Sunday 29 May 2016

How to Make Vegan Espresso-Based Coffee Drinks

is espresso vegan
The term' vegan coffee' is almost a redundant phrase. After all, coffee is made from dried, roasted, then ground coffee beans, and – at the risk of sounding pedantic – coffee beans are the pips of the fruits harvested from coffee shrubs or trees. Not to put too fine a point on it, coffee is plant-based and undoubtedly vegan. (The exception, of course, being weasel coffee - a delicacy in Vietnam, where coffee beans are eaten by weasels, and then the beans (which come out whole) are cleaned and served. This would still arguably be vegan, except these weasels are almost exclusively kept in captivity. But as most people don't drink weasel coffee, most coffee is vegan.)

How to Make Vegan Coffee

That said, unless you always order black coffee, you risk getting non-vegan coffee at your local coffee shop. The good news is, with the right coffee equipment and some practice, you can make your own vegan latte, cappuccino and flat white. Making good vegan coffee at home is totally doable. You need:

  • One shot of espresso and around 60 millilitres of steamed non-dairy milk with a thin, stiff foam layer to make one serving of a vegan café latte
  • One shot of espresso, 30 ml of steamed non-dairy milk, and around 30 ml of stiff non-dairy milk foam to make one serving of a vegan cappuccino
  • One shot of espresso and around 60 ml of non-dairy steamed milk with a non-stiff micro-foam layer to make one serving of a vegan flat white.
how to make vegan coffee
The following equipment is necessary for too:

  • An espresso machine with a steam wand and frother
  • Digital coffee scales
  • A coffee grinder.

How to Make Espresso

Use your usual method and coffee-water ratio if you know how to make espresso at home. Otherwise, use your espresso machine and follow these steps:

#1. Prepare your coffee!

The most convenient option is to buy espresso roast coffee beans from a trusted supplier. Buy only enough to last several days and store your beans somewhere cool, dark and dry (not the refrigerator) to keep them fresh. Scoop beans into your coffee grinder. Grind your coffee beans until it looks finer than table salt. Buy espresso ground coffee if you don't have a good coffee grinder.

#2. Put the coffee in the portafiller!

Put the right amount of coffee grounds into the espresso machine’s portafilter and use your hands to distribute the coffee evenly. The right amount will vary depending on your preferences. It can be between seven and 10 grams for a single shot. Put the portafiller down on a table or counter top. Applying a downward force and rotating the tamper counter-clockwise a few times, level the coffee grounds.

#3. Pull the shot!

First, run the espresso machine to clear the group head. Next, attach the portafilter to the said group head and lock it in place. Put a coffee scale underneath the espresso spout. Put a clear, graduated glass cup on the scale to collect the coffee. Press the tare function so the scale will subtract the weight of your cup from the measurement it will display. If your digital scale doesn't have a tare function, note the cup's weight and add that to your desired yield (liquid coffee weight) so you'll know when you've extracted the right amount of coffee.
can vegans drink espresso
Run the espresso machine and wait until you've achieved your desired yield (i.e., amount of liquid coffee). This can be:

  • 1:1 – If you used 10 g of coffee grounds, you want 10 g of liquid coffee
  • 1:2 – That's 20 g of liquid coffee for 10 g of ground coffee 
  • 1:3 – That's 30 g of liquid coffee for 10 g of ground coffee

Your brew ratio can be anything in between or beyond the above ratios. Remember, use a lower ratio to achieve a darker roast flavour and a higher ratio to achieve a lighter roast. Ideally, you will achieve the correct yield in 24-30 seconds. If your machine is pulling espresso shots at a faster or slower rate than that, adjust your grind size.

How to Make Steamed Vegan Milk

Oat milk is the preferred dairy milk substitute because it froths beautifully and has a mild flavour that complements espresso well. Coconut milk is another option. You'd love it if you want something tastier and creamier. Other dairy substitutes include soy, cashew and rice milk. Just note that these alternatives have different frothing abilities and characteristics. Experiment with different milks to find the one you like. For best results, use barista-grade non-dairy milk alternatives.

Steaming Oat Milk

You need a steam wand attachment to make steamed milk. Get cold oat milk, shake it, and fill a metal pitcher to about midway (or lower). Do not overfill. Submerge the steam wand off to one side and just under the surface of the milk. This will help create the micro-foam you need for a latte.
how to make a vegan latte
Continue steaming and aerating the milk until it's sufficiently hot, but you can still hold the pitcher with your palm (55 °C or lower). Stop steaming, give the pitcher a thump to get rid of large air bubbles, and let the milk rest for 10-20 seconds to help the micro-foam set. You can use this steamed milk for your café latte. If making a flat white, don't let the milk rest so the foam layer won't set.

How to Make Milk Foam

A cappuccino needs foam. You can make this separately or create more foam when you steam your milk. Note that non-dairy milk alternatives don't produce the same froth height as dairy milk. That said, you can still make a satisfactory foam with oat milk. For best results, use a frother and make your milk foam right before you need it.

Wrap Up: Make Vegan Espresso-Based Coffee Drinks

Some people were surprised to find out that coffee was vegan, I wrote more about that in a different blog post - surprisingly things vegans can eat. But black coffee is and always will be vegan. However, if you want a bit of milk – e.g., café latte, cappuccino and flat white – you must use dairy alternatives for your steamed milk and milk foam. If you're adding liqueurs and flavoured syrups, check that these are vegan, too.

What about you, how do you prepare your vegan coffee? Feel free to share any tips & advice below!

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