More and more people are opting for a vegan option when it concerns food and it could not be different in the specialty coffee scene where a lot of attention is being given to plant-based kinds of milk. Lately, many commercial brands are showing up their noses at the “barista-style vegan milk”. At the moment, oat milk is the one with the greatest presence in this area. Here I compile some of those that we have in the city and I encourage you to try them because it really is not only a vegan alternative but another type of coffee drink that can also play its part and have its audience, although not necessarily veggie.
The oat milk is made from hydrated oat flakes, crushed and filtered with water, acidity regulators, emulsifiers, and in some cases salt and sugars. Although the main ingredients are water and oats, there are milk in which the taste of clean water predominates, in others the taste of cereal, sweetness, bitterness, etc.
To do this review and really be able to appreciate the quality and the work of these milk, I decided to make homemade oat milk. I bought some organic oatmeal flakes, let them hydrate for 12 hours then the next day I processed it with Lanjarón water (the one I use to make coffee) and filtered it. The result was a very good but impractical drink for making coffee or emulsifying and not nearly as full-bodied and dense as the ones I analyzed. Although I added soy lecithin, sunflower oil, and a long etcetera list, there was no way to achieve something similar to what we get with the following options. The salt that they normally incorporate tends to hide the possible bitterness of the oats and enhance the acidity a bit more. Sugar, on the other hand, hides acidity.
** You will notice on several occasions in this article, that I speak of Flat White: it is nothing related to Breaking bad, but a latte with a higher proportion of coffee, specifically twice the doses of a latte.**
Before getting into the plant-based milk matter …
I had a package arriving from IBIZA of Meke Coffee Roasters, 1kg of a Brazilian blend with both natural and washed grains, and also 1L of minor figures oat milk. What better time to test with oat milk if this is exactly what we get! So we got down to work right away, with the same old espresso recipe and the same amount of milk at the same temperature for each cup, we chose the candidates (plant-based milk) that we believed were more available to any cafeteria and/or consumer.
As for coffee, it is a delicious Brazil, very sweet and creamy with notes of roasted hazelnut making it very easy to work with. How beautiful it came out! I used my Sage Duo Temp machine, the naked portafilter with 19g, drawing 36g into the cup.
We´ve got a very round coffee, with excellent body and sweetness, and great to the mixture with milk.
It is very easy to texturize, I put it at room temperature in the jar, it seemed not to emulsify that much, but then you see that you are really introducing microbubbles and when it reaches the right temperature, I stop the steam lance and woooow! I found super shiny and beautiful milk ready to “play”. It was easy to do the drawing and make a decent presentation. As for the taste, it is great, it allows us to perfectly distinguish the flavor of the Brazilian coffee that we previously tried to know what it hides. They combine really, really well. Minor Figures has a creamy texture and a very fine bubble pattern that with the rest of the coffee becomes larger and separates from the liquid oats (like all). But since it is hot, it is an excellent latte. The flavor is quite mild but has a very pleasant cereal background. A glass of Minor on its own, hot or cold, is delicious. But since we are coffee lovers … with coffee, everything improves!
ALPRO OAT MILK (regular)
It is the one with which I had the least faith, because I went to the supermarket and decided to get accessible oat milk that anyone could find, well; Same procedure, but it did not seem to texturize at all … but when the steam stopped, a nice little foam appeared, with a bubble that was more visible than Minor Figures, and at the moment of the mixing, surprise! This milk worked with dignity and it has shown to be very easy to work it. In terms of flavor, we found more powerful cereal notes, giving a slightly more bitter aftertaste and covering the coffee flavor a little more. It left a rough feeling on our tongues. Even so, the emulsification capacity seemed incredible to me and it is still a very valid option.
HACENDADO RICE AND COCONUT MILK (Mercadona)
I had it at home and sometimes I take it like someone who takes horchata, I decided to try, and BOOM! Surprise! Like all vegetable kinds of milk so far, it does not seem to texturize, but by introducing the steam lance just a little, letting it reach the right temperature, it achieves a texture very similar to Minor Figures milk. OMG! We got a fine and pleasant bubble pattern, but with a sweeter and more powerful coconut flavor. It is valid to take it alone and can be an interesting alternative to drink with coffee. It respects the taste of the coffee, but I think that if it were an Ethiopian-type of coffee or one with a more acid profile, it would become a liquid yogurt-type drink. I love the aftertaste, it leaves a sensation on the tongue similar to when you take coconut oil. It ends with a creamy coconut flavor that combines very well with coffee without actually covering it.
YOSOY AVENA CALCIUM
When I started to texturize it, it looked like “alioli”, the truth was that it was a pleasure to work with. In the middle of the latte artwork it presented the same pattern as the others, in fact, with none of them I found special difficulty, later it would be a matter of emulsifying more or less. From my point of view, I consider that I went over the emulsion in all cases. This milk was a surprise. Very good flavor, the cereal flavor was a bit softer than Minor Figures, in terms of texture it was great, but much sweeter taste even without having added sugars. And the best part: it can be found in most supermarkets in Spain.
OATLY BARISTA EDITION
I had high expectations with this oat milk, but it is quite different from the rest when it comes to taste. Of those tested, it is the most marked with a cereal flavor, leaving the tongue with a creamy sensation and a bitter oat finish. As for texturing and latte art, you can tell right away that it is made for this. From my point of view, it lets the virtues and defects of the extraction pass by, but always with that cereal-based drink finish.
With this one something similar happened to me, lately, several places opt for this option of vegetable milk. When emulsifying it works perfectly, a medium fine bubble. When mixing with coffee, an acid point comes out that does not completely let the coffee taste pass. It does not have any hint of bitterness, it is rather creamy, acidic, and sweet. But if it stood out among the others, it was certainly not because of its virtues but because of that marked acidity.
I had to do several tests, and in fact, none of them were satisfactory, but my fault surely or the tools that I have I could not emulsify it properly. As for the flavor, it is a very decent but sweet oat milk, of those tested it seemed the sweetest and in fact, it was because of the sugars present in the carbohydrates. Although it does allow the taste of coffee to pass more than OKJA, it is milk that surprised us for good. But only in flavor, because in texture it was the most shaken, and after a few minutes, it already lost all the emulsion.
If you have reached this point, I understand that you are interested in the whole topic of plant-based milk or oat milk. And here I will tell you the most interesting point we found, and it is what interests both baristas and customers.
We do not recommend any of the above in Flat White: the only one that better held that amount of coffee was Minor Figures, but even so I do not recommend offering or ordering a Flat White with oat or vegetable milk because it exaggerates all possible defects of the milk, if it is acidic, it will practically become a yogurt, which happened to me with OKJA, with OATLY it seemed like a beer or something similar, the coconut one practically only flavored coconut, I could not recommend any of the drinks prepared with double espresso under my point of view, because a Latte makes it much more pleasant and in the end, it is a different and pleasant drink. Our faces spoke for themselves when trying flat White. Try it yourself, make a coffee with oat milk and then a flat and tell me.
Unlike the results obtained in Flat, in a Latte practically all of them are acceptable, they are very different from each other and can really suit each one’s tastes, but putting them face to face as we have done, Oatly seems bitter even though it still clearly shows the flavor of espresso, but something that is surprising and unsettling is that marked acidity and that slogan “made for baristas” (but not for coffee), because of course that acidity creates a wall, a wall, a film on your tongue that won´t let you taste the coffee as it should. The phrase: do we become another Minor? was stamped in our minds. On the other hand, the rice and coconut milk from Mercadona, as an alternative to the Oat Milk will leave you speechless if it is in a Latte. It emulsifies practically like Minor or Okja.
This article was written by Dani Rojo, my great friend from specialty coffee here in Barcelona and founder of HARMONY COFFEE ROASTERS! We will be doing a series of articles related to coffee and coffee products! Stay tuned when DANI GOES UNFILTERED
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Try almond milk by Almond Breeze (sold in Carrefour)