coffee and by the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be able to answer the following questions…
- How does milk affect the flavor of my coffee?
- Which milks are easily frothed?
- Are low fat milk options healthier?
- Do plant based milks contain as much calcium?
…and much more!
So, stick around for a quick science lesson, some interesting facts, and maybe even a recipe or two as we discover ways to enhance your daily cup of coffee when you’ve got milk!
Milk and Coffee have a Remarkable Chemistry
When you add milk (dairy and non) to your coffee, the resulting flavor and texture all comes down to chemistry.
Of course, we’re talking science here, but when we get right down to it, we’re also referring to compatibility.
How so, you may ask?
Milk is made up of fat globules, in other words, tiny beads of fat.
When you drink milk, those beads coat your tongue, inhibiting your tongue’s ability to fully taste.
That’s right, the fat content of the milk actually prevents your tongue from fully tasting what you put into your mouth along with that milk, here coffee.
And, this is precisely why milk (again, dairy and non) can actually enhance the flavor of your brew!
Coffee naturally has a bitter taste to it. It is also naturally acidic. (Though, we Lifeboosters know and appreciate the fact that our coffee is some of the least acidic coffee on the planet.)
When milk is added to coffee, the milk can tame the bitterness and acidity in the coffee.
In other words: milk plus coffee equals a palate-pleasing drink enjoyed by millions worldwide!
Add in a little more science and we can take this a step further…
While many of us like to simply add milk to our coffee, some prefer a bit of style and flair, err, foam actually.
Many coffee drinks are enhanced by the addition of milk foam, and this frothy, delicious addition is made possible by a bit of science.
Aside from fat, milk is also made up of a few kinds of proteins, whey and casein.
The varying amounts of these proteins found in dairy milk are needed to create what is known as microfoam, those tiny bubbles that form when milk is steamed or heated. (Think cappuccino, macchiato, lattes, and the like.)
And, the chemistry (science and compatibility) part?
This microfoam, when added to your coffee, seamlessly mingles those milk proteins with the oils present in your coffee thereby highlighting the pleasing flavor profile of the beans.
An added bonus? When you’re drinking pure, clean, healthy coffee, the authentic, rich, and robust flavor profiles shine through even more!
You’re headed to your kitchen to brew a cup right now, aren’t you?
As you enjoy that tasty cup of joe, let’s further explore what each of the following 10 types of milk have to offer when added to your coffee.
1- Low Fat Milk
(Technically there is a small distinction between low fat and skim milk, but due to their similarities in overall fat content, calcium content, and use in coffee, we’ll combine the two here under the category of low fat milk.)
Low fat, or skim, milk generally only has 1% milk fat, so those looking to cut back on fat intake often gravitate towards this option when wanting to add a little something to their cup of joe, without adding a little something to their waistline.
But, what’s the actual skinny on this skim option? Let’s find out…
Adding this lighter milk to your coffee means your end product won’t be as dense.
Though, if you’d like to try your hand at adding a beautiful, fluffy layer of foam to your brew, skim milk does make a firm, smooth, stable, even velvety layer of foam, hot or cold (as long as you don’t add extras like cinnamon or vanilla to that fluff as this decreases the liquid’s ability to hold its shape).
When simply adding this type of milk to your hot or cold brew, you can count on a healthy dose of calcium, as skim, or low fat, milk contains the highest amounts, even slightly more than whole milk.
But, skim milks can also contain added sugars, and if you’re watching your waistline or concerned with overall health, sneaky additions of sugar can negate your efforts towards a healthier you!
2- 2% Milk
Similar to low fat milk, 2% milk, sometimes referred to as reduced fat milk, is made by skimming the cream out of large batches of milk. And, as the name suggests, the fat content of this option makes up 2% of the total milk weight.
Many folks choose this option as an addition to their daily brew because while it contains less fat than whole milk or coffee creamer, it is a bit more rich than a true low fat or skim milk.
Actually, when you look at the math of the matter, 2% milk really only contains roughly 1% less fat than whole milk, thus the similar taste and texture to its fattier cousin.
But, while this is the most purchased lactose-containing milk, how’s it fair in your average cup of coffee?
Most coffee shops claim to use 2% milk as a go-to additive when customers opt for a splash (or more) in their brew as this choice gives a balance of flavor and texture.
When making a cappuccino or other coffee drink with a foamy topper, 2% milk provides a very smooth and velvety foam. However, believe it or not, this option won’t be quite as stable, meaning it’ll fade a bit faster than both skim and whole milk.
And, as far as your health is concerned, 2% milk contains a decent amount of vitamin A and calcium, with this particular vitamin actually increasing the amount of calcium your body can absorb.
3- Whole Milk
Whole milk is obviously higher in fat than the two reduced fat milks we’ve listed above, and it is notably higher in calories as well. So, this option is often avoided by those looking to cut calories or reduce the amount of fat they consume in their diet.
However, I’m sure many of you have become acquainted with the fact that fat may not be as bad for us as we once thought.
So, how does this milk option boost your brew?
Since the consistency of whole milk is thicker, this option, when combined with coffee, creates a dense, creamy, and palatable flavor and texture.
And, as far as foam is concerned, whole milk makes a beautifully dense, firm, stable, velvety foam to top coffee drinks both hot and cold!
The addition of milk can also reduce the acidity of coffee.
And, if you add cold milk to your hot coffee, the slight reduction in the overall temperature of your beverage can lessen the likelihood of damaging esophageal tissue through drinking hot coffee. (Both acidity and heat are known to damage the tissue of your esophagus, drinking low acid coffee, or reducing the heat of your brew can negate this effect.)
Another benefit of adding milk to your coffee? Some folks find the addition of whole milk to black coffee negates the disruption that coffee can have on sleep patterns! Lattes after dinner, anyone?
While low fat milk is said to have slightly more calcium than whole milk, the calcium content of this milk variety is still nothing to snub your nose to, with 8 ounces providing nearly one fourth of the recommended daily requirement, building strong bones and warding off conditions such as osteoporosis.
Looking for a delicious way to use whole milk in your cup of joe, try this recipe:
- 2 shots Lifeboost Organic Espresso Coffee
- ½ cup whole milk
- 2-3 teaspoons raw honey
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pour freshly brewed coffee into your favorite mug, leaving plenty of room for the milk mixture.
- Add milk, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon to a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture is fully combined and warmed through.
- Add mixture to espresso and stir only slightly. Enjoy!
4- Half & Half
Half and half is a java additive that many opt to use since this option is thicker than whole milk but not as thick as heavy whipping cream.
You can actually make half and half at home simply by adding equal parts of those two ingredients!
But, if you’re selecting this option from your local grocery store, here are a few things to be aware of:
- Fat free half and half options contain high fructose corn syrup, and if you care about your health at all, this is definitely something you don’t want to be adding to your coffee. High fructose corn syrup is linked to insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Most half and half only has 40 calories per serving, and while this sounds great for those looking for a minimal amount of calories with the maximum amount of texture added to their cup of joe, just be sure to observe how many servings you’re adding to your brew as those calories can add up quickly resulting in unwanted weight gain.
- Half and half often contains additives such as carrageenan, which is considered to be highly inflammatory, even toxic to your gut.
5- Heavy Cream
If you haven’t guessed from its name alone, heavy cream is the thickest and creamiest option available as a coffee addition.
And, contrary to popular belief, though it is made from dairy, the process used to make heavy cream results in a product practically void of lactose.
Heavy cream is made by skimming the fat that settles on the top of milk.
If you’re following a low fat diet, heavy cream wouldn’t be a good addition to your coffee as it’s made of 37% fat.
But, heavy cream contains little to no sugar, and equally low amounts of lactose. In fact, heavy cream contains less than half a gram of lactose per half ounce, which is why many consumers who are lactose intolerant find they are able to enjoy this addition to their brew!
And, this creamy coffee addition is very high in vitamin A, giving a powerful boost to your immune system and the health of your eyes.
When selecting heavy cream, be sure to avoid additions like gellan gum which some manufacturers add to improve consistency as this additive can slow digestion and cause constipation.
Adding heavy cream to hot or cold coffee thickens the consistency of your beverage, transforming an ordinary cup into a creamy treat.
And, believe it or not, you can actually froth both hot and cold heavy cream. Obviously, be careful not to froth cold heavy cream for an extended period of time as this will result in whipped cream (though still a delicious topper for your coffee, hot or cold).
6- Almond Milk
While we just learned that heavy cream contains almost no lactose, that option is higher in fat than regular milk.
So then, what can you use in your milk if you’re avoiding dairy milks altogether?
Plant milks such as almond, coconut, cashew, oat, soy, and others all make great additions to your daily cup of coffee, cold or hot!
Obviously, if you have a nut allergy, almond milk is not the dairy alternative for you.
But, without a nut allergy, almond milk provides a healthy dose of vitamin E, which works to help your body combat inflammation and stress while protecting against cancer and heart disease.
This non dairy option contains 70-80% less calories than whole milk and has less sugar too!
Almond milk typically has a light flavor, yet it is rich in density, making it a creamy, palate pleasing addition to coffee.
You can even produce a stable, dense, and velvety foam with almond milk, which provides a delicious and aesthetically pleasing element to any hot or cold coffee drink!
Almond milk also contains a healthy amount of zinc which has been shown to prevent hair loss and promote healthy skin.
One notable drawback to this dairy alternative is the effect almond farming has had on the environment, as its production is known to cause droughting. To combat this issue, be sure to choose brands that adopt sustainable farming methods or agro ecological methods of irrigating water.
7- Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is another dairy alternative that you’d have to avoid if you have nut allergies, but minus such allergies, many find this option to be more palatable than almond milk.
Coconut milk is thick and creamy all while containing fewer calories than dairy milk.
It mixes well with hot brewed coffee or cold-brewed and iced options resulting in a creamy, rich texture.
However, this option also contains much less protein than dairy milk, which is why this option simply doesn’t froth well at all.
The little amount of protein present in coconut milk essentially ‘unwinds’ during frothing which causes water to drain out of the foam resulting in its inevitable collapse…bubbles bursted, bye-bye foam.
Coconut milk is, however, a great source of medium chain triglycerides which are known to aid in weight loss by improving metabolism, increasing fat oxidation, and regulating hormones associated with appetite.
Some frown upon its saturated fat content, but this fat content in coconut milk, specifically, has been linked to improvements in cholesterol levels, reduced oxidative stress within the body, and improved immune function.
8- Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is another dairy alternative to avoid if you have a nut allergy. But, this option is lactose free while also being so thick, so creamy, and so delicious!
I love to add cashew milk to coffee both hot and cold.
But, I will warn you, attempting to froth warm cashew milk doesn’t turn out so well. In fact, you can even get a soapy texture when seeking to steam this plant milk.
Cold foam can be achieved with cashew milk, but it’s best to just add this dairy alternative to your brew as-is.
Cashew milk has a less nutty taste than other plant based milks, and it is slightly more sweet-tasting.
This dairy alternative contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting and boosts your immune system
- Magnesium and zinc, which promotes healthy sleep and metabolism
- Copper, which works to keep the appearance of your skin youthful
- Lutein, which is an antioxidant that improves the health of your eyes
9- Oat Milk
The flavor of oat milk is often described as both mild and neutral, making it an excellent addition to your daily cup of joe, especially if you’re looking to ditch dairy.
If you’re looking to simply pour it in hot or iced coffee, the thickness of oat milk (you can even purchase extra creamy varieties) is delightful!
But, if you’re looking to make a nice foam to top your brew, hot or cold, oat milk can be a bit stubborn. However, it can be done!
When looking to froth oat milk, I prefer an electric frother. Using this method, if you simply pour the frothed oat milk on top of your brew, you’ll notice there may be a bit of remaining unfrothed milk left below the fluffy stuff. I simply remedy this by spooning out the frothed milk onto my coffee beverage.
While this may not be the most pure approach, I’m a big fan of oat milk, so my desire to make it work trumps technicalities here. ;)
This dairy free option also boasts benefits to your health as it is high in fiber, vitamin B, and contains a soluble fiber known for slowing the absorption of carbohydrates in your gut, thereby aiding in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
Oat milk contains no cholesterol and has even been linked to aiding the reduction of LDL or bad cholesterol when consumed regularly.
The potassium, magnesium, and zinc content of oat milk also make this choice a great option for improving bone health.
I love the way oat milk pairs with maple flavors, so this recipe is a go-to fall favorite of mine:
- 2 shots Lifeboost Organic Espresso Coffee
- 1 tablespoon real maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon maple extract
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾-1 cup oat milk
- Brew espresso and set aside to cool slightly.
- Add ice to a glass and set aside.
- Add ice, slightly cooled espresso, maple syrup, maple extract, vanilla, and cinnamon to a shaker cup. (You could use a cocktail shaker or even a mason jar with a lid here.)
- Shake vigorously until frost begins to form on the outside of the cup (roughly 30 seconds).
- Strain shaken espresso mixture over ice, then top with enough oat milk to fill the glass. (To stir or not to stir is completely up to you.)
- Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top if desired, and enjoy!
10- Soy Milk
Soy milk is a popular alternative to dairy milk, unless you have a soy allergy (obviously).
Its thick and creamy texture make it a nice addition as-is (not frothy or foamy) to both hot and iced coffee.
And, when foam or froth is desired, the protein content (which contains needed amino acids by the way) of soy milk allows this choice to mimic the dense and firm foam made with dairy milks (such as whole milk).
However, the added sugars in this option put it at a disadvantage when compared to other plant based milks.
It is also important to note that some studies show a link between the consumption of soy and a decrease in both sperm count and mobility.
And, if you are sensitive to caffeine, keep in mind that some soy milks do contain caffeine. Add this to the caffeine content of coffee, and this dairy milk alternative may prove to be a little too much for some consumers.
Lifeboost Organic Espresso Coffee
When thinking of the ways the various milks listed above can enhance a cup of coffee, there’s one type of coffee that comes to mind, able to stand up to the addition of any type of milk, while still packing a bold, robust flavor: espresso!
When it comes to enjoying a delightfully tasty cup of coffee, espresso is in a category of its own.
In fact, this method of brewing coffee requires a few distinct differences from common roasts (light, medium, and dark). Espresso gets its unique flavor through the following important distinctions:
- Espresso is an ultra dark roasted coffee. Here, the beans are roasted for longer amounts of time, resulting in a bolder and darker roast compared to medium and even traditional dark roasted coffee.
- Espresso is prepared by grinding the beans into a fine powder.
- To brew espresso, this fine powder is packed tightly and brewed in a special machine, an espresso machine, which incorporates both heat and pressure to make your delicious espresso shot(s). In fact, these tiny servings of espresso are referred to as shots because the near boiling water used in the brewing process is ‘shot’ through the finely ground coffee to make this delicious drink.
And as we briefly mentioned above, another quality of espresso enjoyed even by those coffee lovers who find espresso shots to be just a bit too much for their palette, is the versatility of this brew!
Most classic coffeehouse drinks, from macchiatos to americanos, from coffee based smoothies to cappuccinos, to coffee based milkshakes and more, all use espresso as the base.
The intensely bold flavor, heavy body, and texture of espresso allows it to stand up to a variety of milks, creams, foams, flavors, ice, and more.
Don’t get me wrong, lighter roasts and traditional brewing methods can produce great cups of joe, but when you want to enjoy additions of milk, cream, and milk foams, or even try your hand at making delicious coffee milkshakes and smoothies, espresso delivers a bold punch that doesn’t sacrifice flavor with these additions.
And, with Lifeboost Organic Espresso Coffee, you not only won’t have to sacrifice flavor, but you can rest assured that you won’t be sacrificing your health either!
Our organic espresso coffee, like the rest of our coffee, is:
- Single origin
- Low acid
- Elevation grown
- Shade grown
- Sun dried
- Spring water washed
- 3rd party tested for mycotoxins, molds, heavy metals, pesticides, and 400 other toxins
If you love dark roasted coffee, you’ll love our espresso coffee!
And, if you typically gravitate towards lighter roasts, but find that your cup of joe isn’t standing up to your selection of milk as well as you’d like, delicious organic espresso coffee is the answer!
From plant milks, half and half, heavy cream, and traditional milks, these additions perfectly enhance the rich, bold flavors of espresso in a seemingly endless variety of ways!
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