Can You Make Coffee Without Water? (Quick Tips)

I love, love, love milky coffee, so I guess that kind of already answers your question…

Yes, you can brew coffee using milk instead of water, but only using certain methods because milk starts to burn at 180 °F. Coffee is best made with milk using a French press, or pour-over coffee maker, or by cold brewing or making instant coffee.

Let’s dive down into the delicious subject of making milky coffee in greater detail, and find out the different ways to do it, the various names for milk brewed coffee – and whether you can add milk to your coffee machine or not…

Can You Make Coffee Without Water?

Can I Brew Coffee With Milk Instead of Water? (French Press, Pour Over, Cold Brew or Instant Coffee)

Yes, you can brew coffee using milk instead of water – but using only certain methods. This is because milk is a very different substance to water, and unlike water, will burn if it gets too hot.

It’s also a nightmare to clean milk residue from the more intricate types of coffeemakers.

So, if you fancy making yourself a tasty coffee using milk, here are the methods you can safely use.

  • French press. These are so easy to clean out, that using milk poses no problems. Heat the milk first, then steep the coffee grounds in the warm milk for a delicious and rich flavor
  • Pour over. Again, you pre-warm the milk and pour it over the ground coffee. Because you heat the milk separately, there’s no risk of it scalding in the machine
  • Cold brew coffee. Using milk instead of water makes a truly delicious cold brew, with a slightly sweet and rich flavor. Brew it in the refrigerator for around 12 hours (this is a little shorter than cold brew made with water, because milk extracts the oils faster than water does)
  • Instant coffee. Arguably, needing to pre-heat the milk makes this coffee a little less instant than simply boiling water. However, it’s worth it for the taste, which tend to be less bitter than conventionally made instant coffee.

If you haven’t made cold brew with milk, try it. It’s really easy, and you don’t have to worry about heating the milk to the perfect temperature! You also end up with a delicious, creamy drink. Here’s how to make cold brew coffee using milk instead of water.

What Happens if I Brew Coffee With Milk?

If you brew coffee with milk carefully, you’ll end up with a delicious drink. However, because milk behaves in such a different way to water when it’s heated or mixed with coffee, there are a few things that you need to watch out for.

The big thing to remember is that milk scalds if it becomes too hot, resulting in a nasty taste and a pan that takes a week to clean. We’ll take a look at the best temperatures for making milky coffees in just a moment.

Another difference is that the fats in milk react differently with the coffee. These fats actually extract the oils from the coffee faster, which means there’s a risk of a more bitter-tasting brew.

Our advice is simply to experiment with timings, and find a brewing process that works for you.

Can you use alternative milk (like soy, almond, oat, and coconut) in your brew? Yes, you can, although again, there may be a period of trial-and-error while you find your favorite way to make milky coffee. 

Can I Boil Milk to Make Coffee?

No, you can’t boil milk to make coffee, and this is because by the time the milk boils, it’s already spoiled. The fats, proteins, and minerals found in milk begin to burn at around 180 °F.

What’s the ideal temperature for warm milk? If you’re making coffee with milk, aim for something around 140 °F to 160 °F.

This is warm enough to dissolve the grounds or instant powder, but not so warm that you’ll start to lose flavor or nutrients or risk the milk burning. Milk starts to scald at 180 °F, so aiming for 160 °F gives you a comfortable error margin.

Because the liquid is that bit cooler, extraction can be slower. But, because the milk fats draw out the coffee oils faster, there’s actually not that much time difference in the end. Again, experiment to see what tastes the best for you.

Getting to the right temperature is probably the trickiest part of making coffee with milk, and you may want to invest in a thermometer. 

(An aside. Coffee should never be made with boiled water, because it over-extracts the flavors, leaving you with a bitter brew. Aim for a water temperature of around 195 °F to 205 °F: still pretty hot, but below the boiling temperature of 212 °F.)

What is Coffee Made With Milk Called?

Deep breath: we’re about to dive into the world of coffee terminology… You can simply use the term “milky coffee” to describe your brew; however, there are plenty of other, fancier names for your beverage.

The most common milky coffee name is “latte”, which technically is a shot of espresso topped up with milk.

Cappuccino similarly layers espresso and milk, then tops it up with frothed milk for a real dairy fix. A “flat white” is very like a latte, but resist adding any froth or sprinkles.

The “cortado” is the Spanish version, and is usually made with half and half espresso and milk. In France, it’s simply a “cafe au lait”, coffee with milk.

Want to add more calories? Try a “breve”, which is like a latte only made with 50:50 milk and cream. Add vanilla sugar for a “raf” and caramel for a “freddo”.

What Happens if I Brew Coffee With Milk?
What Happens if I Brew Coffee With Milk?

Can I Put Milk Instead of Water in My Coffee Maker?

Never add the milk directly to the coffee maker: you really will hate yourself afterward!

Coffee machines heat the water to the perfect temperature for, well, water, which as we know is higher than it is for milk, and way past that no-go area of 180 °F.

The result? Scalded milk and a nasty-tasting brew, which will be completely undrinkable. 

The milk will have made its way into all the corners and crevices of the coffee machine, and you might have to take it apart to clean it properly (we all know what gone-off milk smells like…)

If you use a coffee machine but love a milky coffee and add the milk later. You might decide to buy a simpler coffee maker like a French press to make your milky coffee, which will make a delicious, richly flavored brew.