Making your favourite coffee shop drinks at home is a great way to satisfy those in-between cafe trips. And if you’re searching for dairy milk alternatives in coffee shops due to allergies, intolerances or just to explore a range of new flavours, you may have a hard time finding exactly what you want. Here, we break down the best lactose-free milks and the popular café beverages they pair best with.

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Lactose-Free Milks

Nut Milk: Popularly made with almonds, but trendy new varieties such as hazelnut and macadamia are equally available. Homemade nut milk is simple, but won’t be as stable when heating for beverage recipes. Look for nut milk fresh or in shelf-stable tetra packs in your local grocery store. Many cafés and even some larger chain coffee shops are now beginning to carry nut milks as a second dairy-free option along with soy milk.

Soy Milk: One of the first lactose-free, dairy-free milks to sweep the café seen, soy milk is thick, creamy and sweet. Choose unsweetened, plain varieties (or you’re getting a ton of added sugar) when purchasing for homemade coffee shop drinks. Soy milk has the most protein of all non-dairy milks, but many people avoid it due to its high amounts of phytoestrogens, which can disrupt hormone balance in both women and men.

Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is popular with larger coffee shop chains as a soy alternative because it’s not actually a nut, but a fruit. Creamy, sweet and floral, coconut milk (usually the thin beverage is used as opposed to thick canned types) compliments everything from espresso to chocolate, and heats well without curdling.

Rice Milk: Offering little in the way of nutrition, rice milk is usually purchased by those who are seeking something slightly creamy, but are allergic to nut, soy, dairy and coconut milks. Very thin, it’s not the best non-dairy milk to use for coffee shop beverages, but will still give a “milky” appearance. Other grain milks appearing on the market include oat milk and quinoa milk, which have more nutrients and a touch more creaminess (though they are more expensive).

Lactose-Free Milk: This milk is an animal product (dairy) that has had the lactose taken out of it. If you have lactose intolerance but still love the taste of dairy milk, choose this for your coffee when out and at home. Some baristas say that this milk tastes a touch sweeter than regular dairy variety. If you’re concerned about sugar, go for whole milk varieties because when it comes to dairy, the higher the milk fat percentage, the lower the sugar/carbohydrate content.

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Coffee Shop Drinks and Lactose-Free Milk Pairings

The flavours of alternative milks go wonderfully with coffee, lending sweet, nutty notes to your drinks. Here are some ideas to get your started in the flavour department.

Drink: Latte
Best With: almond milk, coconut milk beverage, soy milk or lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Allison Day’s Classic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Drink: Americano (Hot or Iced)
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.

Drink: Frappuccino
Best With: thick canned coconut milk.
Try this recipe for a Light Frappuccino

Drink: Macchiato
Best With: thick canned coconut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Chai Latte
Best With: coconut milk beverage, almond milk, rice milk, lactose-free milk.
Try this recipe for Bal Arneson’s Chai Latte

Drink: Cortado
Best With: soy milk, macadamia nut milk, lactose-free milk.

Drink: Cold Brew Coffee
Best With: thick canned coconut milk, soy milk.
Try this recipe for Ashley Tomlinson’s Cold Brew Coffee

Drink: Flat White
Best with: almond milk, hazelnut milk or soy milk.

Drink: Hot Chocolate
Best With: hazelnut milk (for a “nutella” flavour), almond milk, macadamia nut milk, soy milk, or thick canned coconut milk (for extra-rich hot chocolate).
Try this recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate

Drink: Cappuccino
Best With: almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, macadamia nut milk.