Why Does Almond Milk Get Thick? A Full Guide

Are you a fan of almond milk but tired of it being too thin and watery?

Have you ever wondered why store-bought almond milk has a thicker, creamier consistency than homemade versions?

Look no further, because we have the answers!

In this article, we will explore the science behind the viscosity of almond milk and how to naturally thicken it without chemical additives.

Plus, we’ll also cover how to tell if your almond milk has gone bad and when it’s time to toss it out.

So, grab a glass of your favorite nut milk and let’s dive in!

Why Does Almond Milk Get Thick?

As we all know, almond milk is a popular dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. However, one of the biggest complaints about homemade almond milk is that it’s too thin and lacks the creaminess of whole milk.

The reason for this lies in the science of viscosity. Viscosity refers to the thickness of a liquid, with cream being more viscous than water. Almond milk, on the other hand, is naturally as thin as water, which is why it’s often referred to as “almond tea.”

Commercial producers of almond milk add carrageenan, a gelling agent, to increase its viscosity and emulate the mouthfeel of whole milk. However, for those who prefer a natural option, there is a way to thicken homemade almond milk without chemical additives.

Through a happy accident, it was discovered that heating almond milk can naturally thicken it. When exposed to heat, the particles in almonds thicken the liquid, resulting in a creamier consistency. This is not due to evaporation or reduction of water content, as the milk is only heated for a few minutes.

While the exact chemistry behind this phenomenon is not fully understood, scientific viscosity experiments have shown that heated almond milk remains 50% thicker and more viscous than unheated almond milk at the same temperatures.

The Science Behind Almond Milk Viscosity

Milk and its plant-based alternatives, including almond milk, can display complex non-Newtonian behavior such as shear thinning. This means that the resistance to flow will depend on how you interact with the material. When comparing viscosity, it is important to measure viscosity under shear rate ranges that are relevant to the process of interest.

Almond milk tends to be less viscous than cow’s milk and other plant-based milks like hazelnut and coconut milk. This is because it is a suspension or emulsion of finely ground almonds in water. Commercial almond milk producers often add a powdered starch like tapioca to act as a thickening agent. However, there are natural ways to thicken homemade almond milk without additives.

Heating almond milk to just below boiling point and simmering it for 10 minutes can result in a noticeable increase in viscosity, with a creamier consistency similar to whole milk. The reason for this is that the particles in almonds thicken the liquid when exposed to heat. It is important to heat the milk gently, as emulsions are sensitive to changes in temperature. If heated all the way to boiling point, the finely ground nut particles may separate out and result in a grainy texture.

Why Store-Bought Almond Milk Is Thicker

Store-bought almond milk is thicker than homemade almond milk due to the addition of emulsifiers such as guar gum, xantham gum, and carageenan. These emulsifiers help create a thick and creamy texture that mimics the mouthfeel of whole milk.

In addition to emulsifiers, store-bought almond milk also undergoes processing to ensure uniformity and prevent separation. This processing involves homogenization, which breaks down fat particles to create a more stable and uniform texture.

Furthermore, commercial producers of almond milk may use a higher ratio of almonds to water compared to homemade recipes. This results in a higher percentage of almonds in the final product, which contributes to a thicker and creamier texture.

However, it’s important to note that store-bought almond milk may contain additives and preservatives that some people may want to avoid. By making homemade almond milk and using natural thickeners such as heat or arrowroot powder, you can have control over the ingredients and customize the thickness to your liking.

Natural Ways To Thicken Homemade Almond Milk

If you prefer not to use chemical additives to thicken your homemade almond milk, there are a few natural options available. One popular choice is cornstarch, which has twice the ability to thicken liquids as flour. However, it’s important to use cornstarch sparingly, as almond milk requires more cornstarch than regular milk due to its lack of saturated fat.

To use cornstarch as a thickening agent, heat your almond milk over low heat and mix a small amount of cornstarch with water to make a slurry. Drizzle the cornstarch mixture over the heated almond milk and whisk until smooth. Cornstarch can withstand high heat and longer cooking times, making it a popular choice for thickening liquids.

Another natural option to thicken homemade almond milk is to use a higher ratio of almonds to water. Most store-bought almond milk contains only 2% almonds, while homemade recipes typically call for 10-20% almonds. This higher concentration of almonds results in a creamier and thicker consistency without the need for additives.

Finally, blending your almond milk with less water can also result in a thicker consistency. A ratio of 4:1 water to nuts will create a fairly thick milk, while a 1:1 ratio will result in a creamier consistency suitable for use as a creamer.

Chemical Additives To Avoid In Almond Milk

When it comes to store-bought almond milk, it’s important to be aware of the chemical additives that are commonly used to thicken and stabilize the product. One such additive is carrageenan, which is derived from red seaweed and is added to many health foods like almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, yogurt, soy milk, and ice cream. While the FDA regards carrageenan as safe for consumption, some people have reported gastrointestinal issues after consuming it.

Another common additive in almond milk is guar gum, which is used as a binding and thickening agent in many nut milks as well as soups and salad dressings. While research shows that guar gum can be helpful in regulating blood sugar and keeping you full for longer, consuming large amounts of it can obstruct your digestive system and cause serious issues. However, since the FDA regulates the amount of guar gum used in food, it’s unlikely that you’ll consume enough to cause any harm.

If you prefer a natural option for thickening homemade almond milk, heating the milk can do the trick without any chemical additives. However, if you choose to buy store-bought almond milk, be sure to check the ingredient list for carrageenan and guar gum if you have any concerns about digestive issues.

Signs Your Almond Milk Has Gone Bad

While almond milk may have a longer shelf life than dairy milk, it can still go bad. It’s important to know the signs of spoilage to avoid drinking rancid milk. Here are some key signs to look out for:

1. Chunky or Clumpy Texture: If your almond milk has a thick or clumpy texture, it’s a sign that it has gone bad. While separation can occur naturally in store-bought almond milk, clumps are not normal and indicate spoilage.

2. Unpleasant Smell: Spoiled almond milk has an acidic, sour smell that is different from its usual nutty aroma. If your almond milk smells off or sour, it’s time to throw it away.

3. Sour Taste: Rancid almond milk has a slightly sour taste that is different from its usual mild sweetness. If you notice a sour taste in your almond milk, it’s best to discard it.

4. Black Spots: If you see black spots in your almond milk, it’s a sign of mold growth and should be thrown away immediately.

5. Expired Best-By Date: Always check the best-by date on your almond milk before consuming it. If the date has passed, there is a higher chance that the milk has gone bad.

Remember that separation is normal in almond milk and does not necessarily indicate spoilage. Give the bottle a good shake before consuming to ensure that any separation is properly mixed. If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard the almond milk to avoid any health risks.

How To Properly Store Almond Milk To Maintain Consistency

To maintain the thicker consistency of heated almond milk, it’s important to store it properly. When storing almond milk, it’s crucial to keep it at a consistent and cool temperature to prevent spoilage and maintain its freshness.

The best way to store almond milk is in the back of your refrigerator, where the temperature is the coldest and most consistent. This controlled temperature will help keep the almond milk fresh for longer periods of time.

To prevent separation, it’s recommended to transfer the almond milk to an airtight container before storing it in the refrigerator. This will help maintain the thickness and creaminess of the milk.

If you notice that your almond milk has separated, simply give it a good shake before serving. This will help redistribute the particles and restore its original consistency.

It’s also important to note that homemade almond milk has a shorter shelf life than store-bought almond milk. Homemade almond milk should be consumed within 5 days of refrigeration, while store-bought almond milk can last up to 7 days after opening.

To extend the shelf life of almond milk, you can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Simply transfer the almond milk to an airtight container or ice cube trays before freezing. When ready to use, thaw the almond milk in the refrigerator overnight and give it a good shake before serving.