Depending on where you are in the country, your customers are likely to frequent your cafe more or less based on what dairy milk alternatives you provide - strange, but accurate.
The days of cafes simply having full cream, skim and soy (if you’re lucky) are long gone, with all different varieties of nut and plant based milks now leading the way.
The thing about alternative milk (or mylk) varieties, is that they almost always come in UHT 1L containers or ‘tetrapaks’. These types of containers are a composite material, containing paper board, foil and plastic, meaning they are very difficult to recycle and information surrounding their recyclability status can be quite grey.
Not only is the packaging material environmentally damaging, but many of these ‘healthier’ alternatives are laden with suspect ingredients and minimal content of what the milk is claiming to be.
For these reasons, more cafes are starting to make their own nut and plant based milks. It's not hard, though does require a bit of organisation.
Here we run you through the steps.
Things to consider before you get started
Not all milks are the same - some require a lot more preparation and time. You may decide that making some varieties in house, and sourcing others externally, is right for you. You certainly don't have to commit to all or nothing, especially when you start.
For e.g. Almond milk requires the nuts to be soaked for a minimum of 8 hours, so if you are to run out, then you’re not going to have any more available on hand unless you have already pre-soaked the next batch. Oat milk, however, is a great variety as it does not require the lengthy soak time that nut varieties need.
In the lead up to switching over, take note of how many tetrapaks your business is going through per week as this number will be really helpful when trying to determine quantities and limiting waste.
Consistency is key - be sure your staff follow a strict recipe and process so that the milk comes out the same consistency each and every time.
Be sure that the glass jars you use to store the milk in are sterile - if they aren’t, the milk will spoil quickly.
It is also important to consider what nuts and plant based materials you are using. Conventionally grown almonds and macadamias are sprayed heavily with pesticides and particularly almonds, require large volumes of water to grow and eventually harvest. They are also more often then not, packaged in single use plastic bags - therefore sourcing the alternative milk ingredients in bulk is of importance when trying to avoid multiple single use bags.
How to make some of the more popular milk choices
As mentioned, this starts with soaking almonds overnight in cool water - in the fridge.
Drain the water out and add the almonds to a blender along with fresh filtered water and a pinch of salt. For large quantities in busy cafes, this is a job best left to the chefs (not the baristas) as they have the experience of working with large quantities of prep efficiently.
After blending the mixture for 1-2 minutes, pour the milk through a nut milk bag or ultra fine sieve into a mixing bowl/bucket. Be sure to thoroughly squeeze all of the liquid.
For ease of use, the ‘milked’ liquid can then be poured back into the rinsed and cleaned blender (which has a pouring spout) then decanted into sterilised glass bottles. Alternatively, use a ladle or measuring cup with a spout to pour the milk directly from the mixing bowl/bucket into the sterilised bottles.
Quantities: 1 cup raw almonds to 4-5 cups of filtered water. Do some experimenting with quantities as changing the ratio of almonds to water will simply change the creamy nature of the final product.
How long does almond milk last?
You will know when almond milk has gone bad, it will be sour and have a very obvious ‘off’ taste. It may also begin to separate and form clumps when it is too old. How long it lasts will depend on a variety of factors such as how well you sterilize your equipment, the freshness of your ingredients, and the temperature of your fridge.
DIY almond milk can last 4-5 days.
If it becomes sour quicker than this, your jars may not be adequately sterile or you may have soaked the almonds at room temperature rather than in the fridge.
Follow the same steps for macadamia milk as for almond milk, the only differences being:
Macadamias only need to be soaked for 1-2 hours in cool water
Quantities:: 1 cup of raw macadamias to 3-4 cups of filtered water
How long does macadamia milk last?
Follow the same hygiene/sterilisation steps for longer lasting milk. Macadamia milk should last 5 days in the fridge.
Making oat milk is easy and doesn’t require any pre-soaking. It is made by simply adding oats and filtered water to a high-speed blender on high for 30-45 seconds.
Unlike nut milks, oat milks need to be strained through a thicker cloth rather than a nut milk bag, as they let too much pulp through.
Once strained follow the same decantering process as per the almond and macadamia milk instructions
Quantities: 1 cup rolled oats to 4 cups of filtered water.
Don’t over-blend as the oats can get really slimy
Don’t soak your oats as this will also make them more prone to sliminess
Make sure the added water is cold - lukewarm or hot water will also create a slimy texture
Strain the liquid twice to remove any excess starch
How long does oat milk last?
Well sealed and refrigerated oat milk should last about 5 days. Similarly to almond milk, you will know it has gone bad by taste and smell.
There are of course, a bunch of other nut and plant based recipes out there to follow. You will know what varieties are the most popular at your cafe and can accommodate accordingly!