This article explains everything you need to know about almond milk, why it curdles, and how to prevent it.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you’ve probably tried to make your morning cup of joe with almond milk just to see the horror of it curdling. Drinking curdled milk isn’t dangerous, but it’s disgusting since it looks and tastes like expired milk.
So why does almond milk curdle and how can I prevent it from happening? Well, let’s find out.
Almond milk is a plant-based milk that’s made by putting almonds in a blender with some water and grinding until they are fine. The resultant liquid is then strained into a cup and voila. You’ve got almond milk.
Almond milk is thinner than good ol’ dairy milk because of its high water content. But why does it curdle when I add it to my morning cup of joe?
Two reasons. Acidity and temperature.
Curdling is the breaking of a colloid (almond milk) into bigger parts through a bunch of complicated chemical reactions that neither you nor I care about.
What you must understand is that curdling is useful for making several different foods like cheese and tofu. But it’s not so useful when making coffee.
Black coffee is quite acidic. It has a pH of less than 5. Almond milk isn’t as acidic and has a “curdle point” of 5.5. So when you add almond milk to coffee, the coffee acts as a coagulant, and the almond milk breaks into larger parts.
The big difference in temperature between the coffee and almond milk also makes the curdling more apparent.
You might be thinking, why doesn’t dairy milk curdle?
Dairy milk’s pH is around 7, so it doesn’t react to the coffee. If it does, then your milk is expired or about to expire and the bacteria in your milk started producing extra acid, bringing its pH down.
There are several techniques you can use to prevent your milk from curdling.
Firstly, use less acidic coffee.
I prefer acidic coffee since it offers more subtle flavor notes like nuttiness and smokiness. But if you’re milk curdles, then sacrifice this little flavor for coffee that isn’t disgusting.
Darker roasts from South America are less acidic since they’ve been roasted for longer. African roasts are more acidic and will tend to cause your milk to curdle.
If you’re adding almond milk to a shot of espresso, there’s a high likelihood that your milk will curdle because of the espresso’s high acidity and temperate. Instead, add a touch of water as this will cool your coffee down and lower its acidity.
Let your coffee cool down for a few minutes. Yeah, you might lose some flavor, but at least your milk won’t curdle. When your coffee is ready, chill for a while then add your almond milk. Your coffee will be cooler and less likely to curdle.
A big reason why your almond milk curdles is because of the temperature difference. Your coffee is piping hot while your almond milk just came out of the fridge. Of course, it’ll curdle.
Instead, heat your almond milk in a pot for a while, until it reaches a slight boil. Turn it off and let it sit for a few seconds. Add it to your coffee and voila! No curdling.
If you have a steam wand, even better! Steam your almond milk to your desired temperature and texture and pour. Your milk won’t curdle because the temperature of your milk and coffee is similar.
Barista-grade almond milk contains some additives that prevent your milk from curdling due to your coffee’s high temperate and acidity.
Curdling is a problem every coffee lover that’s lactose intolerant or vegan has to deal with. But with a few simple techniques and changes, you can kiss curdling milk goodbye.