Farmers working with specialty coffees spend an enormous amount of time and care preparing their crop to be exported. At Corvus Coffee, each coffee we purchase has been planted by hand, the ripest berries have been picked by hand, and the beans are meticulously and intentionally processed to produce the highest quality coffees possible. An incredible amount of time and care is placed on every element from crop to cup. But if the focus we put into our products stops at the coffee itself, we grossly under represent the efforts of the farmers and the baristas. That is why we choose to make our dairy-free milk in house. Taking the effort to intentionally design a milk alternative was simply an extension of the process of serving the highest quality beverage possible.
In an ideal world, dairy milk would not be an issue for anyone to drink, and would all be ethically produced. In reality, many people cannot consume cow’s milk for a variety of reasons, whether they have an allergy or an aversion to animal products. Our in-house almond-cashew milk was designed to bridge the gap between coffee consumers who love a whole-milk latte and those who dislike dairy but still want a high-end drink, not something out of a box.
Through trial and error, we found that many of the milk alternatives on the market not only steamed poorly, but detracted from the taste of our carefully selected coffees. Not finding the right fit with packaged options, we took matters into our own hands. Several shops around town make their almond milk in house, and we wanted to more closely emulate the texture and taste of milk itself. While almonds have a refreshing flavor that works well in coffee beverages, cashews add a delightful creaminess to the milk substitute that almonds alone do not provide. We chose cashew for consistency and to offer some differentiation.
While it takes a significant amount of time and dedication to make our own almond-cashew milk, we find the result entirely worth the effort. We raise the expectation for the consumer to a higher level as we attempt to raise the quality of our beverages not only in the coffees we bring into the shop, but in our preparation and presentation of all drinks. Sure, our standard cappuccino is wonderful, but vegans now love us, too.
Our recipe is fairly simple. It requires salt, vanilla or simple syrup, cashews, almonds, and water. In order to get the most out of the nuts, we soak them in filtered water in the refrigerator overnight at a nuts-to-water ratio of one-to-one. The next morning, we drain the water from the nuts and weigh out the nuts in a ratio of one part soaked nuts and two parts filtered water. We blend this until no large pieces remain, then pour the blended mixture through a fine brew bag or cheesecloth. Wearing gloves allows us to wring the cheesecloth, guiding the blended mixture into a sealable container. After the entire batch has been blended and strained, we add about one gram of salt per quart to emphasize the creamy flavor and texture, plus an additional two ounces of our house-made vanilla syrup to bring out some sweetness. Our vanilla is more rich than sweet, so there is very little sugar overall in the almond-cashew milk.
As with all non-dairy milks, the characteristics of almond-cashew milk differ slightly from cow’s milk, but the milk steams and pours surprisingly well. We found that stretching the almond milk more drastically than we would cow’s milk, right at first, and steaming it at a slightly lower temperature overall yields the best results in terms of flavor and texture.
We are thrilled that the almond-cashew milk program at our shop has been such a great success. People are excited about the house-made option that we serve, and some have started to come to our shop on a regular basis simply because we offer this high-quality alternative to milk. Though it takes a little extra time, it has paid off. For us, being intentional and transparent about our coffee is at the heart of what we do, which means every ingredient that we use has a story and plays a part in what we create on a daily basis. Getting to pour and steam our own milk alternative, one with character, allows us to be proud of all of our drinks, not just the classics.
—Kevin Foth is in charge of retail operations for Corvus Coffee Roasters in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Cory Eldridge.