As part of Cooking Week, we set out to test some of the most niche (and, in some cases, ridiculous) kitchen gadgets we could find. We wanted to know if these impressive-looking appliances actually do what they claim and if they’re worth the splurge. These are our findings.
I’ve been drinking non-dairy milk almost exclusively for about eight years, but only recently did I think to make my own. Even since I made the transition from cow to almond milk, many more non-dairy milk options have hit the market. Just go to your local supermarket and you’ll find different varieties and flavors of almond, cashew, soy, oat and coconut milk, and even the occasional pea and flax milk choices, too.
With all that choice, it may seem counterintuitive to make your own non-dairy milk at home, but Almond Cow believes that there are plenty of people who would rather take that route. Almond Cow is a company that makes a milk-maker machine that shares its name that removes a lot of the work involved with making your own non-dairy milk. It’s essentially a big, high-powered blender with just enough moving parts to make alt milks at home, including an attached blade, a filter basket, a big base and a motor inside that makes all of the magic happen.
Before I get into my time with the Almond Cow, it’s worth mentioning that plant milk machines aren’t new, but they aren’t as ubiquitous as standard blenders either. In addition to the Almond Cow, there are a number on the market from companies including Nutr, ChefWave and Tribest – all more niche than a regular ol’ blender, which is exactly why I wanted to give one a go.
And I should say: You could easily make plant milk using a blender (the more high-performance, the better), but it requires a few additional steps, namely filtering your blended up ingredients through a nut milk bag. It’s time consuming and messy, and honestly it’s one of the main reasons why I never wanted to try to make my own alt milk at home. In testing the Almond Cow, I was hoping to figure out if making plant milk would actually be worthwhile and if it could help me reduce the amount of store-bought plant milk I buy.
I’ll admit, the Almond Cow is a bit intimidating when you unbox it. It’s basically a big stainless steel jug with a removable top that has the machine’s blade attached to it. A bit larger than your standard pitcher of lemonade, it can make five to six cups of plant milk at a time. It doesn’t take up too much counter space and I found it easy to clean as well. It also comes with a “collector cup,” which is just a plastic vessel with grooves on the bottom that perfectly cradles the machine’s removable top, making clean up easier and way less messy than you’d think.
After washing all the included parts first, I dove into my first endeavor: making cashew milk. The machine comes with a book of recipes, which I followed almost to a tee. Five cups of water went into the base of the Almond Cow, while the following went into the filter basket: one cup of unsoaked cashews, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and two pitted dates (the recipe called for three, but I prefer very lightly or unsweetened plant milk). I twisted the filter basket into place so that the machine’s blade was submerged in the ingredients and then placed the whole top back onto the base.
After that, it’s literally a one-button process. With the machine plugged in, you only need to press the top button on the Almond Cow and let it go. The device automatically cycles through three blending modes, which infuse the water with your ingredients while grinding them down into a fine pulp that stays in the filter basket. The blending process takes maybe 90 seconds, tops, so the whole process from ingredients to finished plant milk takes maybe three to five minutes. If you have the necessary ingredients at home, this is much faster than popping out to the grocery store to pick up a new carton of plant milk.
The results were impressive. My first batch of cashew milk was subtly sweet with a creamy, smooth texture. Cashew milk has a pretty neutral flavor and my homemade batch tasted similar to the cashew milk I get at the grocery store. The biggest difference I noticed came a couple days later when the cashew portion of the milk settled to the bottom of the mason jar I was storing it in. Settling will happen with almost any non-dairy milk – that’s why every carton advises you to “shake well” – so I only noticed a hint of graininess when I drank the very last portion of my homemade milk (something I’ve never experienced with industrially made alt milks, even when I neglected to shake the carton). That’s not to say the last cup or so of my cashew milk was bad; rather, it just required more vigorous, continuous stirring into my coffee that morning.
I also made coconut and pistachio milk, with similar results: light and pleasantly creamy milk that required a good shake before pouring after it sat in the fridge overnight. One of the great things about the recipes in the Almond Cow book is that almost all of them call for unsoaked nuts, so you can make batches of non-dairy milk without any prepping ahead of time. You can also control the exact ingredients you put into each batch, so if you’re like me and like to experiment with different recipes, the Almond Cow will be a great machine for you.
There’s also a compelling reduced-waste aspect to the Almond Cow that I’m sure many will appreciate. Making your own plant milk at home means you may not buy as much pre-packaged milk at the store, thereby reducing the amount of packaging you consume regularly. Also, Almond Cow’s website has a bunch of nut pulp recipes, too, so you can further cut down your waste by conserving the nut pulp from each batch and using it to make cookies, muffins, pies and if you’re feeling adventurous, even vegan cheese.
Undoubtedly, the Almond Cow is best for tinkerers, home chefs and those who care about reducing waste. I fit into all of those categories, but I can still see the drawbacks to this $245 device. First, as you could probably guess, the Almond Cow isn’t going to save you money on non-dairy milk in the short term. The device itself is expensive, but the real cost comes in when you consider how many ingredients you’ll need to keep on hand to make alt milk regularly. Nuts aren’t cheap and you’ll need a half-pound (eight ounces) to make one batch of milk in the Almond Cow. And you’ll likely need to make at least one, maybe two batches each week, depending on how much you drink, because homemade plant milk lasts for only three to five days in the fridge – a paltry shelf life when compared to the weeks you’ll get from a carton of the store-bought stuff.
Also, it’s worth noting that the Almond Cow is designed to take the guesswork out of making your own plant milk. That means it’s less flexible than, say, your own blender when it comes to customization. The baseline ratio of nuts to water is 1:5 (cups), so what that produces is the creamiest milk you’ll get. The included cookbook does provide a few “creamer” recipes, which uses the limited area of the collector cup to make a small amount of thicker, nut-milk creamer for you to use in your coffee. However, you’ll be able to experiment with more than creamier consistencies of plant milk if you use different nut-to-water ratios in a high-powered blender.
One thing I have grown to love over the past decade or so is make my own common foods from scratch. I’d rather make my own pasta sauce than buy a jar for $5; I have a go-to granola recipe that I prefer over any pre-made types; and I have a signature pesto recipe that I’m now attempting to mess with to make it vegan. That’s all to say that the Almond Cow is a unitasker that’s designed specifically for someone like me. And I do love using it, but will it totally replace the plant milk I love from my grocery store? No – at least not immediately. I’ve tried so many plant milks over the years that I now have my favorites and it’ll take a lot to get me to give those up. But I do relish the opportunity to make my own plant milk at home in the hopes that maybe, someday, I’ll craft a concoction that comes close to my store-bought favorites.