Milk can have a big impact on the taste of coffee – but which brand is best?

Cup of coffee

Baristas claim that the milk you choose affects the flavour and texture of your brew. From Cravendale to Yeo Valley Organic, here’s what the experts are putting in their coffee

It has long been the neglected ingredient for coffee drinkers. Some don’t bother with it at all, while others see it only as a means to create impressive froth art. Yet for flat white, cappuccino or latte drinkers, milk makes up the majority of the cup.

Milk can affect the taste and texture of coffee, depending on the type used. The biggest influence is fat content. With full-fat milk, you will get a creamy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth texture. This is down to the milk’s fat globules, which coat the tongue and inhibit the taste of the coffee, explains Jeremy Challender, co-founder of Prufrock Coffee, which houses the London Barista Resource and Training Centre. “What this really amounts to is less bitterness and less acidity. Good for making a rich, sweet, creamy, delicious drink, but bad if you like it fruity.”

The other milk ingredient that matters is protein. The level of protein in cow’s milk (it’s not always found in non-dairy alternatives) is essential in creating tiny bubbles, or microfoam, during heating.

Most specialist coffee shops are now choosing a specific brand of milk and sticking to it, but Noble Espresso founder Shaun Young is going one step further in the quest for top-notch milk and setting up his own dairy. The Estate Dairy, due to launch in January 2016, will source milk from Jersey cows in Lancashire, and has been set up specifically for the coffee market. “With a bespoke herd we can adjust the cows’ diet and conditions to make sure that everything is tailored to producing the milk wanted by cafes,” says Young.

Five of the best milk brands for coffee


A popular milk among London’s speciality coffee shops. Challender praises it for producing a consistent foam that simulates cream and gives a rich, but not too sweet, coffee flavour.


Sold in opaque bottles to protect the milk from light, which could affect its freshness. Cravendale’s rigorous filtering process also gives added protection against bacterial development that can affect foaming, says Paul Meikle-Janney, director at Dark Woods Coffee.

Yeo Valley Organic

This milk came out top in a blind taste test organised by Taylor Street barista Andrew Tolley, who says it gives his coffee a sweetness and flavour that contributes to, rather than dominates, the drink.

Ivy House Farm

A Jersey milk with a higher fat content. Monmouth Coffee’s Jemma Jones says they choose it because it brings a luxurious sweetness to their coffee.

Alpro Coconut Milk

Unlike oat, rice and nut-based alternatives, coconut milk has high enough protein levels to give consistent foaming, says Meikle-Janney. The only drawback is that it also brings a strong flavour to the coffee.

Powered by article was written by Tom Levitt, for The Guardian on Monday 16th November 2015 07.10 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010