Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Barry Gray
Coffee and hot water go perfectly together, but is using water the only way in which you can brew coffee?
I know that most people will have an initial reaction where they feel it is the only option, but that’s not entirely true. So, what else can you do? I thought I’d find out.
My aim was to experiment with using milk to brew coffee rather than water. What did I then discover?
Yes, it is possible to use milk in order to brew coffee, but with some restrictions. It only works with certain types of brews, from cold brewing to immersion brewing. Also, never add milk to your coffee machine; it just won’t work, and for reasons I’m sure I will touch upon it later.
But I find all this to be rather interesting. I know using just milk will completely change the end result, so allow me to take you through what I discovered.
Coffee and Milk Work Well Together
So many people are used to having milk in their coffee via a Latte or Cappuccino or simply adding it to an Americano, but there’s a significant difference. The coffee is already made, and then the milk is added to it later.
That changes everything because you have still used water to make the initial coffee, such as an Espresso, and then add milk to give it more of a milky base.
But that’s not what I wanted to do.
I wanted milk to be in the first step of the process and for no water to be used to make the coffee.
The Difficulty With Using Milk
Using milk does come with problems, and the main one is that it’s very easy to end up burning the milk. Clearly, that will change the taste and could potentially ruin your coffee.
Milk will come to a boil and burn at a temperature of 180F, so you can start to see why I mentioned it’s better with cold brewing methods, as that stops things from burning.
I see that as being the biggest issue of brewing coffee with milk. If you did start to introduce a lot of heat, then you need to pay close attention to things.
To test this, I tried overheating milk to see what happened with the taste. Honestly, it’s not nice, and it’s something I would not recommend.
The taste of burnt milk manages to almost overpower the taste of the coffee. It came across as pointless to have made the coffee in the first place.
So, if you do intend to use milk in order to brew coffee, then take care and avoid using too much heat. The odds of making a mess of things by taking your eye off the ball will be quite high.
Milk Makes a Weaker Coffee
I will go into the taste difference later, but at this point, I must stress that milk will weaken your coffee, and I must explain why this happens.
Clearly, milk is thicker than water. It contains fats and proteins, and they play a role in how the coffee is then able to effectively infuse with the liquid.
With water, there are no barriers stopping the coffee from infusing with the liquid, but that’s not the case with milk. It’s almost as if the milk prevents the coffee from getting in, and only a limited amount of flavor from the coffee can effectively blend with the milk.
That is why milk leads to a weaker coffee, but if you are the type of person that does prefer a weaker coffee, then this will not be a problem for you.
Why You Should Not Use Milk in Your Coffee Machine
But before I delve into the different brewing methods where you could use milk rather than water, let me address the issue of your coffee machine.
Clearly, one of the first issues is the heat aspect. Your coffee machine is designed to heat up water, so it won’t take long to send the milk temperature soaring past the figure where it will burn.
That needs to be avoided.
But it’s not the only issue.
Also, there’s the problem of milk effectively clogging up aspects of your coffee machine. That will result in a whole lot of cleaning, and it may even lead to the end of your coffee machine.
Old milk stuck in the machine will burn, curdle, and generally stink. Those aromas can work their way into your coffee, and who wants to drink something like that?
Anything that uses a tank and a pump should be avoided when it comes to using milk. It’s not worth the hassle.
What are the Different Brewing Methods When Using Milk for Coffee?
I’ve identified four different ways in which you can use milk instead of water when brewing coffee. Each one can produce its own results and tastes, and it does show milk is far more versatile when it comes to brewing coffee than you perhaps imagined.
But as I just pointed out, you need to take care of the methods that do involve using some heat.
You can brew coffee with milk when using a French Press, and it’s surprisingly easy to do so.
The key here is to pre-warm the milk, and I would suggest doing this gently and slowly to get it up to temperature. However, keep checking the temperature to ensure you don’t burn the milk.
Add your ground coffee to the bottom of the French Press, and then pour over the pre-warmed milk. Allow this mixture to steep for some time to allow the coffee to infuse with the milk and to create the drink.
Then, just use your French Press as normal, and you should be able to love the end result.
Another option is the pour over; this is another method where I was very happy with how my coffee turned out.
Again, it makes sense that this brewing method has the potential to work when using pre-warmed milk, and even though it was weaker than I would like, it still tasted pretty good.
You do need to pre-warm the milk, in the same way as you do with the French Press method, and pour it over the ground coffee. Don’t worry about the milk, as warming it elsewhere does protect the machine, so nothing will go wrong.
If you only have instant coffee available, then don’t worry, as milk can also work. I know it does mean everything is slowed down a bit, as you need to pre-warm the milk before adding it to your instant coffee.
What I discovered with this method was that it did manage to reduce the sense of bitterness often found in instant coffee. However, that’s no surprise considering the natural sweetness of milk.
Seriously, I felt as if this wasn’t too bad when I used milk instead of water. I feel it’s an excellent place to start out, but try to get the best instant coffee possible.
The final main option is cold brew coffee, and if you have never attempted this before, then I believe that is something that needs to change.
It would be best to leave it to chill in the refrigerator for around 12 hours. If you have made a cold brew with water, you will know this is a shorter time, and it’s a simple explanation as to why.
The fats and proteins in the milk manage to pull out the oils from the coffee, and it does this significantly easier than water. That’s why it takes less time for a cold brew to develop, and I see how it could be an attractive thing for people to try.
Will the Coffee Taste Different?
Finally, what should you expect from a taste perspective if you brew coffee with milk rather than water? Well, I did notice a difference, even though it was not exactly unpleasant.
What I discovered was that the taste of the coffee was different because of the milk. It had more of a milky and creamy taste, which you would expect, but the general taste was smoother and milder.
I certainly felt as if the coffee was lacking some of the punch you would get from a regular Espresso. Still, I understand why that may appeal to some people. Also, my coffee was significantly sweeter than I get when using water, but that’s also not a surprise.
I think if you are the type of person who loves coffee such as a Latte, then using milk to brew your coffee is something that could very well appeal.
However, even though I’m more of an Americano guy, I certainly would not rule out brewing coffee using milk at different times. It does give you a different taste experience, and it’s not one that will put you off drinking coffee as a result.
My Recap on Brewing Coffee With Milk
Brewing coffee with milk is entirely possible, but I’ve covered so many different aspects here that it makes sense to offer a recap regarding the main points.
- It’s very easy to brew coffee with milk
- Be careful as milk burns at 180F
- Burnt milk will ruin your coffee
- Your coffee will taste weaker when brewing with milk
- Do not use your coffee machine when brewing with milk
- Prepare for a creamier coffee
- Prepare for your coffee to taste sweeter
- Pre-warm milk for the methods, but keep an eye on the temperature
I would also stick to the four brewing methods I listed above, and I wouldn’t suggest trying anything else. The four methods are the easiest to do when using milk, and there’s less chance of screwing it up and ruining an otherwise perfectly good coffee.
What I’ve discovered is it is entirely possible to brew coffee with milk, but you must take care and also be selective as to how you brew your coffee.
It’s far too easy to burn the milk leading to a ruined coffee, and yet when done correctly, there’s no doubt coffee brewed with milk can taste amazing. It’s certainly something I would suggest you try on your own, and I think you too will be surprised at what you can achieve.