Soy milk is soy milk, right? How can one be better than another for a latte?
Soy milk has been growing in popularity over the past decade or so which means that there are lots of brands to choose from, and each has a unique formulation that makes a slight, yet significant difference in the milk itself. These differences can affect the outcome of your latte, especially the signature foam finish.
So what is the best soy milk for lattes? The absolute best soy milk for lattes is the Pacific Natural Foods Barista Series Soy Blender. This soy milk is perfect because it’s been formulated to mimic the creaminess of whole milk and foam that comes with a classic latte.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you exactly why I think so, and how to get the perfect soy latte every time you’re in the mood.
Making the Perfect Soy Latte
If you’re craving a latte you could rush to your favorite local coffee shop and have a true professional create the perfect latte for you, but there’s no reason you can’t perfect the art of making a latte in the comfort of your own home.
When you’re in the mood for a soy milk latte, however, there are a few very important details you need to know before you start.
What Exactly is a Latte?
There are lots of different kinds of gourmet coffee drinks, and they all have unique requirements for making them right. A latte is a coffee that combines espresso with steamed milk and is topped with milk foam. The secret is in the ration of milk to coffee and foam.
A latte is a creamy, rich blend that gives you the fullness of a whole milk beverage with the intensity and kick of a great espresso.
If you use a more watered down American-style coffee, you won’t get the same richness. If you have too much foam and not enough milk, you’ll end up with a cappuccino. If you nix the foam altogether, you’ll be left with a simple café au lait.
Regardless of your preferred milk ratio, the milk itself can make or break your latte, especially when it comes to using soy milk.
The Dangers of a Soy Milk Latte
Maybe you’ve tried to make a soy milk latte before and ended up with a sadly broken foam or, worse, curdled milk. Neither option is good news for your coffee cravings.
When you froth regular soy milk and then add your espresso, you’re much more likely to end up with deflated froth that leaves only a few large bubbles at the top of your mug, and your coffee won’t layer well like a professional latte.
The problem is that soy milk generally has lower fat and sugar content than whole-fat dairy milk, making it much more difficult to retain the structure of a good foam. It’s closer to the consistency of skim milk. This reality makes it appealing for a diet, but not so great for a coffee aficionado.
It also doesn’t react well to high temperatures. Soy milk will curdle at about 110F, whereas you have up to about 180F for dairy milk.
Choosing a Soy Milk for Your Latte
One way to improve the heat sensitivity of soy milk is to add either calcium lactate or soy lecithin, which will help to stabilize the soy milk as they’re both emulsifiers.
You can buy either of these products in powder form and add it to any brand of soy milk you love, or you can look for soy milk that has these products in the ingredients list.
Professional and Barista Quality Soy Products
Depending on where you live, the products available to you are going to vary significantly. When you’re shopping for the best soy milk for lattes, you want to look for one of two terms on the label: professional or barista. This will tell you that the formula has been adapted to stand up to the heat of a steamer or foamer.
Some of the brands that I found that have professional or barista blends include:
In my research, I found reference to a soy barista blend from Califia Farms, but I couldn’t find the product myself. It’s worth keeping your eye out for if you happen to be a fan of this brand.
My absolute favorite option, however, is from Pacific Natural Foods.
Pacific Natural Foods Barista Series Soy Blenders
Pacific Natural Foods creates a full product line of delicious and high-quality plant-based milks that are easily accessible throughout North America.
They’re known for the quality of their ingredients, choosing organic, locally produced and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.
They also listen to the demands of the market though, and their Barista Series is an example of creating a product to fit the demands of their customers.
- Formulated specifically to create a smooth, frothy finish for your soy latte
- Stands up to the high heat of steaming without separating or curdling
- Tastes delicious (and there’s a vanilla version)!
It’s made for use in coffee but it is not a creamer. If you’re looking for a thick, heavy cream to cut the bitterness of your favorite brew, this barista series soy blender might not be your best option.
However, if you’re looking for a dairy milk alternative to create a latte that makes you sigh with bliss, this is the product for you.
Other Dairy-Free Milks Perfect for Lattes
For any latte, it’s always a good idea to opt for a barista blend if you can find one. This gives you the peace of mind to know for sure that the milk will stand up to the super high heat of your steamer or frother without separating or curdling, which is a risk with any milk.
Aside from the foam finish, the biggest and most obvious criteria to consider is the flavor. Soy is by far the most popular option for coffee, but if you’re trying to avoid soy for any reason, some other options for you to look into include:
- Oat milk has a natural sweetness and creaminess that many people find is the closest to the flavor and texture of traditional dairy milk
- Hemp milk is growing in popularity, possibly because it’s both soy and nut-free. A professional blend foams well and even a standard variety has a higher fat content than most other plant-based milks, so it maintains foam a bit better than other alternatives. It can be more expensive, however, and for some, it’s an acquired taste.
- Almond milk adds a nice, slightly nutty flavor to your coffee that many people enjoy, but it is a thinner milk and doesn’t give as much body unless you find a good barista blend
- Cashew milk has a less noticeable flavor than almond and it’s a bit sweeter, but it’s also thinner, so it doesn’t steam or foam well
- Coconut milk has a beautiful and light sweetness to it and can be deliciously creamy if you get a barista blend or at least a full-fat version
- Rice milk has a very light, pleasing and sweet flavor, but it’s quite thin and watery, so if this is your choice for a latte, you definitely want to find one that has been upgraded for professional use
If you happen to make your own nut or seed milks at home, adding calcium lactate or soy lecithin can help you drastically improve the quality of your steamed milks, making you the go-to plant-based coffee shop of choice for all your friends and family.
What is the healthiest non-dairy milk?
Almost all non-dairy milks have plenty of upsides but, equally, any of them can have negative sides as well. No matter which option you choose from, try to avoid the following additives: loads of sugar, natural or artificial flavorings, phosphates.
They can show up in any plant-based milk. With that being said, organic soy milk is typically very low in fat and sugar content and the highest in protein. Oat milk ranks highest if you’re looking for fiber.
What’s bad about soy milk?
Most negative complaints about soy stem from the fact that it contains specific isoflavones that mimic the hormone estrogen. When you ingest too much, it’s possible to increase the risk of estrogen-related diseases such as breast cancer.
This is hugely controversial, however, because in countries where soy products have been consumed as part of the cultural diet for centuries, breast cancer rates are much lower than in the US.
One very popular opinion is that in Asian countries, for example, soy is consumed in its whole form, whereas in the US, it’s processed and stripped down to individual components, which might alter the way your body processes is. Soy milk falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
If you want to get all the benefits of soy while reducing the impact of the possible negatives, look for organic soy products and soy milk, and moderate your consumption.
What kind of milk should diabetics drink?
Overall, the best milk for diabetics will be plain and unsweetened, above all else, and pay attention to the carbs that are in the version you choose.
If you choose dairy milk, opting for a full-fat version will actually help your body process the sugars more efficiently.
Most plant-based milks are very low in carbs and, as long as you choose an unsweetened version, sugars specifically. Almond and flax milk are among the best for diabetics.