Non-Dairy By the Numbers (and Taste)

We are excited about a story featured in the upcoming February+March issue of Barista Magazine called “Got Not Milk,” written by Emily McIntyre. The article explored the constantly changing field of dairy alternatives available to baristas, their applications in coffee drinks, and their specific challenges.

Barista Devin Chapman pours a cappuccino using Pacific Natural Foods' Almond Milk.
Barista Devin Chapman pours a cappuccino using Pacific Natural Foods’ Almond Milk.

To preface this article (which will be available to view online at beginning January 31), I’d like to share with you some up-to-the-minute numbers about how regular cow’s milk compares to the most popular dairy alternatives, and also some flavor descriptors you can communicate to customers who might wonder how each of them tastes.

 Soy                    Almond                    Rice                    Coconut                  Whole milk

Calories          90                        60                            120                      80                               149

Total fat          3.5g                     2.5g                          2.5g                    5g                                7.7g

Protein            6g                        1g                              1g                        1g                                8g

Calcium          45%                     45%                          30%                    45%                            28%
(% daily value)

(Source: AARP, 2013; Based on a single serving)

Yes, you really can make great latte art using dairy alternatives.
Yes, you really can make great latte art using dairy alternatives.


Soy milk: Rich and creamy, unless formulated for steaming (such as Pacific Natural Foods’ soy) can curdle in hot drinks. Contributes density through fat, fiber, and protein, while still free of cholesterol and saturated fats.

Rice milk: Has a thin, watery consistency compared to nut milks or soy milk. Light and naturally sweet. The most hypoallergenic of all non-dairy products (which means people with lactose intolerance, casin allergy, and/or soy/nut allergies are safe to drink rice milk). No saturated fat or cholesterol. Can be too thin for hot drinks.

Almond milk: Creamy and slightly nutty. Great in coffee and tea. High in the antioxidant vitamin E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower levels of œbad  LDL cholesterol and protect the heart.

Coconut milk: Smooth and fresh tasting. Although high in fat and saturated fat, coconut milk is a great way to add creaminess to drinks. Excellent alternative for hot drinks for those with gluten and/or soy allergies.

About Sarah 932 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.