The main difference between almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, and soy milk is that they all originate from a unique base ingredient. Almond milk is made by crushing almonds and adding them to water, while oat milk is created by soaking oats in salt and water for a very long time. Rice milk comes from rice, and soy milk originates from soybeans.
But, there is so much more to the oat milk vs rice milk conversation than meets the eye, and some of the differences are not quite so obvious. From the number of calories and the overall taste of each milk, to their distinct textures and appearance, there are many differences between almond, oat, rice, and soy milks.
Understanding how each milk compares will add to your base of knowledge as a coffee-enthusiast, and will also allow you to give alternative milk advice to your customers. Let’s explore them!
Caloric Differences: Almond vs Soy vs Rice vs Oat
Since each of these milks has a unique list of ingredients, they all bring a different macronutrient breakdown to the table. Whether you are comparing oat milk vs rice milk, or almond milk vs soy milk, it’s helpful to know the caloric content of all four milks.
We will be looking at the unsweetened versions of all four milks, and that brings up a very important point when purchasing alternative milks: Many almond, oat, rice, and soy milks have added sugar. This information will always be listed on the nutritional label.
Not only does added sugar increase the calories of alternative milks, but sugar also lowers the nutritional value of the milk. There will be a label that says if a drink is sweetened or not, so keep that in mind when fulfilling your ordering. Remember that most barista blends also have additional ingredients that act as thickeners so they can be heated, steamed, and frothed, which can also impact nutritional contents. This might be important to note for any customer who may ask about alternative milk ingredients and information.
Below are some nutrition facts on each type and the corresponding milk:
- Contains 70 calories per 8 fluid ounces
- Fat: 4.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Sugars: 5 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
The above information is based on sweetened alternative milks — though the unsweetened counterpart has about half as many calories. Check out this Califia Farms blended pack to get the best of both worlds.
- Contains 110 calories per 8 fluid ounces
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 21 grams
- Sugars: 10 grams
- Protein: <1 gram
Oat milk can often vary greatly in nutritional value, especially from unsweetened to barista blends. This Minor Figures Barista Blend (whose nutritional facts are shown above) is on the lower end of the caloric spectrum.
- Contains 140 calories per 8 fluid ounces
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 27 grams
- Sugars: 14 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
For a good barista edition rice milk, give this blend a go for your latte needs.
- Contains 90 calories per 8 fluid ounces
- Fat: 4 grams
- Carbohydrates: 4 grams
- Sugars: 1 gram
- Protein: 7 grams
Try Pacific Unsweetened Soy Milk, which is both unsweetened and organic!
Oat milk and rice milk have more calories per serving, vs soy milk and almond milk. Soy milk is the alternative milk with the most protein per serving, vs rice milk, which does not have any protein at all. If you are in the mood for a lighter alternative milk, then either almond milk or rice milk are your best bets. Oat milk and soy milk are thicker, and this is attributed to the fact that they have higher levels of fat than both almond milk and rice milk. Always check the label on your alternative milk for the specific nutritional components.
The Specifics of Each Alternative Milk
- Taste: Almond milk has a very mild nutty aftertaste. The flavors of almond milk are not necessarily reminiscent of almonds, but you can definitely tell almond milk is nut-based.
- Texture: Almond milk can be a bit grainy, and this is simply because nuts have that texture to them.
- Smell: There is not much of a scent, so if your almond milk does have an aroma to it, you might want to make sure it is still good to use. Almond milk has a subtle sour scent to it when it has passed its prime.
- Appearance: Almond milk ranges anywhere from being a very muted light brown, to a soft gray.
- Steamed or Cold? Almond milk tastes best when used for iced almond milk lattes.
- Changes It Makes to Espresso: When almond milk is steamed and paired with espresso, it can offset the natural notes of the espresso. Almond milk does not have an appetizing taste to it when it is taken to too high of a temperature. Keep almond milk below 150 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.
Oat milk is a dairy-free alternative that has been gaining a large amount of attention as of late. Really taking off after the Swedish branded company, Oatly, entered the American coffee culture scene, oat milk has become the most popular of all the dairy-free milk alternatives.
- Taste: Oat milk has a very subtle taste that emulates a bowl of oatmeal.
- Texture: Oat milk is thick, creamy, and dense, while also being light enough so that it doesn’t make drinks too heavy.
- Smell: Oat milk has no obvious scent.
- Appearance: Oat milk is golden brown in color. It looks very similar to soy milk.
- Steamed or Cold? Oat milk is amazing in both forms. Cold oat milk adds a creamy thickness to any beverage, whereas steamed oat milk adds a richness like no other.
- Changes It Makes to Espresso: Oat milk does not make any negative changes when added to espresso. In fact, oat milk helps bring out the natural tasting notes of espresso, which will give your house blend espresso a chance to shine! This is one of the most prized aspects of coffee companies, so oat milk is incredible in the way that it doesn’t alter the taste of the espresso.
- Taste: Rice milk is very mild. It is similar to almond milk, but instead of tasting nutty, it tastes very watery.
- Texture: Rice milk is incredibly smooth, and it has the same consistency as water.
- Smell: Rice milk is nearly tasteless, and as a result, it doesn’t have much of a scent.
- Appearance: Rice milk is white, and it is the alternative milk that looks the most like regular dairy milk from cows.
- Steamed or Cold? Like almond milk, rice milk is very thin. This has to do with the large amount of water that goes into producing rice milk. Since rice milk is mostly water, it can be hard to steam and froth rice milk to perfection. You are more than welcome to try steamed rice milk, but we suggest using rice milk in iced coffee beverages instead.
- Changes It Makes to Espresso: Rice milk complements espresso very well. It doesn’t have much of a taste itself, so the espresso and coffee flavors stand out beautifully.
- Taste: Soy milk tastes like a flavorless coffee creamer. Some people notice that soy milk tastes somewhat chalky, while others do not taste anything other than a slight sweetness.
- Texture: This alternative milk option is thick and smooth in texture.
- Smell: Soy milk doesn’t have a noticeable scent.
- Appearance: Soy milk is tan in color. It looks similar to brewed coffee with creamer stirred into it. Soy milk tends to have small bubbles in it, so if you see a few in your new bottle of soy milk, don’t worry—It’s perfectly normal.
- Steamed or Cold? Soy milk is a dairy alternative that tastes amazing, no matter if it is steamed or kept cold. Enjoy an iced soy milk latte during a sunny afternoon, or a warm soy latte on a breezy morning.
- Changes It Makes to Espresso: Soy milk complements espresso very well. If anything, soy milk will add a natural sweetness to your coffee, but never in a way that is overbearing. You’ll find that flavored syrups aren’t necessary in soy milk lattes.
Which Alternative Milk is Best for You?
When deciding which alternative milk is best for you, we always encourage you to read the label and determine how you feel about the ingredients. The label tells you everything you need to know. Once you see the nutritional label, make a decision about whether or not the macronutrients align with what you want from a milk.
As long as you can drink almond, oat, rice, and soy milk, it is best to try them all out for yourself! You can start out small, every day ordering a latte made with a different milk. For example, we suggested that you pair espresso with cold almond milk, but that doesn’t mean every single person will dislike warm almond milk lattes. If could be your absolute favorite combination, but you’ll never know until you try!
At the end of the day, figuring out which alternative milk is best for you starts with deciding what you’re looking for, and then going from there. If you would rather try almond, oat, rice, and soy milk from home, Barista Underground sells all four of these alternative milks! Try one alternative milk at a time, or purchase the variety pack, if you’re feeling adventurous.