Jack Simpson has the most exacting demands of any of the Ideal Grind team when it comes to his coffee. Specifically he loves his coffee with oat milk. In this round up he takes a look the best oat milk the UK has to offer. He’s tested them all and shortlisted to his top 6 oat milks, so find out how he rates them below…
“Which is the best oat milk for coffee?”
That’s a question we get asked an awful lot. More and more we find that people are turning to vegan lifestyles, or are trying to cut out dairy for other reasons, but they still want to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee.
We get it. For a long time, alternative milks had a pretty terrible reputation, which I think largely manifested from tea drinkers – who to be fair had a good point. Traditionally, alternative milks have not mixed well with tea.
Coffee is a different matter entirely though – not only can some milk alternatives be an adequate replacement for cow’s milk, some can even enhance the flavour. Over the last five years or so, we have seen an explosion of different milks on the market, from all manner of sources – soy, coconut, almond, rice, cashew, hazelnut, oat – and that is barely scratching the surface.
It is that last one that we’re going to focus on today though – oat milk. In this article we are going to take a look at why oat milk is a great option for drinking with coffee before we look at six of the best oat milks available in the UK today. Let’s go!
Why Choose Oat Milk For Coffee?
With so many different options out there, what makes oat milk such a popular alternative for drinking with coffee?
Well the first, and most important, factor is the taste. It has probably the closest taste to cow’s milk of all of the alternatives. It is slightly sweet in taste, but without it being overwhelming like some of the other alternatives can be. This means that the milk doesn’t overwhelm the flavour of the coffee.
Secondly, it’s the texture. Oat milk tends to be a bit thicker and creamier than some of the other options, which can be a little bit watery. Not only does this impact the feel of your drink, but it also impacts how you can present it. With oat milk, you have a much better chance of creating latte art – although as we will see, some perform this task better than others.
Finally, oat milk is very popular simply because more people can have it. People that suffer from soy or nut allergies have to be very careful which alternative milks they can have – oat milk is pretty much available to everyone, no matter what their allergies.
6 Best Oat Milks
So now we know why oat milk is so popular, but which one is the best? Let’s start our rundown of the 6 best oat milks for coffee.
Minor Figures – Barista Oat
Minor Figures started out making little cartons of cold brew – their goal back then was just “making the perfect coffee with the perfect bean”. As one of their founders also established a company devoted to reusable coffee mugs, it was probably inevitable that they would go on to make a product that was more eco-friendly.
This was accelerated when their head taster announced that he had become vegan. They changed around their entire company to keep him – going entirely plant-based.
They are still a coffee company, though, so it is no surprise that at some point they decided that they should divert their attention to making a great plant-based milk alternative – Barista Oat.
It’s a great place to start our list of the best UK oat milks because it is a great example of how far the alternative milk industry has come, particularly with regard to coffee. This isn’t a dairy-free company attempting to make a milk for coffee, it is a coffee company and that is obvious from the start.
The big thing here is the texture. It is creamy, but without being dense. It is strong enough so that it doesn’t split when you add it to hot coffee, but at the same time, it produces a fantastic micro-foam when you steam it – provided you know what you’re doing. You may not get the same results with an electric frother – steam really is the key here.
The taste is great too – the oat flavour isn’t too intense, which can sometimes be the case, so it doesn’t overpower the taste of your coffee. As they say themselves – they aren’t looking to replicate dairy, they are trying to produce something that pairs perfectly with coffee, and the flavour is perfect.
On top of all this, Minor Figures really do try to do the right thing, as I am sure you have probably guessed. They are completely carbon neutral, and they put a lot of thought in to where they source their ingredients from. They are certainly one of the good guys, and in this industry that really matters.
In terms of price, this is pretty much exactly in the mid-range of what you can expect to pay for a milk of this kind, so the price is not going to put you off. It is absolutely worth a try, particularly if you like to steam your milk for your coffees.back to menu ↑
Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend
Okay, no prizes for guessing which part of the world our second oat milk on our list, Califia Farms, comes from. That’s right, Los Angeles, California.
Founded in 2010, they are one of the fastest-growing natural beverage companies in the world, and they now offer over sixty natural drinks – originally fruit juices but they quickly noticed a gap in the market and jumped on the non-dairy milk bandwagon.
We should be grateful that they did. The Califia Farms alternative milk range includes not just oat, but also vanilla and almond, and they complement this with a whole host of cold brew and iced coffee drinks.
But it is the oat milk, specifically their Barista Blend, that we are most interested in here.
As you would expect from a milk specifically intended for use with hot drinks, as the barista part of the name would suggest, this does not split when you add it to coffee, which is probably the bare minimum you would want for one of the milks on this list, but worth noting nevertheless.
Interestingly, they have used sunflower oil in the production of this milk. Not only does this help to keep the milk from splitting, but it also contains unsaturated fats which may be beneficial when it comes to lowering your cholesterol.
In terms of taste, there is a bit of sweetness there, but it isn’t overwhelming. I have known people to enjoy this milk by itself, which says a lot even if for the purposes of this article we are more interested in the taste when used with coffee.
The sweetness is still present when you froth the milk, which I found worked really well with stronger tasting, more bitter coffees. The oat milk then provided the perfect balance, just taking the edge off the bitterness to create a really pleasant drink.
It is a great milk for frothing – it reacts very much like cow’s milk, so you can really get some fantastic results whether you are going for a microfoam or a thicker, more dense froth.
Again, this is priced at the mid-range for oat milk, which means that I don’t think I can come up with a good reason why you shouldn’t give this one a go.back to menu ↑
Next up we have one of the original providers of alternative milk, Belgian company Alpro. They were founded in 1980, way before most of the competition. In fact, it was probably before a lot of the people running the companies that represent their competition were even born!
Originally they made mainly soy-based products, but over the last decade or so they have followed the trends and expanded their range to include all kinds of alternative milks, including the Oat Barista milk that we are going to be looking at today.
This milk was voted to be the ‘Best in Coffee’ according to the front of the pack – although I must admit I can’t find any information about who actually awarded them this! It may have been an award they gave themselves!
Don’t let that distract you though – this is a really good milk to add to coffee. The thing you’ll notice first is how creamy it is, both in terms of taste and texture. There are delicate hints of sweetness in the taste, but again it is not over-powering. You get a light sweetness and hints of oat, but the main attribute is the creaminess.
That goes for the texture as well. This is certainly a much thicker milk than the standard Alpro milk, which means that it works brilliantly when you froth it. It will work just like cow’s milk – aim to steam it to around 65° (don’t go any hotter than that), and you can manipulate it in exactly the same way that you froth regular milk.
The results are fantastic, you get a wonderful froth to add to your coffee, and you can make milk to produce genuinely great latte art – if you have the skills to do so.
The company structure is complicated, however. Aplro, as a company, are great. They are a B-Corp company, which is a difficult title to attain and means that their business practices are transparent and meet very high standards in terms of accountability and charitable giving – the good guy test, really.
However, Alpro are owned by a parent company, Danone, which makes a lot of their money selling dairy products. This won’t bother many people, but those that drink alternative milks because they are against the dairy industry may be uncomfortable with this.
In terms of reasons to not buy this milk, that’s all I’ve got. So if that isn’t one of your trigger points, then Alpro is well worth giving a go.back to menu ↑
Arguably the most famous oat-based drinks company in the world now as we take a look at Oatly’s Barista milk.
Founded in Sweden in 1994, Oatly have exploded in popularity in the last five years or so, riding on the sudden boom in the alternative milk market. They produced the first oat milk that I ever tasted, and I think they are seen as pioneers in this particular section of the market.
The Barista version of their oat milk contains more fat than their other offerings – this is to give it a bit more substance to cope with the hot drinks that you are going to add it to – and it works.
The thing that struck me first, when I just added some milk straight out of the carton to my coffee, was that it had a much greater impact on the colour of my coffee than most of the other alternative milks that I have tried. Often you have to use loads of milk to get that lovely light brown colour, which then impacts the flavour. With Oatly Barista it doesn’t take as much at all.
The next thing, and probably the aspect that Oatly have put the most thought into, is how it performs when you steam it. You can get fantastic results when you make frothed milk – almost indistinguishable from cow’s milk. This milk is just the right density to really create some fantastic lattes and cappuccinos.
That density doesn’t impact the flavour though. Oatly have built themselves a reputation for making really nice tasting drinks, and their Barista version is exactly the same. It is creamy tasting, with just a light note of oat and some delicate sweetness in the background. It is a milk that will let the coffee do its job – it is there to support, not take over.
I have to say, I had the impression that Oatly was the premium option for these milks, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the price – exactly the same as the other milks that I have covered so far in this list.
If you haven’t already tried Oatly Barista, you really should.back to menu ↑
MOMA Original Oat Drink
Another oat specialist company now – MOMA. Based in South London, MOMA was founded in 2006 on the back of frustration about the lack of healthy breakfast ‘on-the-go’ options. It was decided that oats were the way to go.
A breakfast stand was opened in a railway station, where they sold porridge. They have continued to grow since then, and in 2020 they launched their oat drink and even won a Great Taste Award for their Barista Edition the very same year.
That’s what we are going to be looking at today. Like most of the oat milk drinks that we have covered, it is packed full of vitamins and other lovely health benefits like folic acid for your immune system.
This is unsweetened, which you certainly do appreciate when you add it to coffee – all you get is a subtle creaminess that complements coffee beautifully. You’ll probably notice that it is a bit thinner than many of the other options -almost like skimmed milk – but that doesn’t mean that it splits or is any less effective.
As a result, I would recommend only heating this to around 60°c. If you do you will find that this is a brilliant milk for coffee. It froths really nicely, and you can do whatever it is that you want with it – microfoam or a more dense froth – it all comes down to your skill and your patience.
I should note here, that it only tends to froth well with a manual steam wand – the more automatic milk frothers may not produce the best results, so if you are struggling to get good results, that might be why.
There is a really nice taste to it, even when you drink it by itself. It is creamy, with hints of oats, but there is not much else to it. As a drink that is just designed to be an accompaniment to coffee, it does its job perfectly.
It also happens to be the cheapest milk on our list. Not by a great deal, admittedly, but it is less expensive than all of the others that we have looked at, so it could be a good place to start your search – start with the cheapest and work your way up until you find one you are happy with. You might not get past one!back to menu ↑
Plenish Organic Oat Milk
We complete our list of the Best Oat Milks in the UK with this interesting offering from Plenish. Founded in 2012 by a New Yorker after she had moved to London, Plenish have established themselves as one of the fastest-growing alternative milk providers in the country.
Starting off with juices, Plenish have a major focus on the health of their customers – even going as far as offering a ‘Cleanse Plan’ on their website. They make a big deal about ‘doing less’ with their ingredients – no additives, no sweeteners, no flavourings – you get the picture.
To highlight this, the Oat Milk that we are looking at on this list contains just three ingredients – Oats, Water and Sea Salt. That’s it – no oils, no additives, no gums, just three ingredients. The key is all in the method of how they are blended together to produce their alternative milks.
Despite this, it is actually quite sweet. All of the natural sweetness from the oats are brought out with the other ingredients, which actually produces a very pleasant drink. I would recommend that you use a little less milk than you might normally, just so you get the right balance between the sweetness of this milk and the bitterness of the coffee – if you use too much, the sweetness might overpower the coffee.
Getting a good froth takes a little bit of work, but it is possible. Again, use a steam wand and take your time to build up the temperature – once you get it right, it will produce a really good microfoam for a cappuccino.
This is actually the most expensive drink that we have on this list, but again, not by much – certainly not enough to make you baulk at the cost. It is a genuinely great drink, which is really good for you as well as being great-tasting. One for your shortlist.
Oat Milk Vs Almond Milk For Coffee
When you compare oat milk with almond milk there are a few different factors that you need to consider.
First of all, the most basic one is taste. As we have covered, you can get a delicate sweetness to oat milk, with a creamy taste of oats (surprisingly). Almond milk has more of a nutty taste to it.
When you consider how it performs when you froth it. As a general rule, I think oat milk is much better in this regard, due to its creamy texture. Almond milk will often be more watery, which is difficult to froth.
If you are worried about the nutrition side of things, almond milk is lower in calories, but oat milk has more protein, fibre and vitamins.
Finally, a major consideration for alternative milks is usually the environmental impact. Obviously, both oat milk and almond milk are better for the environment than cow’s milk, but oat crops tend to have a smaller environmental impact than pretty much all other alternative milk bases – including almond.
There is definitely a place for almond milk, but given the option, I would generally go for oat milk.
Drinking Oat Milk Plain
You can, of course, drink oat milk by itself. It has quite a pleasant flavour, as we have covered above, so it is a viable option for a drink by itself.
It will be creamy and slightly sweet – certainly great for children, and it is packed full of healthy nutrients and vitamins as well. You could warm it up for a nice drink before bed too.
The days of having to rely on cow’s milk to use with your coffee are long gone. The coffee and alternative milk industries have both experienced a huge surge in popularity in the last five years or so, so it is no surprise that there is a fair amount of overlap.
As a general rule, the barista-style oat milks are the best for drinking with coffee, as you would expect, particularly if you are going to be using it with a steam wand to make frothed milk. They have a much better texture and is the best replacement for cow’s milk of any of the alternative milks, in our opinion.
There are plenty of options included on this list above – we feel sure that if you try a couple of these, you will quickly find the perfect one for your coffee drinking.