Which milk is best for coffee?

Cafe con leche, cafe au lait, cortado, macchiato: these are all different ways of combining coffee and milk across the world. But which milk should be used for the best result? The most widely used is cow’s milk in all its variations, but plant-based drinks are also in high demand, and it is necessary to know the different textures and flavors in order to combine them correctly.

There is no one best type of milk to pair with coffee. It all depends on the type of beverage the customer wants and the effect you want to achieve. Let’s look at some possibilities together, then.

Best milk for cappuccino

The classic recipe for making cappuccino calls for cow’s whole milk because its composition makes it perfect for emulsification. Since it is rich in protein and fat, it is easier to whip and the foam remains even and compact. You must always start the preparation with fresh milk at refrigerator temperature (4 °C) and stop when it has reached about 60 °C and doubled its volume.

The final consistency of the foam depends on the percentage of fat in the milk: that is why the one obtained from whole milk is thick and velvety, while the one from semi-skimmed milk is less soft. Foam with skim milk is usually not recommended because it dissolves very quickly.

A plant-based alternative for making cappuccino is soy milk. Although it contains less fat than animal milk, it still has a good amount of plant protein that makes for a rich foam. To avoid altering the final taste too much, it is important to choose soy beverages without added sugars or flavorings.

Best milk for blended beverages

Those who like a mix of milk and coffee, but do not want foam on the surface, can experiment with many plant varieties that each contribute their own flavors and aromas. It should be remembered that when milk sugars are heated, the perception of sweetness increases and often makes adding more sugar unnecessary.

  • Almond milk: it has a very pleasant flavor, given by the flowery, fruity note typical of almonds; a small amount is enough to give the coffee a hint of vanilla.
  • Oat milk: among milk substitutes, it is known as the easiest to digest. It’s got a roasted flavor that contributes greatly to the final taste of the beverage.
  • Rice milk: made by steeping rice in water, it has a very mild flavor and is often chosen by those with allergies to nuts or soy.

Milk and iced coffee

Cow’s milk and all plant-based alternatives can be used to enhance iced coffee. In this case, you do not have to heat it or create an emulsion, so taste should be the only thing to be concerned of.

For a rich and delicious iced coffee, you can use coconut milk with added cocoa, while for a caffeine boost on a hot summer day there is nothing better than the famous caffè leccese.


What are your most popular recipes? Do you have other pairings to suggest?