Coffee goes beyond the bounds of a regular brew. When executed by a trained barista, latte art is an aesthetically pleasing and delicious addition to any coffee drinker's day. But what makes this possible? The best milk for latte art and the excellent skills of a barista, of course!
If you're a true coffee connoisseur, you know that the perfect espresso shot isn't the only thing that matters. Milk is also crucial in creating a work of art in your coffee. Got milk? Here’s a list of different kinds of milk you can use for your latte art.
Why does milk become frothy?
Before we go over the best milk choices for doing latte art, let’s first understand why milk foams up when frothed.
Milk contains these main nutrients: water, protein, lactose, and fat. When milk proteins react with fat and heat, they reconstruct where the milk proteins tangle and bond. These bonds trap air bubbles, causing frothed milk to foam.
To froth milk, you'll need either a separate milk frother appliance or the frothing feature of an espresso machine. Having a separate milk frother can also have other advantages. Aside from making foamy milk, you can also use a milk frother to make thick soup and bubbly cocktails. Check out our article on milk frother uses to find out how much more you can do with this small device!
Best Milk Choices Perfect for Your Latte Art
Milk foam is only as good as the milk used to make it. So, whether you like dairy or non-dairy milk for your latte art, the best milk for frothing relies on your preference. Check out our milk choices below and see what you like!
Dairy Milk Choices
Are you a seasoned barista who knows how to froth milk at home? Then you'll agree with us that dairy milk is one of the best choices for frothing! Dairy milk comes from farm animals like cows, goats, and sheep. Because of their availability in the market, dairy milk is also one of the most common mainstays in coffee shops worldwide. If you’re curious about what dairy milk types there are, here are some milk choices you can use for your latte art:
What is the best milk for latte art? Fresh whole milk, of course! Whole milk is great for frothing because the proteins and fats are evenly distributed. Typically, the fat content of fresh, pasteurized milk ranges from 3.2% to 3.5%. These fats usually result in a more pronounced sweetness and aroma. Full-fat, high-protein milk yields the densest foam and has the creamiest texture. Even without a costly milk frother, you can achieve fantastic results.
However, because whole milk contains the highest fat and protein levels, it’s recommended to use fresh milk for your coffee art. Milk that's only been sitting around for a few days might already be contaminated with too much glycerol. Glycerol is a colorless and odorless liquid that poses no health risks to humans. However, when there’s excessive glycerol buildup, it’s challenging to create a stable foam. Since whole milk is a popular and easy choice to make foamy milk, partner it up with a portable espresso coffee maker to brew frothy coffee on the go!
Semi-skimmed milk, also known as 2% milk, contains half the fat of whole milk. It's healthier than whole milk and has a good balance of proteins. This is due to semi-skimmed milk's higher vitamin content and lower calorie count than whole milk.
When this kind of milk is frothed, it makes a thick foam with fewer bubbles and a less creamy taste than whole milk. Despite this, it's still one of the best types of milk for making foam for those who prefer a froth that isn't too thick.
Skim milk is nearly fat-free and the healthiest milk choice, with a fat content between 0.1 and 0.3%. However, skim milk may be one of many things that come to mind when thinking of foamy milk. With that said, skim milk continues to be a popular choice at specialty coffee shops as customers become increasingly health-conscious. As a result, using skim milk in the latte art process can be considered a common practice for baristas.
Skim milk requires a little more finesse during the milk frothing process to work for your latte art. Lacking the fat and protein in whole milk, skim milk requires more time to froth. Another noticeable change is the increased significance of temperature regulation. Because of the longer frothing time, the milk is exposed to the steam wand longer, increasing the risk of overheating or burning. So, you must change the way you put the steam wand in and the angle at which you swirl the milk to add air. The hard part is striking a balance between working quickly enough to keep the cold milk from burning and working too fast, which results in large air bubbles.
Non-Dairy Milk Choices For a Healthier Coffee-Drinking Lifestyle
As more coffee drinkers become health-conscious, non-dairy milk has emerged as one of the most popular alternative options for the best milk for frothing. These are plant-based milk alternatives. However, while they are healthier, they also take a bit more effort to froth. Nevertheless, consider investing in a coffee machine with a milk frother to brew things quickly.
If you’re not too keen on using dairy milk in your coffee, here are some non-dairy milk choices for you to try:
For most baristas, oat milk is the best non-dairy milk for latte art. Because oats have water-soluble fiber, oat milk is more likely to froth, foam, and steam than other milk. This vegan-friendly dairy alternative is also protein-rich and has high mineral levels.
Oat milk pairs well with espresso shots, producing a delicious and creamy coffee taste. When frothed, this plant-based milk creates a fluffy, creamy foam with a subtle nuttiness. Because it contains a similar amount of protein and fat as whole milk, oat milk makes an excellent substitute for frothing. When frothed, it creates a fluffy, creamy foam with a subtle nuttiness. However, the foam will only last for a short time if you use oat milk because it contains much more water than whole milk. Nonetheless, it’s still a recommended milk choice for latte art.
Try almond milk if you're looking for a dairy-free option that still provides plenty of nutrients like calcium and vitamin E. Almond milk produces a frothy, airy, and nutty-tasting foam when whipped.
However, since almond milk lacks the proteins in animal milk, it isn't the best choice when making foam. The frothing process with almond milk results in much smaller and thinner bubbles. But because it makes foam that lasts long, it is still a good alternative for coffee art.
Soy milk has the most protein of all dairy-free milk alternatives, with a protein content nearly identical to cow's milk. This is why coffee shops like to use it to make foam. Consequently, a fine foam with tiny bubbles is produced when soy milk is frothed. The foam is thick, creamy, and stable as well. Glycerol is still an issue, but it's not as bad as it is with whole milk. So, even with glycerol in the milk, you can still create stable foam milk for your latte art.
Create the Finest Latte Art with the Best Milk Options
Whether dairy or non-dairy, the six varieties of milk we've discussed here are just the beginning of your latte art possibilities. Delicious foam can be made from various milk types, some of which are better than others. Each milk has different properties that can make frothing better or worse. Some are better for flavoring coffee, while some of the best milk for froth is better for latte art.
So, if you're making froth at home, try different milk types until you find what works. What are you waiting for? Start your journey to mastering latte art today!