So, what's the story with altnernative mylks?
With Veganuary now in full swing a lot of you guys have been switching up your coffee rituals and opting for milk alternatives in your daily brews. There’s so much choice on the market now and preference can be subjective in terms of taste and texture, but also practically on how these mylks hold up when heated, blended or used as a substitute for their dairy counterparts in baking and cooking. When it comes to coffee, however, some really do work better than others – especially when looking to create a velvety finish for flat whites and lattes, while not masking the flavour subtleties of speciality coffee.
At Ritual Coffee we’re all for on plant-based, but we thought we’d get the opinions of vegan barista, Elliot Stephenson (otherwise known as the Cotswold Coffee Kid on Instagram - @cotswold_coffee_kid) in terms of ranking some of the biggest alternative mylk players out there. Recently ditching the dairy full time and with his experience as a barista in Cheltenham and Stroud, Elliot knows how to get the best out of alternative mylks, especially when creating a mean espresso-based drink. Along with our own thoughts, we asked his opinions on Oatly Barista Edition, Rude Health Almond and Alpro Coconut, along with some kickass latte art pics of his findings - the above is one of his latte creations using coconut milk.
‘I fell down the rabbit hole of coffee over three years ago now and have been a barista for over two, so I’m fully in it to win it now – all the way,’ say Elliott.
‘I gave up milk in mid-December to see if there would be any effects on my health or if I would just feel better in myself – and, I definitely did. I was less bloated and full. I thought it was strange that everyone is born naturally lactose intolerant, but we force our body from a young age to drink dairy, so, after I gave it up I started the hunt for the best milk alternative out there.’
OATLY BARISTA EDITION
We love Oatly Barista Edition. The ability to create smooth, velvety microfoam is a breeze with Oatly (don't believe us, just check out this cappuccino created by Elliot). Its creaminess mimics the mouthfeel of whole fat dairy (in fact, we think it’s more indulgent), while its flavour doesn’t overpower the flavour of our house blend – Espresso el Primero - allowing its true flavour profile to shine through.
We also trialled the non-barista edition of Oatly and were also suitably impressed. It held up well to steaming, but we found the taste a little domineering in the cup.
So at number 1 is by far Oatley oat milk for me, due to it all round taste, thickness and its amazing microfoam. 10/10
RUDE HEALTH ALMOND
We like Rude Health because it’s more of a natural alternative to dairy. If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list on the back of a carton of Alpro Soya, it can be a little scary with a number of stabilisers and gelling agents. In saying this, the texture of Rude Health can be quite thin – we don’t recommend it cold for Americanos or Long Blacks, this stuff has to be steamed to add any sort of value to the cup.
We usually stock Rude Health Almond for events as an alternative to Oatly, but we find it to be extremely sweet and it’s usually sugar droppers who opt for Almond. In saying that, with the right technique a nice microfoam and latte art can be created, but careful attention when stretching is needed.
We also find that Almond works better with lighter roast profiles.
Rude Health is definitely at the high end range of the alternative milks market. Their range may be more natural, but for me, all of their range just doesn't hit the spot, especially on flavour - there is something about it I don't like mixed with coffee. And for this price point, I would say stick with Oatly or Alpro. 4/10
We’re going to admit, we haven’t jumped on the bandwagon with coconut milk at Ritual HQ just yet. We find the texture thin with a lack of structure. The flavour too is an acquired taste, and we steer clear of added flavourings to our drinks, which is why we’re a no go with syrups (sorry all you vanilla latte peeps).
However, there is a market for it and I know a handful of our beloved coffee hounds can’t get enough of it. We’re yet to try Elliot’s recent invention of blending coconut milk and Oatly together (yes, you heard it here first – check out his insta for inspo), but perhaps this could convert us?
Alpro is the most common and accessible alternative out there, but it lacks the texture I look for and it is watery in coffee. I do love the coconut milk because of the flavour, but I will often have it in a black coffee just to give it that tangy edge. Overall 7/10
Oatly Barista Edition is by far the front runner, a combination of creaminess and flavour subtlety, along with its ability (and flexibility) to texture. Its ability to tick all of these boxes is why you see it in cafes up and down the country, including speciality coffee shops. When it comes to the rest, it really is down to preference, we’ve only looked at a couple of other alternatives in this blog, but they certainly lack the creaminess of Oatly, while having strong flavours which don’t always work well with certain coffees or just out and out overpower it. However, we’re not one to preach on how you should enjoy your coffee, so if you’ve found an alternative that you love, stick with it and happy brewing!
We’d love to hear your opinions – share your thoughts and ideas on our Instagram!