I spent hours researching and testing whether one could use different types of milk for lattes and latte art. This piece is an overview of my findings.
I’ll talk about whether each type of milk is usable for making lattes and latte art.
Here is an overview:
Read on to learn more.
- Whole milk is the best milk to use for lattes & latte art.
- Oat milk is the best vegan alternative for lattes & latte art.
- Milk with higher protein content froths well.
- High amounts of sugar can negatively affect frothing.
Best Milk Types to Use for Latte & Latte Art
|Milk||Protein Content||Fat Content||Good for Latte?|
|Ultra-high Temperature milk (UHT)||Low||Low||No|
|Cashew milk||Low||Very High||Yes|
|Rice milk||Very low||Very low||No|
Best Milks for Lattes
The following sections will compare these milks for use in lattes:
- Whole milk: Best choice
- 2% milk: Second-best
- Skim milk: Third-best
- Condensed milk: Avoid
- Flavored milk: Avoid
- Ultra-High-Temperature milk: Avoid
- Half-and-half: Avoid
I’ll let you know whether you should use each milk type and why. Keep reading to learn more.
1. Whole Milk: Best Choice
Whole milk is the best for making lattes and latte art because it has the right balance of fat, protein, and sugar to create a smooth, velvety texture when steamed.
The fat in whole milk helps to create a stable foam, while the protein helps to keep the foam from collapsing. The sugar in whole milk also helps to create a sweet, rich flavor.
If you’re watching your fat intake, consider 2% milk or skim milk. Both will still froth. However, these milks will not create as smooth or velvety a texture as whole milk.
2. 2% Milk
2% milk is good for frothing lattes because it has a good balance of fat and protein. The lack of fat will result in a less creamy foam, and the bland taste will remove most flavor from your froth.
However, it has enough protein to form a foam that’ll remain stable.
3. Skim Milk: Still Effective
Skim milk is good for frothing milk for lattes, but it isn’t the best. Skim milk has almost no fat, meaning it won’t produce as thick or creamy of a foam as whole or 2% milk.
Skim milk has an identical protein content to whole milk, which can help create a more stable foam. This means that the foam from skim milk is less likely to collapse.
It also has close to the same amount of sugar, ensuring your foam will have a rich taste.
4. Condensed Milk: Don’t Use
Condensed milk is a lousy milk to use for frothing lattes because it is too thick and sugary. When you try to froth condensed milk, it will not create a smooth, velvety texture. Instead, it will create large bubbles, making the milk taste watery and unpleasant.
This type of milk is also more challenging to steam because it has so much sugar.
5. Flavored Milk (e.g., Chocolate): Avoid Using
The added flavors and sugar in chocolate milk will interfere with milk’s protein that are responsible for foaming. Because of this combination, you may not have a good froth.
Added flavors like chocolate and strawberry may also create an unbalanced taste with your coffee.
6. Ultra-High-Temperature (UHT) Milk: Bad Choice
Ultra-High-Temperature (UHT) milk is not ideal for frothing lattes because the high heat treatment strips proteins in the milk. This change means that the proteins in the milk can no longer form the tiny, even bubbles necessary for a good foam.
As a result, UHT milk will produce a foam that’s large, weak, and unstable.
UHT milk is a type of milk that has been heated to a high temperature (135–154 degrees Celsius) for a short time (1–8 seconds) . This process is called ultra-heat treatment. Manufacturers use it to kill harmful bacteria and extend the shelf life of the milk.
7. Half-and-Half: Worst Choice
Half-and-half is a mixture of milk and cream with a higher fat content than whole milk. This makes it more challenging to froth. Because the fat molecules tend to clump together and prevent the formation of small bubbles.
As a result, half-and-half will produce less foam than whole milk, and the foam it produces is less stable. That’s because half-and-half has much less protein (on average) than whole milk.
Best Non-Dairy Milk for Latte
The following sections will compare these vegan- and vegetarian-friendly milks:
- Oat milk: Best choice
- Cashew milk: Second-best
- Almond milk: Great pick
- Pea-based milk: Usable
- Coconut milk: Usable
- Soy milk: Avoid
- Non-dairy creamers: Avoid
- Rice milk: Avoid
You’ll find out whether each type of milk is good for using in lattes and latte art.
1. Oat Milk: Best Dairy-free Milk
Oat milk has higher fat and protein content than other plant-based milks. That helps stabilize bubbles in milk foam and gives it a velvety texture. Because of this combination, you’ll have a balanced-tasting milk froth.
2. Soy Milk: Second-best
The high protein content of soy milk helps to create a smooth, velvety texture in steamed milk. This is because the protein molecules form bonds, which help trap air bubbles and create a foam.
The neutral flavor of soy milk means that it does not overpower the taste of the coffee. This is important for latte art, as you want the coffee’s flavor to be the show’s star.
Other non-dairy milks, such as almond or hazelnut milk, can have intense flavors that compete with the coffee’s flavor.
3. Pea-based Milk: Great Choice
Pea-based milk is a good milk to use for frothing lattes and making latte art. It has a high protein content, which helps to create a smooth, velvety texture in steamed milk. It also has a neutral flavor, which does not overpower the taste of the coffee.
A study found that pea milk had a more protein content to soy milk and almond milk . And a similar amount of protein as whole milk. Because of this, it’s better at creating a stable foam than almond and soy milk.
Pea milk also has a neutral flavor that does not overpower the taste of coffee.
4. Almond Milk: Usable, but Not Ideal
Almond milk is okay for frothing lattes and making latte art, but it isn’t the best. Almond milk has a lower protein content than dairy milk. Making it more challenging to froth and create a stable foam .
Additionally, almond milk has a slightly nutty flavor that can sometimes overpower a latte.
5. Coconut Milk: Usable
Coconut milk is a good milk to use for frothing lattes and making latte art, but it is not the best. Coconut milk has low protein content, which can make it difficult to froth and create a stable foam.
However, the high fat content helps to create a rich and creamy texture in the latte.
6. Cashew Milk: Usable, but Avoid
Cashew milk has a low protein content. Protein is essential for creating a smooth, velvety texture in steamed milk. This means that cashew milk is difficult to froth and does not create a stable foam.
8. Rice Milk: Avoid
Rice milk isn’t a good milk to use for frothing lattes and making latte art because it has a low protein content and a high starch content.
The low protein content of rice milk makes it difficult to froth and create a stable foam. The protein molecules in milk are what help to trap air bubbles and create a foam. Rice milk has a much lower protein content than dairy milk.
It’s not as easy to froth and does not create as stable of a foam.
The high starch content of rice milk can also make it difficult to froth. The starch molecules in rice milk can break down when heated, which can create a gummy or grainy texture. This is not ideal for latte art, as you want the milk to be smooth and velvety.
9. Non-dairy Creamers: Avoid
Non-dairy creamers are the worst option when making lattes or latte art. They combine oil, water, and other additives to mimic dairy cream’s texture and taste. Because of this combination of ingredients, they will not froth properly when steamed.
What Is a Latte?
A latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk. You’d usually serve it in a cup with a layer of foamed milk.
The ratio of espresso to steamed milk in a latte is typically 1:3, but this can vary depending on the barista’s preference. The balance is 1 part espresso and 3 parts milk.
The word “latte” comes from the Italian word “latte,” which means “milk.” Lattes are a popular coffee drink in Italy and other parts of Europe. They have become increasingly popular in the United States and other parts of the world in recent years.
Enjoy lattes plain or with flavored syrups, such as vanilla, hazelnut, or chocolate. Or top them with chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, or other toppings.
How to Steam Milk for Latte
Here are the steps on how to steam milk for a latte:
- Fill a milk pitcher with cold milk up to below the spout.
- Purge the steam wand by turning it on for a few seconds to remove any water.
- Insert the steam wand into the milk pitcher, submerge the tip half an inch below the surface.
- Turn on the steam & start aerating the milk by moving the pitcher up & down.
- This will create small bubbles in the milk.
- After about 10 seconds, the milk should start to froth.
- Stop aerating the milk & tilt the pitcher so that the wand points toward the bottom.
- Keep the pitcher tilted & move it in a circular motion to create a vortex.
- This will help to mix the milk & distribute the heat evenly.
- Steam the milk until it reaches 155–165 °F (60–65 °C).
- Milk should be warm to the touch, but not hot enough to burn you.
- Turn off the steam & remove the wand from the milk pitcher.
- Tap the pitcher on the counter to knock out any large bubbles.
- Wipe the wand clean with a damp cloth.
Use cold milk for frothing. It’ll create a smoother, more velvety texture. And don’t over-aerate the milk. Over-aerating will create large bubbles that will make the milk taste watery.
Whole milk and oat milk are your best options for frothing milk for lattes and making latte art. Both balance fats, proteins, and sugar in a way that’ll create a stable froth with a smooth taste.
Want a machine that’ll make lattes? Explore our recommendations on espresso machines that include steam wands.