Why is Milk Quality Important for making great coffee?

Why is milk quality important? MILKLAB explores this question and uncovers why the quality of your milk is so critical to making good coffee.
Why is Milk Quality Important for making great coffee?
March 17, 2023

Coffee lovers swear by using good quality coffee beans because they know this is a major key to making a great cup of joe. But what about the milk? You know, the major ingredient in most cups of coffee? Well, chances are that unless you’re a barista, milk quality isn’t something you’ve ever given much thought to. 

But the reality is that if you’re serious about making excellent coffee, the quality of your milk matters. Let’s find out why. Be sure to keep reading for insights from one of our MILKLAB Master Baristas.

Why milk quality matters

White coffee’s taste is heavily influenced by milk, so you should always consider what type and quality of milk you’re using. A coffee made with low-quality milk is likely to taste flat and unimpressive at best, or downright unpleasant at worst.

A milk’s overall quality is influenced by a variety of things — ingredients, taste and texture can vary widely — and that’s not to mention the all-important freshness to consider. 

Fresh milk just tastes (and performs) better, and here’s why. 

Dairy milk: how freshness affects taste and performance

Fresh cow’s milk tastes sweet and smooth, while over time the milk’s flavour gradually degrades and becomes increasingly sour. Fresh milk also tends to perform better than old milk when steamed — readily producing microfoam that’s supple and silky. Typically, milk becomes harder to steam as it ages, until eventually (after some weeks), you may not get it to texture properly at all. 

So if you want great coffee, use the freshest dairy milk possible. A great alternative is to try a high quality UHT product such as MILKLAB Dairy. It’s made with award-winning 100% Australian dairy milk for a classic creamy taste, with the added barista benefit of being a long-life product that’ll maintain its delicious taste for a long time.

Ingredients of a good quality milk

When it comes to good quality dairy milk, a simple rule of thumb is that the fewer ingredients, the better — because good dairy milk speaks for itself. For example, MILKLAB Lactose Free has just two ingredients: Australian dairy milk, and the lactose-removing enzyme, lactase — and that’s it!

Plant-based barista milks are a bit more complex when it comes to ingredients. That’s because most plant milks require additional ingredients to get the desired capabilities in texturing and heating. Some of these added ingredients may include fats such as vegetable or canola oil, stabilisers to help maintain the milk’s consistency, or seasonings such as sugar or salt. Plant-based milks may also contain added calcium and other nutrients which help to support a balanced diet. 

So, plant-based barista milks may have a longer ingredient list than a dairy product. And that’s not a bad thing — it’s simply a reflection of the fact that most plant-based milk needs a little help to achieve that creamy taste and smooth texture that we look for in our coffee.

Industry insight: Hany, Master Barista

MILKLAB checked in with MILKLAB Master Barista, Hany, for expert advice on this topic.

Why is choosing the right milk important?

Hany explains that the choice of milk greatly impacts your cup of coffee. “With milk accounting for 85% of a typical white coffee … the milk choice will significantly impact the taste and texture of the beverage.” 

“The primary objective is to ensure that the chosen milk complements the other ingredients in the coffee.” 

He continues, “... with one in every four coffees now being made with alternative milk, the importance of selecting the right milk for your café becomes increasingly critical.”

What should you look for in a good quality milk?

Hany explains his process for selecting a quality milk, “As a barista, I typically evaluate a milk based on its ability to texture on a steam wand, how it interacts with my roasted coffee, and whether it curdles or deforms during the brewing process. The texture of the milk when combined with coffee is also crucial, and I pay attention to its aftertaste — whether it's smooth and long-lasting, or dry and unpleasant.” 

“Additionally, it's vital to consider how the flavours of the milk and coffee interact and whether they complement each other well.”

As a barista, how do you ensure the milk you serve is as fresh and delicious as it can be?

There’s more to pouring good quality milk than just choosing the right product, as Hany explains. "One of the essential tips to maintain the freshness and quality of your milk is to ensure that you refrigerate your stock properly and shake your cartons every time you pour into the jug.” 

“Proper refrigeration prevents the milk from going bad and preserves its quality and flavour. Frequent shaking of cartons helps ensure that the milk's fat and protein components are evenly distributed, resulting in consistent texture and taste when frothed or steamed.” 

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