Posted on by Barista Life Guest Writer

Information by Arik Weiss, CEO and Founder of London based coffee wholesale company Doppio Coffee. Follow Doppio Coffee on Instagram and Twitter


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A Guide to Coffee Milk Alternatives

A Guide to Coffee Milk Alternatives

Traditional cow’s dairy milk is a very popular coffee additive because of its ability to mask some astringent flavors and bitter compounds produced by brewed coffee beans. Cow’s milk can also add mouthfeel and some enjoyable fats to your coffee.

Unfortunately, some people cannot enjoy cow’s milk in their coffee because of the lactose it contains, so they must look for dairy alternatives to substitute for milk. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 65% of the U.S. population has some level of lactose intolerance.   The symptoms caused by lactose intolerance include nausea, abdominal cramps, painful gas, bloating and even diarrhea.

If you are affected by lactose intolerance, there are a few dairy alternatives which are worth exploring. In many cases, the alternatives are healthier than milk and can completely change the experience of drinking coffee. Here are a few of the best milk alternatives you should try.

Almond Milk Benefits

Almond Milk AlternativeAlmond milk is one of the healthiest non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk. Made from ground almonds, almond milk has less calories than milk, is naturally lactose-free and it has no cholesterol or saturated fat. You may be thinking, "is almond milk good for you?"  

Almond milk is a rich source of vitamins A, B, E and contains many minerals including manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, copper, and zinc. The only downside to using almond milk is that it is not a good source of protein and it cannot be consumed by anyone with a nut allergy.

Almond milk has a slightly sweet milk with a nutty flavor. It does tend to seperate when heated, so may not be ideal for coffee drinks that contain a lot of heated milk, like lattes and cappuccinos. Some people blend almond milk with coconut milk to give their coffee a rich, sweet flavor.  A great non-dairy alternative to milk.  At this time, Starbucks does not offer almond milk as a milk-substitute. Starbucks' response to why they do not offer almond milk, (taken from

"Starbucks is aware that many of our customers prefer their favorite beverages to be prepared with non-dairy milk options, including almond milk.  Through careful research and development including numerous recipes and taste tests, Starbucks Global Research & Development team found that the rich, creaminess of coconut milk is the best complement to Starbucks® hot, iced and Frappuccino® beverages.

We are unable to provide Almond Milk as a milk alternative at this time. We are always listening to customer feedback and continually look to evaluate additional core espresso offerings and explore the operational feasibility as they become important to our customers."

Soy Milk Benefits

Soy Milk BenefitsPerhaps the most common non-dairy alternative to having cow’s milk in coffee, is soy milk.  Soy milk is made from soya beans. Because it comes from a plant, it has no cholesterol, no saturated fat and no lactose. It is a very healthy type of milk that is rich in protein, B12, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin D (when fortified). If you are concerned about getting enough protein in your diet, soy milk is perhaps the best non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk.

The quality of soy milk varies greatly — some organic soy milks having a richer flavor and thicker consistency, while highly processed soy milks are thinner and milder. It is very similar to cow’s milk in terms of texture and has a slightly sweet flavour. Soy milk goes very well with most types of coffee. Try a few different brands to find soy milk that works well with your favorite type of coffee drink.  Starbucks does offer Soy Milk, in the form of Organic Vanilla Soy at only 130 calories per serving, it makes for a great non-dairy alternative.

Rice Milk Benefits

Rice Milk BenefitsMade from milled rice and water, rice milk is usually favored by people who have both lactose and nut/soy allergies. Rice milk could be a beneficial non-dairy alternative because it is often fortified with vitamin D and vitamin C to increase its nutritional content. This milk mostly contains carbohydrates and does not contain much protein. It is easy to digest, however the high level of carbohydrates combined with the lack of protein in rice milk makes it a poor choice for people with diabetes and the elderly.

Rice milk does not have much flavor and it is more watery than soy, coconut or almond milk. It does not add much to the coffee in terms of flavor, but is a nice coffee milk alternative for people with more complex food intolerances.

Coconut Milk Benefits

Coconut Milk BenefitsCoconut milk has become very popular in recent years as an non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk. Coconut milk contains vitamins C, E, B and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, and sodium. It has no lactose and is loaded with healthy saturated fats.

In terms of flavor, coconut milk is quite sweet and it has a thick, creamy texture. Because of the fat content, it looks very similar to cow’s milk when added to coffee. It is probably the thickest milk alternative and has an excellent mouth feel.  Starbucks does offer Coconut milk as a non-dairy alternative to regular milk, at 180 calories per serving, it is a very popular choice!


Hemp Milk Benefits

Hemp Milk BenefitsHemp milk is made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground in water. The milk produced is nutty flavoured and very nutritious, containing magnesium, phytosterols, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. Hemp milk is also rich in omega fatty acids and amino acids.

It’s sweet and nutty flavor makes it a great dairy alternative for coffee, however, it is quite watery so it won’t have the same mouth feel as cow’s milk. It is thicker than rice milk, but only slightly.

Cashew Milk Benefits

Cashew Milk BenefitsCashew milk is made from ground cashews in water, this is another super-healthy choice for people who are looking for a non-dairy milk alternative with health benefits. Store-bought cashew milk is also usually fortified with additional vitamin A, D and B-12.

Cashew milk is creamy and sweet without having the very nutty flavor of almond milk or hemp milk. This milk does mix well with hot coffees and is a great non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk. It is also common to blend cashew milk with coconut milk for some interesting flavours and extra creaminess.