Favorite coffee shop: Why is Oat Milk so wildly popular?

Oat milk is so popular in coffee shops these days.

In the past, it would have been difficult to find coffee shops that offer oat milk as an alternative to dairy milk. Oat milk is widely available in today’s coffee scene.

Oatly was one of many oat milk brands available to purchase in America. Only 10 coffee shops had Oatly stock in 2017 This number has risen to approximately 3,500 in 2019, according to the latest estimates. 

oat milk drink

This is a remarkable shift in consumer behavior. This is what we’re going to investigate. Toby Weedon (Barista Market Developer Oatly) and Eric Grimm (Catering Manager Joe Coffee Company), spoke to me to discuss why this has happened and what makes oatmilk different from other milks. They also discussed how baristas can work with it to maximize its potential.


Smooth, balanced, slightly sweetened and well-balanced, this milk alternative has revolutionized the coffee scene. But how does oat milk get made?

Producing commercial oat milk involves harvesting, transporting, and then storing the oats in large sterile silos. The oats and water are then mixed together to make a thick, liquid.

To speed up the breakdown of carbohydrates in the oatmeal, enzymes are added to the slurry. This helps in naturally sweetening it.
After straining the mixture, any hard fibers will be removed. The result is a smooth, thick liquid which is essentially oat milk. To increase its nutritional value, it can be flavoured with vitamins or minerals.

Pasteurization involves heating the liquid with mild heat. This process ensures the product’s safety and extends its shelf-life. The oat milk can then be stored in sterile silos again before being packaged and shipped to the customer.


Oat milk is a commodity that has been in commercial sale for more than twenty years. Pacific Foods began selling its oat milk to the US in 1996. Oatly also started manufacturing oat drinks in Sweden back in the 1990s. Why did it take so long for the consumers to see this trend?

There have been many changes in consumer behavior over the past decade. The rise in veganism is correlated with higher interest in non-dairy milks such as oat milk and increased consumption. Globally, veganism is growing due to increasing awareness about the environment and healthy lifestyles. The UK has seen a significant increase in vegans, with 540,000 compared to 150,000 over the previous decade. Veganuary encourages people who are vegan to follow a vegan diet and could help increase the number of consumers switching to dairy alternatives.

Similar to oat milk’s popularity surge, a generalized increased awareness of sustainable and environmental issues is also a major factor. Toby, who lives in London, said that the recent popularity spike is not to be denied. It is indicative of a global mood change in people who want to make a positive impact on the world.

These shifts in behavior are evident. The UK saw a 71% increase in sales of oat milk between 2017 and 2019, while the US saw a rise in retail sales to oat milk to US$29 million in 2019. In order to compete against established brands, Califia farms and Silk each began making their own oat milk last year. Peet’s Coffee, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks all announced this year that they will include oat milk in their menus.


Oat milk’s popularity is due to its environmental benefits. The entire process of making oat milk is sustainable and has low environmental impact.

When assessing the environmental impacts of food and drinks, there are many factors to consider. The first is land usage, which is the amount of space required to produce certain foods. Not only is land required to grow food, but also for forestry. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. It is possible to use less space to grow crops and animals, which can make it more suitable for forestry. Water consumption is the amount of water required to grow the crop. This is a finite resource. Also measured is the release of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas that heats the earth’s atmosphere.

A 200 ml/7-oz glass of oat milk requires 0.8 square meters of ground and 5 liters water. It emits less than 0.3 kg CO2 and takes up just under 0.3 km2 of space.

Oat Milk vs. Dairy milk: Which is better for the environment?

Oat milk is more environmentally harmful than cow’s milk. A 200ml glass cow’s milk contains just over 0.6kg of carbon, requires over 1.5 miles of land and 120 litres water to produce.

Dairy milk takes ten times as much land to produce than oat milk and has the greatest impact on the environment. Onyx Coffee Lab is a coffee shop and roastery that opened a new location at Bentonville, Arkansas US. They have chosen to use oat milk in all their drinks, except when customers request dairy.

We don’t advocate dairy but we want customers and visitors to the… space to have a different experience with our coffee. Introducing a $1 dairy upcharge, or a carbon tax, seemed like an innovative way to get people to consider their options. Andrea Allen, owner of the coffee shop, tells me that plant-based beverages are becoming more commonplace and less of an option.

Oat Milk and Other Alternative Milks

Almond milk has a lower environmental impact than oat milk. Almonds grow on less land, release 0.17kg CO2 per hectare, but require an astonishing 74-litres of water to make one glass.

Soymilk has a similar effect on the environment to that of oat milk. Although it is 0.03 kg more carbon dioxide than oat, it only requires around half the water and needs a lot less land to grow.

Toby explains why Oatly used oats as an ingredient in its beverage: “Oats were chosen due to their positive environmental credentials and strong nutritional benefits.” Toby believes that people will enjoy the delicious, oaty alternatives to dairy products such milk, yoghurt, and ice creams that have a lower environmental footprint.


Every alternative milk has a different flavor and a different way to drink it.

Oat milk is available to many people who are unable to drink other types. Oat milk is free of most allergens, if the oats are gluten-free. It’s often fortified with vitamins, minerals, and a lot soluble fiber which can help our digestive systems.

Oat milk is known for its thick texture and creamy mouthfeel. It’s often compared to other milk options as milk-like. Oat milk is generally mildly sweet but not too sweet. This will vary depending on the brand of oat milk you buy. Some have more added sugars than others and some have thinner consistency.

Toby explains that the Swedish team worked hard to replicate the flavor and performance of dairy during the formulation process. This was done to remove the barrier to entry to plant milks. Oatly isn’t meant to be carbon-copied cow’s milk. However, it follows the same principles as cow’s milk in being rich, creamy and slightly sweet.

Oat milk is thicker than almond milk and has a richer flavor. However, it can also contain more calories and sugars. Soy milk is almost as creamy as oat milk, and has twice the protein as dairy milk. Proteins are a part of the chemical makeup of milk. They affect the heat of milk. Higher protein levels mean that it is easier to heat milk. You can choose which plant-based milk you want to use with your coffee based on the taste and texture as well as health benefits.


Oat milk interacts with coffee in much the same way as cow’s milk. Eric tells Eric that oat milk can bring sweetness to complex, fruity coffees if it is the right amount of oat milk to the coffee.

Oat milk is similar to regular milk and can be used with many types of coffee shop beverages. Oatly and Minor Figures have released ready-to drink canned oat milk beverages. These include nitro lattes (chai lattes), chai lattes and iced matcha mochas.

Barista Edition blends of oat milk are better suited to steaming and pouring lattes. Toby says that the Barista Edition… has the highest fat content and was the first product to have an acidity regulator.


Eric tells Eric that oatmeal milks specially formulated for café use (usually labeled as Barista Series) steam like regular milk and create comparable latte art.

The steam arm can still be used in the same place in the pitcher as for cow’s milk steaming. Also, the milk can be steam to the same temperature of 5565degC/131149degF. You should add more air to oat milk than you would dairy milk in order for the foam to be as stable as possible. This will result in a smoother texture, which retains its form for longer and stays that way.

Oat milk will heat faster than regular milk so it is worth using a thermometer to check the temperature.

So that the drink has a more balanced texture, steam the milk for about 40 seconds.

Baristas tend to think that you should work faster and firmer with oat milk when creating latte artwork to retain its shape. You can control your pouring design more effectively by doing this.

This non-dairy milk replacement may appeal to you, whether you are curious about the taste of oat milk cappuccino or you are concerned about your diet and environmental impact.

Try one next time you go to your local coffee shop. See how it compares with your milk or alternative.