What is your favourite way to enjoy coffee? There are countless answers to this question. After all, individual coffee preferences are as varied as people themselves, and are also influenced by current lifestyle trends. One trend that is currently keeping the coffee industry busy is the growing demand for speciality coffees made with plant-based milk alternatives. This increase in popularity is due to a wide variety of factors – from the preference for healthier foods to ecological aspects or simply the desire to try something new. Whether in a restaurant, at a hotel breakfast or in the office: oat cappuccinos, soy lattes and other vegan coffee creations now belong on every contemporary beverage menu.

Monika Oeggerli
Trainer at the Schaerer Coffee Competence Centre


A cappuccino please – but make it vegan!

Anyone who orders a coffee these days expects the best quality and a wide variety of options from which they can choose their personal favourite. With vegan milk alternatives, the beverage menu can be expanded to include new coffee creations, which helps tap into a larger customer base. The market has grown to offer a wide range of vegan milk alternatives. The experts at the Schaerer Coffee Competence Centre took a closer look at four popular plant-based dairy products made from soy, oats, almonds and peas.


Soy drinks

Flavour profile
Depending on which manufacturer produces the soy drink, the products can differ significantly in taste, aroma, and consistency. Some taste neutral, some sweet and cereal-like, while others impart a bean-like, nutty and also earthy aroma. In addition, soy drinks are characterised by a long-lasting aftertaste. The consistency can vary from watery to creamy.   

Suitability with coffee specialities
Soy drinks harmonise very well in principle with coffee and are well suited for creating a wide variety of coffee specialities. For products with a strong inherent flavour, care should be taken to use coffee beans with a medium to dark roast – this will not mask the coffee flavour.

As a legume, soybeans have a particularly high protein content and exhibit a high proportion of natural stabilisers and acidity regulators, which ensure good foaming stability at temperatures of up to 65 °C. In addition, the fat content of soy drinks makes for a really creamy foam and gives the coffee-soy beverage a nice texture. Thanks to these properties, soy drinks can also be used to create imaginative latte art designs. 


Oat drinks

Flavour profile
During the production of oat drinks, the cereal starch is converted into sugar. Therefore, this process lends the milk alternative a slightly sweet taste, even if unsweetened. In addition, oat drinks contribute a cereal-like or nutty aroma that ranges from subtle to pronounced. 

Suitability with coffee specialities
The slight sweetness, cereal overtones and creamy consistency of oat drinks allow the coffee to shine and rounds off the flavour profiles of coffee specialities wonderfully. Oat drinks are therefore also well suited for light roasts as well as fruity and acidic roasts. Another advantage of oat drinks: Thanks to the creamy texture, the drinking sensation of oat-based coffee specialities is similar to those prepared with cow’s milk, making them ideal for introducing customers to new beverages.

Oat drinks have a rather low protein content. To achieve stable, uniform foaming results, oat drinks must be foamed for a longer period of time. However, thanks to their high stability, even at higher temperatures (higher than cow’s milk: 65 °C) oat drinks can be heated for longer periods without causing unpleasant flavours.

Various manufacturers have developed special barista editions that, thanks to added proteins and stabilisers, enable the desired foaming ability with the usual ease.


Almond drinks

Flavour profile
Almond drinks are characterised by a rather watery consistency. In terms of flavour, these milk alternatives definitely exhibit some sweetness and contribute a nutty aroma. Sometimes they can also have a slightly bitter, lingering aftertaste due to the almonds on which they are based. 

Suitability with coffee specialities
In speciality coffees, the slightly bitter almond aroma and comparatively high acidity can overpower the flavour profile of the coffee. Aromatically, the milk alternative harmonises well with light roasts, for example, to which it lends its popular almond aroma.

Almond drinks are very difficult to foam because of the protein density. The foam layer becomes rather thin, with large bubbles and high sensitivity to temperature – often the foam collapses at temperatures above 55 °C or when mixed with coffee. This should be taken into account when developing recipes. Almond drinks also come in a variety of barista editions, which may offer better foaming quality.


Pea drinks

Flavour profile
Pea drinks are usually made from water, pea protein, canola oil and natural flavours. Depending on the variety and manufacturer, sugar, emulsifiers and stabilisers are also added. In terms of flavour, pea drinks have a slightly cereal-like, nutty aroma, contributing a slight sweetness. Depending on the manufacturer, pea drinks can also be characterised as slightly bitter and tart with a somewhat rough finish.

Suitability with coffee specialities
In combination with coffee specialities, the high fat content of pea drinks adds a particularly creamy and velvety consistency to beverages. Thus, pea drinks complement coffee very well and at the same time leave plenty of room for it to develop its individual flavour. 

Pea drinks have a high protein content compared to soy drinks. This makes them particularly easy to foam. A nice, firm and creamy foaming consistency can be achieved at a temperature of around 65 °C – ideal for stable foaming and creative latte art. 


Vegan coffee recipes

No matter if hot or cold drinks, vegan milk alternatives can be used to add new coffee creations to the beverage card. Here are some recipes.


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Schaerer Ltd.
Niedermattstrasse 3b
P.O. Box 336
CH-4528 Zuchwil
Tel. +41 32 681 62 00

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