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The ultimate guide to milk in coffee

Milk in coffee can be a delicious match. There are many delicious coffee-based drinks that are elevated with a dash or more of milk. Lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos are just a few examples of how coffee and milk or non-dairy milk options can pair really well. In the world of specialty coffee, there can be a certain avoidance to combining milk and coffee, but in reality, some coffees can be enhanced by milk. Ultimately, the determining factor of adding milk or not to your coffee should be your personal preference and how you enjoy a cup of joe.

Why milk with coffee can have a bad rep?

Some coffee shops don’t offer milk or cream for you to add to your coffee and one of the possible reasons is that some coffee professionals prefer to have control over which coffees are used in a milk-based drink so they can make sure to use only the coffees that are intended to taste good with milk

Specialty coffee is the highest grade of coffee available and should be naturally sweet and enjoyable without any additions. Much effort is involved from farm to cup in order to create the best profile for a certain harvest and make sure a coffee tastes its best on its own. This is where some of the bad rep comes from. Adding milk, non-dairy milk, or cream to a coffee that wasn’t meant to be enhanced by additions can be viewed as opening an expensive vintage bottle of wine to make sangrias. You surely can, but you’d be missing out on the true taste of what that drink was designed to be.

Why add milk to coffee?

Maybe that’s how you’ve been drinking coffee your whole life. Some people are used to ordering coffee with milk at the coffee shop or have fond memories of enjoying a cup of coffee with milk brewed at home.

Most coffee consumed in the world isn’t specialty. And commodity coffee really needs something to help make it more drinkable. Most chain or grocery store coffee brands lack sweetness or are highly bitter and milk helps with texture while also reducing the perception of bitterness.

For this reason, it isn’t uncommon for people who are discovering the world of high-quality specialty coffee to continue adding milk to their drinks simply out of habit. We like to think that milk is a wonderful step in your coffee journey. If you’re used to adding milk to all coffees, gradually reducing the amount of milk, cream, or sugar from it until you are comfortable drinking black coffee can unlock a world of flavour and complexity. If black coffee is all you drink and you’re familiar with specialty coffee, adding milk or non-dairy options to certain types of coffee can help you discover new nuances to coffees you already love.

How to pair milk and coffee

As a rule of thumb, light roasts and coffees with more acidity can taste sour with milk so if that’s your go-to roast profile try the coffee black first and add milk gradually until you find a balance that suits your taste. Coffees that err on the citrus side such as Joia Rara also are not the best for milk-based drinks.

Coffees that are most enhanced by adding milk are:
  • Medium to dark roasts
  • Low acidity
  • Tasting notes of chocolate, nuts, sweet, and caramel

In general, coffees that don’t have high acidity, citrus, or fruit-like flavours are the best to pair with milk. If you enjoy the intensity of a dark roast but want to cut some of the bitterness, milk makes the perfect match. If you enjoy a more balanced cup with a lot of creaminess and natural sweetness, a medium to medium-dark roast coffee with low acidity is a great choice.

Here are 3 recommendations to get you started on coffee and milk pairing:

Fazenda Eldorado

This single-origin coffee is sourced from the Eldorado farm in Brazil. Located in the famous Alta Mogiana region, this medium roast is full-bodied, has low-medium acidity, notes of red fruits cherry-like, hints of hazelnut and a long, chocolate aftertaste.

Inga Aponte

This single-origin coffee is sourced from the Inga Aponte farm in Colombia. This excellent dark roast exhibits tasting notes of plum, sweet cane, low acidity, full-body, and a cocoa finish.

Equilibrio blend

This premium blend coffee mixes Brazilian coffee from the renowned Alta Mogiana region and Nicaraguan coffee for a surprisingly fitting balance. It is a medium roast coffee that is well-balanced, has notes of chocolate, caramel and cashew with a light floral finish.

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