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Can You Use Buttermilk In Coffee? (And Why It’s No Good)

Can you use buttermilk in coffee?

You can, but you really shouldn’t.

In this article, I’ll discuss what exactly buttermilk is, why it’s not a good idea for your coffee, and some alternatives to try instead.

Let’s jump in!

What is Buttermilk?

buttermilk

Despite the name, buttermilk doesn’t actually have any butter in it.

I know, wild.

So, if it doesn’t have any butter, what is it?

Traditionally, buttermilk is the milk left behind after beating cream to make butter (hence the name).

You can think of traditional buttermilk as the liquid left behind after all the fat has been turned into butter.

But because we don’t beat cream to make butter like we used to, modern buttermilk is cultured separately.

Buttermilk is a dairy drink fermented naturally because of the lactic acid bacteria.

It’s similar to greek yogurt or sour cream.

It has a thicker consistency than regular milk, but it isn’t as thick as yogurt.

What is buttermilk good for?

Buttermilk is a great ingredient for baking. It’s best for things like pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and muffins.

That’s because when buttermilk reacts with baking soda, it forms carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is what makes pastries and quick bread rise. So buttermilk is a great way to add some extra fluff to your waffles.

If you want to mix it with coffee, it’s better to make a buttermilk coffee cake instead of adding it to your cup of joe.

And, you can actually drink it plain if you can stomach the taste. It has a bit of a tang and is a touch sour.

What Happens if You Put Buttermilk in Coffee?

Picture this: you’ve made a fresh pot of coffee on a Saturday morning. You open the fridge to pull out your cream. But you ran out.

The only thing left is buttermilk. You think, “Buttermilk has the same consistency as coffee creamer, why can’t I just use that instead?”

And you’re right, it seems an obvious alternative.

But hold on just a minute before you go dumping buttermilk into your morning brew.

You need to consider the taste first.

Buttermilk is slightly sour and has a distinct tang. It will actually neutralize the taste of coffee.

The bottom line is that adding buttermilk to your coffee won’t kill you. And if you’re curious about it, maybe you should try it.

But in my humble opinion, it just does not taste good.

Are there any coffee drinks that use buttermilk?

frappuccino

I’m very glad you asked.

The answer is yes, there are a number of coffee drinks where I would recommend trying buttermilk.

  1. Frappuccino. Any frozen and blended coffee drink will benefit from the thicker texture of buttermilk. You just have to be sure you add some kind of sweet flavoring to your drink. Otherwise, you’ll run into the same problems as before.
  2. Espresso martini. Back when I was a barista, I used to add a touch of buttermilk to my espresso martinis. It added a nice texture. I did have to double up on the simple syrup, however, to keep the sourness at bay.
  3. Mocha. This one is a bit of a stretch because it’s certainly not for everyone. But if you’re a fan of dark chocolate and don’t normally like the sweetness of mocha, I’d highly recommend trying equal parts buttermilk and whole milk for your next mocha. It’ll add a slight tang and cut through the sweetness of the chocolate.

The thing is, there’s nothing stopping you from experimenting with buttermilk in your coffee drinks.

In fact, I’d say you should try it!

I learned the most about coffee and drink creation from spending hours combining weird flavors. And yeah, I came up with some awful drinks. But I also made some incredible ones.

I once even created a carrot cake latte by making a simple syrup out of carrot tea.

My point is: you shouldn’t be afraid of trying new combinations. If you think it might work, try it!

What Can You Use Instead of Buttermilk in Coffee?

coffee with butter

On the other hand, maybe you’re tired of using the same old cream every day for your coffee, and you’re looking to change things up.

What alternatives to buttermilk can you add to coffee?

  1. Actual butter. I know this might sound crazy, but adding just plain butter to coffee is a great buttermilk substitute. This isn’t a new idea by any means and is actually called Bulletproof Coffee. People have added butter to coffee for a long time. I’ve tried it a few times, and it isn’t for me, but I understand the appeal. Melted butter in coffee has a slightly more even flavor than heavy cream or whipped cream and doesn’t add any sweetness.
  2. Flavored creamer. If you’re tired of the flavor of milk in your coffee, why not try a new flavor? There are many kinds of creamer out there. From french vanilla to peppermint. I’d recommend starting with something like hazelnut to see if you’re a fan of flavored creamers.
  3. Alcohol. This, obviously, is for adults. But adding a splash of whiskey to your coffee can be a great way to change things up. A personal favorite is a splash of creamer and a shot of dark rum. Just be careful you don’t add too much!
  4. Ice cream. This is called affogato and is coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a sweet, brunch-style dessert that pairs delicious coffee with ice cream. What’s not to love?

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. There are a ton of different things you can add to coffee. 

From dairy products to vegan, there’s usually something you can find that will taste good to you.

My Final Thoughts

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try buttermilk in your coffee. I’m saying that I don’t like it.

Buttermilk is a cultured and fermented dairy product similar to yogurt. It’s thinner than yogurt and has a consistency similar to heavy whipping cream.

But it is a little sour and has a slight tang.

The tang and sourness mean that it neutralizes the coffee flavors. It leaves you with a strange and rather unpleasant drink.

But hey, if you’re intrigued, give it a shot!

Looking for another alternative to milk? Check out our article on different substitutes for milk in coffee!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.