Plenty of people add milk to their coffee all over the world. In your regular coffee shop, there are plenty of variations of coffee-and-milk; think cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, macchiatos -- and that’s just naming the Italian-style coffees.
Whether you like milk, creamer, or foam in your coffee is up to you -- some coffee lovers insist on black coffee. But there is some science behind why milk in your coffee may make your coffee taste better!
A bitter cup
Coffee is full of different molecules that contribute to its complex flavor, all combining together to that coffee taste we love. But there is one taste in particular that you don’t want overpowering your cup of coffee: bitterness.
Tannins significantly contribute to the bitter taste you might find in coffee - depending on the type of bean, type of roast, and brewing time - along with some bitterness from caffeine molecules and other components. Having some tannin in your coffee might not necessarily be a bad thing, tannins are also present in other food and drinks including red wine, but too much will leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, literally.
Adding milk to your coffee adds fats and proteins to this mix of molecules, and both change the way your coffee tastes.
Without milk, coffee is mostly water, and feels as such when drinking. But if you add the fats present in milk, the coffee texture will be thicker and smoother, changing the way coffee feels in your mouth.
The proteins in the milk will change the taste by binding to the bitter compounds in your coffee, such as those tannins, masking the bitter flavor that’s not desirable in a good coffee. On the other hand, the proteins react with some of the acids, which might not always be desirable -- some coffee drinkers enjoy the brightness these acids add to coffee.
Which milk to use?
The more fat and proteins present in milk, the stronger the milk will affect the taste. That’s why adding heavy cream will result in a smoother-tasting cup than adding skim milk, and most milk alternatives will not have the same masking effect.
Soy, rice, coconut and almost milk are mostly made with water, so will not change the taste in the same way cow’s milk will. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add milk alternatives to your coffee; for people with milk allergies, vegans, or people who want to manage their fat intake, milk alternatives can make great-tasting beverages. It will just taste different than with cow's milk.
Whether you add milk, creamer or milk alternatives to your coffee is a matter of personal taste, but now you know there’s some science behind it! And don’t forget that you can easily create a low caffeine version of your favorite specialty coffee with the Decaf Pouch!
Written by Valerie Bentivegna