I've been having some trouble as of late with my espresso curdling my steamed soy milk. Any ideas on how to remedy this? I've tried Silk brand, 8th Continent, + generic brands - they all have slightly different texture, but they all still curdle when they hit the espresso. Almond milk mixes perfectly with a nice consistency, but not the soy.

Thanks for your help!

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What temp are you steaming it to? I find that it may curdle if it gets a little too hot.

I've tried everything - 120 - 140. Both seem to curdle...

While I've never really studied the reasons why, the "curdling" of soy (which is probably more accurately a de-emulsification) happens only with some coffees.  Perhaps there is a level of acidity or pH in a coffee that causes this effect.  

Of course, considering how unnatural soy milk is, it would be better if we didn't serve it at all.

Yeah, I don't know the science behind why it happens, but I noticed certain brands steam better than others.

I don't know which brand Intelligentsia uses, but they seem to be able to make pretty decent latte art with soy.

At our shop, we just use "Silk," and it gets pretty gross. I asked the manager if he can get us some better soy milk, and he said he'll sleep on it. I took that as a "No."

It sucks, 'cause we're in West Hollywood, where 50% of our customers are lactose intolerant. I wish we could present them with a better looking cup, than a curdled mess on top...

We use Kikkoman Pearl Soy Milk - it's organic and curdling is rare. It's way better than Silk!

Soy doesn't have the same consistency as milk, or the nutritional make up- so it really shouldn't be treated exactly like cow's milk...  I've had success with keeping the tip of the wand to a 45* angle like you'd do for a capp, and barely submerge the tip.  You want to have constant texturing until about 100* and then barely submerge it to keep everything moving.  Soy foam has a bad habit of separating quickly if you don't let it mix (or swirl) under the wand as long as possible. and don't steam it over 130*. I'm lactose intolerant and i can pour decent latte art with the technique i just described without curdling.

We use Pacific Natural Products Barista Soy and have never had a problem with it curdling. It also makes some REALLY decent latte art. The flavor isn't bad, either! Some soy products really don't taste that great, but it mixes great with espresso and regular coffee.

So if anyone is interested in the science, by adding soymilk to hot coffee you are basically following the recipe for making tofu!

Heat + coagulant + soymilk = tofu, though usually a salt such as magnesium chloride (nigari) is used as a coagulant rather than an acid. Lemon juice can actually be used and although coffee is not sufficiently acidic to make usable tofu, it will make a mess of your drink. Typically temperatures of around 170F+ are used for tofu production, though again, anything over 120F coupled with an acid could be enough to spoil your drink.

Some soy creamers may contain a stabilizer to prevent this and the variations people experience are usually down to additives of some kind in their soymilk, though I can't recommend one in particular. Otherwise you are fighting the laws of chemistry I'm afraid!

(I do actually make my own tofu regularly for Japanese cuisine and find the art & science of it almost as interesting as that of coffee!)

Wow, that's an awesome technical breakdown. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Chris Holden said:

So if anyone is interested in the science, by adding soymilk to hot coffee you are basically following the recipe for making tofu!

Heat + coagulant + soymilk = tofu, though usually a salt such as magnesium chloride (nigari) is used as a coagulant rather than an acid. Lemon juice can actually be used and although coffee is not sufficiently acidic to make usable tofu, it will make a mess of your drink. Typically temperatures of around 170F+ are used for tofu production, though again, anything over 120F coupled with an acid could be enough to spoil your drink.

Some soy creamers may contain a stabilizer to prevent this and the variations people experience are usually down to additives of some kind in their soymilk, though I can't recommend one in particular. Otherwise you are fighting the laws of chemistry I'm afraid!

(I do actually make my own tofu regularly for Japanese cuisine and find the art & science of it almost as interesting as that of coffee!)

Here in Prescott, AZ - I use Cartel Coffee Labs beans, which are masterfully roasted to somewhere just between light and medium roasts, leaving more acid in the coffee, resulting in the coffee tofu.  I am going to try Pacific Soy milk and see how it treats me.  Thanks errybuddy!

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