There is any number of ways to prepare your coffee and any number of types of milk you can pair with it–more than ever before, in fact.
Besides catering to the vegan and lactose intolerant communities, plant-based milk is fast gaining traction in the mainstream. While some purists might be skeptical of substituting non-traditional types of milk for their cow’s milk or creamer, the fact is that a nut substitute like almond milk can go hand in hand with many coffees just as successfully as either of those traditional companions.
In cold brew, almond milk can even accentuate existing flavors and bring out new ones. But what’s so great about almond milk, anyway? And why put it in your cup of cold brew coffee?
Cold brew versus…?
First, let’s delineate the distinction between cold brew and its popular alternative: iced coffee. Cold brew is, well, brewed cold–that is, never heated up, but strained and soaked in room temperature water for at least twelve hours. Because of this long gestation period, it contains roughly twice the caffeine of iced coffee.
Not only that, it tastes less bitter and is less acidic, with a consistency that more closely resembles chocolate. Iced coffee, meanwhile, is brewed like regular hot coffee, then cooled and poured over ice. Since ice cubes are essential to the iced coffee experience, the flavor is gradually watered down as the ice cubes melt.
It only follows that milk, cream, or other additions would interact differently with different types of coffee served cold. Take iced coffee, for example. Adding any type of milk, including almond, can make for a richer taste, but it doesn’t change the fact that the melting of the ice will incrementally diminish the flavor profile as you drink.
When it comes to cold brew, though, the heightened intensity of the flavor opens up a world of possibility regarding the accents you might be inclined to add in. Since the consistency is smoother, you need not worry about any desired extra flavors being diluted. This affords you a greater opportunity to be choosy about how you take your coffee and to craft a flavor that is just to your liking.
Why almond milk?
Almond milk provides a hint of flavor and texture without feeling too heavy or overpowering. This is reflected in its nutritional value. Compared to alternatives like oat milk, it is also a trusty low-calorie standby, measuring at 60 calories per serving (as opposed to twice as many per serving of oat milk).
As cold brew’s caffeine content is already higher than that of coffee brewed in a regular style, almond milk can lightly accentuate that energy boost while still not costing you in calories.
Furthermore, its subtle flavor invites you to experiment with other flavors in your coffee (such as fruity or nutty flavor shots) without overloading your taste buds. Or it can serve as a tasty offset to cold brew’s natural, strong coffee flavor. You can also find almond milk in different flavors (such as vanilla, dark chocolate, cinnamon, even pumpkin spice), as well as in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, at your local supermarket.
None of these flavors is particularly strong; that is why almond milk in any variety collaborates so well with cold brew, harmonizing with the coffee instead of competing with it or rolling over it. This balance is harder to strike between almond milk and iced coffee, where the milk’s flavor is liable to outshine that of the weaker style of coffee. As most habitual coffee drinkers probably know, the heart of the coffee experience lies in its balance.
The milk that does it all…
Almond milk is incredibly versatile, too, fitting into the many niches of cold brew drinks. There are countless recipes for the cold brew/almond milk latte…and that’s only the beginning. You can let your inner barista roam free, highlighting the pairing’s bold and understated notes with spices and powders from your own spice rack. You might come up with a mixture of flavors you never realized you needed. Who knows, you might invent a whole new trend!
…and lets YOU do it all!
You can even find guided recipes on YouTube to make your own almond milk, which involves pressing almonds, not unlike how coffee beans are ground and strained to make cold brew. With the right equipment, you could do it all yourself.
To that end, the cold brew/almond milk combination is highly accessible to everyday coffee drinkers of everyday means. While the coffee takes about a day to prepare in cold-brew style, topping it off with a swirl of almond milk (and maybe some cinnamon sugar or syrup) is an easy and inexpensive way to create the atmosphere of a fancy coffee house right in your kitchen any old morning.
Along the way, you’ll even learn a lot about grinding coffee beans and extracting the exact flavor strength and caffeine balance that feels good for you. Plus, if you go by the most prevalent recipes, you’ll have enough coffee–not to mention a carton of milk–to last you several servings. You’ll hardly need to swing by Starbucks again! (Though we wouldn’t dream of blaming you for doing so.)
To sum up in a cup
How to summarize the eternal question of pairing X kind of coffee with Y kind of milk? Suffice it to say that cold brew and almond milk can get along as well as any other coupling and can actually make for a more satisfying coffee-drinking experience given the smoothness of the brew and the lightness of the milk. It can easily become a classic combination, a go-to on those muggy midsummer mornings (or year-round, if you’re a cold-coffee person like me!). Certainly, it is a duo every coffee drinker should at least give a chance.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a pint of almond milk & get brewing!