Baristas heat the milk and froth it, giving it a distinctive creamy yet light texture. But that begs the question: What milk to use for a latte?
The best traditional milk for lattes is usually whole milk. If you’re avoiding dairy for any reason (allergy, veganism, and so on), the best non-dairy milk to use for lattes is probably oat milk. Let’s look at why and how to make the perfect latte.
Why Whole Milk?
Although there are many different ways to make coffee, whole milk is the best milk for lattes, at least traditionally. The reason is in its composition. It has the perfect balance of fat, sugar, and protein to give a latte its signature taste and texture.
If you’re nervous, try focusing on the nutritional aspects of whole milk: Your body needs protein for energy throughout the day, and your brain requires plenty of fat in your diet to function correctly. Whole milk is a delicious and nutritious source of both.
It’s the free fatty acids that allow the whole milk to foam so well. The injected air bubbles puff up the fatty acids and give it that perfect, quintessential foamy texture.
The More Fat, The Better
If you still want to stay away from whole milk (even though it can certainly be part of a healthy and balanced diet), we recommend doing the highest fat content milk that you can tolerate.
Therefore, the next best alternative to whole milk is 2% milk, and then 1% milk, and then skim milk.
As you go down in the fat content, you will notice a decline in the latte’s creaminess, foaminess, and overall texture and flavor. Skim milk, which is nonfat milk, will barely foam at all. A skim milk latte may even taste a bit watery.
Instead of going down in the fat content of the dairy milk, another option is to experiment with using non-dairy types of milk. Let’s look at those next.
The Best Milk For Lattes: Non-Dairy Alternatives
Most baristas will tell you that the best non-dairy alternative for lattes and other frothy drinks is oat milk, and they’re right. Oat milk steams and froths beautifully, closely mimicking the texture of whole milk.
The problem with it is the taste or lack thereof. Oat milk doesn’t have the creamy, rich flavor that whole milk has, probably because it lacks proteins. For that reason, oat milk is best in a flavored latte. If you’re looking for taste, then the best alternative is more than likely soy milk.
It doesn’t create a foam and steam quite as beautifully as oat milk (although it does to an extent). That being said, soy milk—primarily vanilla soy milk—has a rich flavor closer to whole or 2% milk. Many people prefer it in lattes over skim milk. Just be sure to get the whole fat soy milk.
Kinds Of Milk To Avoid When Making Lattes
Other than regular nonfat milk, a few others fall flat when it comes to making lattes. Most nut kinds of milk don’t froth well at all, including almond milk and cashew milk. Almond milk, in particular, lacks any flavor.
You also want to avoid coconut milk. Though the name might imply flavor and thickness, the reality is that coconut milk is little better than water in a latte. Sometimes, almond milk curdles in coffee and lattes too.