One of the most common myths we hear is that milk ruins the taste of coffee. Many will argue that milk mutes the flavours of specialty coffee, and you can only truly appreciate it if you drink it black. This is simply not true. Firstly, it’s inarguable that milk and coffee make a beautiful pairing; otherwise there would be no such drinks as lattes, cappuccinos or even the flat white. Secondly, it’s almost silly to assert that milk – with the mildest of flavours – could cancel out the delicious, assertive complexity of a high-quality coffee.
It’s all a matter of personal taste. Some prefer their coffee with milk, others like it black, and many coffee drinkers enjoy it both ways. We encourage you to try every new-to-you coffee with milk (full-fat is best) and without, and ignore the myth about milk.
DOES MILK MUTE COFFEE?
We already asserted that milk muting the flavours of coffee is a myth, but there is a reason behind the rumour. Poor-quality coffee generally tastes better with milk, so it’s somewhat logical to think the milk is masking (or muting) its less palatable flavours. And if milk mutes the flavours of bad coffee, wouldn’t it also do the same thing with good coffee?
What is really happening is that milk’s natural sweetness helps to balance the bitterness of cheap coffee, while its richness improves the body and mouthfeel. As a result, the coffee tastes better with milk. When you add milk to specialty coffee, it complements the coffee’s flavours and mouthfeel in a way that’s pleasant to most palates. Coffees that taste great without milk usually taste great with milk as well, so just go with your personal preference.
A FEW EXCEPTIONS
Most specialty coffees blend beautifully with milk, be it just a touch or enough to turn it into a latte. That said, there are some exceptions. Milk certainly complements some coffees more than others, and it’s a good idea to experiment whenever you’re trying a new type of specialty coffee. Those with notes of chocolate, nuts and caramel are wonderful with milk, whereas coffees with floral flavours might taste better black. With fruity coffees, it depends on the individual flavour profile. Those with stone fruit and berry notes often go nicely with milk, whereas citrussy coffees generally do not.
So, if you like coffee with milk, drink coffee with milk. Pay no mind to the myth that milk will ruin the taste of coffee!