Rohan Pitumpe, Head of Training, offers top tips for baristas prepping plant milks for the specialty drinks menu. 

According to the latest Mintel market research*, the popularity of non-dairy milks continues to gain momentum, with one in three Brits now enjoying plant-based options. 

As a result, most high street coffee shops routinely offer customers a choice of the four main plant milks – oat, almond, coconut and soya as standard. 

Oat milk most closely resembles dairy milk in terms of taste which could help explain why sales doubled between 2029-2020. In fact, oat milk has overtaken almond as the most popular vegan choice. 

It is fair to say that plant milks are now part of the mainstream offer and baristas need to learn how to prep them correctly for the hot beverage menu as they do perform differently to dairy milks when heated. 

Here are my top five tips for baristas when using plant milks:  

1. There are a lot of alternative milk brands on the market now, including innovative  ‘barista style’ varieties. These all have different formulations with varying protein and fat levels and this affects how the milk performs when heated. It’s important to experiment with the different brands on offer to find a plant milk that works for you. 

2. When heating plant-based alternatives, the temperature to aim for is between 50-60°C, after which there is a tendency for the milk to split. Keep a close eye on this step, as plant milks heat up very quickly and continue to heat even after texturing. 

3.        Plant milks are more likely to curdle when used with coffee that has a higher acidity level. It may be easier to use a blend that has been roasted to a lower acidity to avoid this issue. 

4. This rule applies to dairy and non-dairy milks alike. Always use fresh, cold milk – as this will allow enough time for stretching and texturing of the milk. 

5. Again, another rule that also applies equally to dairy milks. One of the most important tips is to pour the milk as soon as it is ready to avoid the microfoam separating from the milk. If this happens, the milk will come out first followed by the foam. 

To reduce the chance of this happening. try agitating the milk excessively before pouring. Swirling the milk reduces the likelihood of foam sticking to the jug and homogenises the mixture to make it smoother for pouring, while stopping excessive drainage of foam.

6. Swirling the milk in the jug before pouring also reduces the crema and CO2 which stabilises the acidity level. This in turn can also prevent the milk from splitting. 

*Mintel consumer research April 2021