Latest update: 11/1/2014
We’ve made the switch to almond milk and for the most part could not be happier. The biggest challenge so far is finding an almond milk that froths/foams for use in such drinks as a cappuccino. What we want is the thick rich foam that you can just pour (or scoop) into the cup and that holds strong consistency. To make your cappuccino “dryer” you can let the foam sit for an extra minute or two and then scoop it out with a spoon.
The foam is not just a “topper” that covers the coffee. A “topper” is much closer to a latte consisting of mostly steamed milk mixed with espresso and a scoop or two of foam on top. With a cappuccino, it’s a lot of foam infused with a shot or two of espresso. Taking it a step “dryer,” a common variation of the espresso macchiato can be made in the same manner, but using just a scoop or two of foam.
So you are looking for thick rich foam filling most of the drink:
Before adding the espresso:
Bubbles or Foam?
Answer: Foam! We are not looking for big soap bubbles here. You want rich small/micro-bubble foam that keeps a pretty strong shape. Notice how after pouring the shot of espresso in the drink below, the foam just has a small crater and keeps its shape. Again, 3/4 of this drink is made up of foam, leaving 1/4 for the shot of espresso and a bit of the steamed milk.
Below is a picture of an iced cappuccino. The foam to espresso ratio here is a bit different. This is mostly caused by the ice melting as the hot shot of espresso is poured over it. Also, I use a lot of ice. So the coffee part that you see here is still filled mostly with ice.
To Shake or Not Shake?
I was surprised at this answer: do not shake. I always figured that foaming milk required agitating it, so there should be no problem with rigorously shaking the carton before pouring it in the frother. Time and time again, this only caused the foam bubbles to be larger than what we were aiming for. Still this could just be coincidence. Any real science here?
What Brands are the Best?
Below is a list of almond milk brands and the quality of foam that we’ve achieved:
|Almond Breeze||Good-ish||Good (Bitter)||Good||Yes||It initially foams really well, but then seems to dry/drain out within a few minutes.|
|Lucerne Non-GMO Almond Milk||Poor||Fair||Poor||unknown||Consistently yields large foam bubbles or just nothing at all. This is the type that looks like dish soap bubbles and seems to almost disappear when you spoon it out.|
|Silk Almond Milk Original||Fair||Good||Fair||unknown||Tends to be only big bubbles or just a bunch of foam that collapses (like soap bubbles). Every now and then it seemed to work okay but was not consistent. The benefit is that you can find it just about everywhere.|
|Pacific Organic Almond Milk*||Great||Good||Good||Yes||Works well, but has Carrageenan :(|
|Whole Foods 365 Organic**||Great||Good||Good||No||Currently does not work well.|
|Trader Joe’s Almond Milk (2014)||Good||Good||Good||No||It’s back! Milk is foaming again with the new recipe change. We’ve seen this milk come and go as recipe’s change. However, the latest we’ve tried produces a creamier cappuccino with decent foam. It’s not organic :( Good news: It does not have Carrageenan.|
** Whole foods had some sort of production/quality-control issue that affected the stock of 365 Almond Milk in early/mid-2013. Some batches were good, some were bad, then it was pulled from the shelves for 1-2 months. As of August 2013, it’s back on the shelves and so far so good.
Mixing it Up
We’ve been experimenting with blending the milks to get that closer-to-perfection foam. If you are not getting think enough foam, try mixing in 50% Almond Breeze. Note, the Almond Breeze does have Carrageenan.
Update on Whole Foods
It appears that something has changed in this latest batch. We have tested 2 cartons of the “Expires in June 2013” Almond Milk and they are not foaming at all (collapsing soap bubbles). We still have some “Expires in May 2013” that foams well. So for those trying it out for the first time, you may be out of look for the refrigerated stuff. I suggest that you buy the smaller $1.99 non-refrigerated version. We have tried several of the ones that “Expires in Nov 2013” and they foam very well. However, the “Expires in Dec 2013,” “Expires in Jan 2013,” and “Expires in Feb 2014” have not foamed well at all.
All ingredients and nutritional information remain the same, but something clearly has changed. We contacted our local store and Whole Foods corporate. They said no ingredients have changed and they will look into it. Perhaps it’s just a quality control issue on some of the ingredients.
(May 2013 Update) – Good news
We’ve tried the next batch of refrigerated Whole Foods Organic 365 Almond Milk (with expiration dates in July 2013) and it’s back to foaming. The foam is rich/creamy again but is a bit wetter than it used to be. This makes a really good cappuccino, but if you are looking for a dry cappuccino, you might want to stick with Almond Breeze for now.
(June 2013 Update) – OOS?
As of early June, it seems that now there is a production problem with Whole Foods 365 Organic Almond Milk and some stores don’t have any of the refrigerated in stock at all. Our local store is completely “out of stock” though no one at the store knew why.
Whole Foods says that it’s just an out-of-stock issue with their supplier. Will keep you posted on any details that we hear.
(August 2013 Update) – Back and Foaming!
Finally! It’s back in stock at our local stores. We’ve heard some mixed feedback here about the recipe, but so far we’ve liked it. Our primary use is for foaming milk to use in coffee and we are glad to saw that the new recipe is back to actually foaming and foaming well.
(August 2013 Update) – Back and Foaming!
And it’s out again. Seems to no longer foam for us.
Update on Trader Joe’s
Just as Whole Foods seems to have been taking out of the game (still not sure why) – Trader Joe’s has come back. Their latest batch that we’ve tried Oct 2014 seems to be creating that rich foam again. Let’s hope this lasts.
As of 2014, we switched to the Nespresso/DeLonghi machine with built in frother.
The frother is made for an individual cup so it’s not as substantial as the dedicated Froth Au Lait, but it still works great.
Still this poses the same question that we have about Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.. Is there a quality control issue going on here or is it just a fluke? Does anyone have any insight?
More Helpful Resources:
Note: For those that are interested, unless otherwise specified, the milks listed do not have any Carrageenan in them (a somewhat common ingredient to soy, coconut, and almond based milks).
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