Can You Make a Flat White Coffee with Non-Dairy Milk?


Alternative kinds of milk are definitely on the rise. Lactose intolerance, plant-based diets, and preferences for a non-dairy alternative to cows’ milk have led to a vast range of options. There are plenty of options to choose from, from various nut milks like almond and hazelnut to soy milk, oat milk, and even pea milk.

Now when you order your coffee, there are a variety of milk options to choose from. So, can you make flat white with other kinds of milk like almond milk, and how does it affect your flat white.

You can make a flat white from almond milk (or any other milk for that matter). However, different kinds of milk will create a different flavor (and texture) to your flat white.

What makes a flat white unique is the ratio of espresso to milk, not the type of milk you use. The ability to create latte art with non-dairy milk is often significantly reduced, though. So here is my rundown of different kinds of milk I have tried and how they affect your flat white.

Dairy Milk – Skimmed, Semi-Skimmed, and Full-Fat

Whole fat milk is the standard milk used in a flat white. The reason is it’s a short, strong coffee, so to make it creamy and sweet, it benefits from full-fat milk. The perfect flat white will balance a strong coffee flavor with the milk’s thick, sweet, and creaminess. This isn’t to say you cannot achieve this with semi-skimmed milk.

Suppose you were making a flat white from a lightly roasted, delicately flavored African coffee. In that case, it may benefit from semi-skimmed as the fat in full-fat milk may overwhelm the delicate flavors.

You would rarely find a flat white made with skimmed milk for taste, though. The lack of fat usually means a lack of creamy texture, leaving the flat white a bit, well, flat. However, it’s not necessarily wrong to order a skinny flat white if that’s what you like. Order and enjoy!

Nut Milks (Almond, Hazelnut, and Cashew)

Before we discuss the various typical nut milks, I want to include coconut milk. Coconut is not a nut, but it also absolutely fits in this category. Coconut milk is probably the most intensely flavored of the nut milks, and you will taste it in your flat white. But will you like it? It comes down to personal preference. You don’t often see coffee and coconut as a flavor pairing, so expect the unexpected.

Almond, hazelnut, and cashew milk are all fairly similar, and they will all steam fine but not foam very well, so latte art is challenging (the same as coconut milk). Both almond and hazelnut will give your flat white a nutty flavor and possibly a little bit of bitterness, while cashew is somewhat milder. If you get the sweetened version of any nut milk, you’ll also get some extra sweetness added to your flat white.

Soy Milk in a Flat White?

Back in the day, soy milk was THE dairy alternative. But soy milk seems to be one of those products that go in and out of trend. At the moment, it’s not as trendy as it once was. The more popular nut and oat milks have come along and very much marketed themselves as the new dairy alternative to cow’s milk. However, soy milk is still prevalent in coffee shops.

Soy milk is high in protein and steams well (sometimes too well, creating far more foam than you’d like). You can surely expect latte art on a soy flat white. The soy milk will change the flavor of your coffee, and usually, coffee shops will use sweetened soy, so expect a slightly sweeter flat white. The most noticeable thing about soy milk is it is quite filling compared to cow’s milk and has a dry after taste.

Oat Milk in a Flat White?

A few years ago, a company called Oatly made a big splash in the coffee world with their barista oat milk, and for baristas (and non-baristas), it is a pretty great alternative to cows milk. It steams as well as cow’s milk and has a much more neutral taste than most other non-dairy milks, meaning your coffee’s flavor is not masked by nut flavors or sweetness from sweetened milk.

Oatly was such a big hit you can now find lots of different brands making oat milk. Oat milk is here to stay.

Which Non-Dairy Milk is Best in Your Flat White?

Personally, drinking my flat white with full-fat dairy is the only way to go. If you are up for trying the non-dairy life, here is the best in the show.

For the most dairy-like: Oat milk. It steams well, does not entirely change the flavor of your coffee, and you can still do latte art with it.

For the sweetest: Soy milk is your best bet if you like something sweet and with an excellent texture. You can make it super foamy or with just a little foam, and it will still allow you to do some latte art.

For the most flavored: If you like a hazelnut latte or hot coconut chocolate, use the corresponding milk. Your flat white may taste less like coffee, but if you want that extra nuttiness, you’re on to a winner.

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