Welcome to Part 2 of an ongoing series pinning dairy free milk alternatives against cow’s milk. Game on.
Title: The Cappuccino Showdown Pt.2: Coconut Milk vs. Milk Milk
Date: 20 June, 2012
Lab Partners: Me, myself and I. Ooh, does my espresso machine count?
Purpose: To determine which milk tastes better as a key ingredient in my beloved cappuccino. And hey, why not experiment with some dairy free alternatives?
Introduction: According to Wikipedia, A cappuccino (Italian pronunciation: [kapputˈtʃiːno], English pronunciation: /ˌkæpəˈtʃiːnoʊ/, meaning “Capuchin” or literally “small cap”) is an Italian coffeedrink prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam. The name comes from the Capuchin friars, referring to the colour of theirhabits.
The last time I was at the grocery store I spied the coconut milk sitting neatly next to all the other dairy-free milks: almond, soy, rice, hemp. Wait a minute, I thought, could I use coconut milk in my cappuccino?! Why not! It seemed like a great idea! The thought of the tropical fragrance and nutty aftertaste should match really nicely with coffee. And there was only one way to find out.
So here we are, back in the science lab, otherwise known as my kitchen, to further investigate milk alternatives for my morning cappuccino. This is the second installment of the Cappuccino Showdown, the first test being performed on almond milk, which I have to admit put up one hell of a fight. Almond milk is the first dairy alternative I tried in my coffee and while not my first choice in the morning, it definitely makes its way into the coffee rotation perhaps more than I’d like to admit.
As you may know from my previous coffee testing, I am a huge fan of ‘milk’ milk. But I am always up for some experimentation in the kitchen, and for making substitutions where possible, as long as I’m not sacrificing flavour. So for the many people of this world who either can’t drink cow’s milk or choose not to, I am rolling up my sleeves and putting on my lab coat again.
Let’s get started:
Two cup and saucer sets, espresso machine, two espresso shots (pulled at the same time using LavAzza coffee), coconut milk, ‘milk’ milk (1% milk fat), and agave syrup used as a sweetener (this is my go-to coffee sweetener. Its flavour is perfect for coffee and why not cut down on your sugar consumption where you can?).
After warming both cups and setting aside, I started by steaming the coconut milk. I pulled the double shot of espresso and prepared the coconut milk cappuccino.
After cleaning the milk frothing wand thoroughly, I steamed the ‘milk’ milk and prepared the second cappuccino.
Many photos were taken, both drinks were sweetened with an equal amount of agave nectar (approximately 1/2 tsp–my usual dose).
Visual and olfactory observations were made. Following this, a taste test was performed.
After dispensing a dose of coconut milk into the metal frothing jug, I noticed a mild, delicate, sweet scent, almost like sweetened condensed milk, but less pungent. It was bright white in colour, similar to porcelain.
As soon as I began to froth the coconut milk, you could see how different it behaved to ‘milk’ milk. It produced larger, thinner bubbles and heated up much faster. My hypothesis for this is that the difference in fat content of each sample affects the behaviour of the liquid.
It should be noted, however, that even though the bubbles of the coconut milk sample are larger and less uniform in size, they are quite stable, maintaining their shape after sitting for approximately 5-10 minutes.
The ‘milk’ milk has a mild scent and looks less translucent. The colour is also slightly different, appearing slightly more off-white or cream. But surely you’ve seen milk before, so I will keep it brief. Needless to say ‘milk’ milk is more than adept at responding to the hot steam frothing wand, arranging itself into a uniform, stable cream.
I thought it might be extra scientific of me to test the coconut milk sample prior to adding agave syrup to sweeten it, you know, to taste the ‘real’ flavour. It should also be noted here that I have never tasted coconut milk on its own before now, which might have been a mistake and is duly noted in my scientific records. It gives me little context in this taste test.
The next step was adding the agave syrup. Same ‘ewww’ except slightly sweeter . Double ‘ewww’. After further tasting the term ‘blech’ came to mind. The sweetened coconut cappuccino may not taste quite as bitter, but still just as offensive. How could this taste so bad? How could it be so wrong? I am starting to understand the frustration and plight of the scientist.
I would like to state that I do realize there is some skew to the results. For example, I possess months of practice using my espresso machine to foam ‘milk’ milk. Besides the terrible taste, I do believe that with practice I could have achieved slightly more appealing results to the coconut milk foam. But I think we’re done here. Not sure there’s any point trying to improve the appearance when the taste is…disgusting. I also must emphasize that I have a love affair with ‘milk’ milk and with cappuccinos, so this is a tough, yet wildly fun exercise. I do want to make it clear, though, that I approach each Showdown with the openest of minds and encourage you to keep me honest in my scientific endeavours.
- In my opinion, backed up by somewhat scientific results, oconut milk in cappuccino is pretty gross. I did have high hopes for the tropical drink, but it just wasn’t up to the task. Some things just aren’t meant to be I guess.
- So to wrap up, ‘milk’ milk is still the winner in my books, but in the matter of dairy free milk alternatives, here are the flavour results to date:
- 1. Almond Milk
- 2. Coconut Milk
- I love these Showdowns and I hope you do too. Please share with me your coffee secrets and experiences and I’d love to hear what you think of coconut milk in coffee if you’ve tried it–yay or nay? Or, maybe I’m doing it all wrong?
- Stay tuned for more Showdowns coming soon. We still have Rice milk, Soy, Hemp, others?