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The JOI-OUS RDN: Fun With Foam!


Fun fact: dietitians have to take a nice amount of science classes, like Chemistry I, Chemistry II, Organic Chemistry I & II, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and other classes requiring goggles that I am now repurposing as COVID-friendly public eyewear. By far, my most treasured class in our curriculum was Food Science. Firstly, because we were judged on our ability to bake and eat various types of muffins -- a feat which I accomplished with great aplomb --  but also because we learned a fair amount about the science behind food -- which is profoundly fascinating (nerdy, but true.). JOI is a product that exists because of food science, so let’s take a Bill Nye moment to pay our respects to the sciencey something JOI does for us that sparks joy and bubbles into our lives quite better than many other commercial nut mylks on the market -- it foams.

Have you ever stared down the abyss of your milk foamer hypnotized by the swirling grandeur resulting in those foamy, frothy, milky peaks in your JOI latte? They’re a result of heat, water, and infused air into a liquid medium. Traditionally, foamed milk involves cow’s milk. But JOI is one of very few plant-based mylks that works well with foam -- but more on that later.

latte art


Applying heat and whisking air into milk creates spheres around the proteins in milk (casein / whey, in this case, the casein is the “active” one) which stabilize into bubbles. Protein chains have two polarized (like a magnet) ends; one is obsessed with water (hydrophilic) and the other is like a cat (hydrophobic). When we foam milk, the hydrophobic ends get a bit scared and hide in the inside of the molecule, so the hydrophilic ends get to introduce themselves to the aforementioned bubbles. This keeps them occupied and “alive” (it maintains the structure of the bubbles). This can only happen at a temperature of about 140 degrees Farenheit; any more, and the milk will scald, the milk will “collapse,” and you’ll be left with a flat sea of milk (the proteins will denature -- they basically will uncoil and be inert for foaming). You can’t reheat foamed milk -- the proteins have already been reorganized and will not “re-foam.” 

If your milk “falls” -- it’s likely because there wasn’t enough fat / protein in the milk. However, since fat is such a heavy globule, TOO much fat can be fatal to foam. But if there is too little fat in the milk, the milk won’t foam at all. Protein can help attenuate this process and stabilize the fat. So the ideal liquid medium is a milk with some fat, and more protein. Fat also provides a creamy texture and mouthfeel to the foam.



Now let’s get all ~meta~. Milk actually isn’t a liquid, scientifically speaking. It’s a colloid. One liquid is mixed into another (as a “suspension”). That’s why foaming even works; there’s different components mixed together in sublime milky goodness in JOI which renders a perfect foam. Fats are hanging out with proteins and suspended in water. There’s also micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) hanging about. It’s like, the best microscopic nutrient party ever.


When it comes to machinery to obtain the perfect foam, a milk foaming machine takes the cake, er milk. Electric whisks won’t leave you with a silky texture. The best is a machine that creates uniform heat and movement -- so alas, splurging on a milk foamer may be a good and JOIous investment.


Many baristas will balk at plant-based mylks when someone orders a latte, since historically, plant-based mylks simply will not foam. You know why, now. Many plant-based mylks on the market are devoid of enough protein to render that foamy bubble bubble toil and trouble. Mercifully, since JOI is comprised of enough almonds to confer a significant amount of protein into every spoonful, it’s a foaming plant-based unicorn and will actually hold a foam. So hold the phone, friends --  JOI is the answer to the ballad of the sad barista.

irish coffee

Frothy fun: spice up your foam by infusing it with vanilla extract, lemon zest, cacao powder and just maybe -- a little Irish whiskey.


Monica Auslander Moreno is a RDN and founder of Essence Nutrition - helping people unsubscribe from diet culture - with a side of sass

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