I’ve devoted an entire year to studying habit abstinence. Months of removing social media, superfluous spending, sugar and booze, holiday consumerism, and negative thought all challenged me to rethink how I shape decisions in satisfying ways. But the first morning of sixty days practicing Zero Waste, I immediately slam into a wall: coffee. I’ve stocked up on bulk beans, so that’s set. The conundrum is milk. I’m not buying anything in a bottle I can make myself during this period. I can’t make cow milk, but I’m the vomit-on-your-shoes kind of allergic to dairy, so I drink almond milk. You know where this goes.

The idea seems simple enough: For two days, I’ve left a cup of raw almonds soaking in water in the fridge. Now I’ll rinse them, combine them with two cups of fresh water, blend, strain through cheesecloth, and enjoy the best almond milk ever.

I move through these steps. After blending on high for two minutes, I work chunky almond goo through the cheesecloth into my 2-cup Pyrex, but it splashes all over the counter as well. I’m sans caffeine and nursing a headache, but the whole process would be messy even if at my best. I continue to pour and squeeze until I’ve got every last drop of liquid. 

I end with 1.5 cups of milk. Sipped straight, it does not taste like the best ever. I pour it in my coffee and bits of grit greet me back. 

I calculate: The almond milk I buy regularly costs $5 for 6 cups, so that’s $.83 a cup. The container of 7 1/2 cups of almonds purchased from the same place (on sale) costs $18. So each batch of ingredients costs $2.40, making 1 1/2 cups of milk at $1.60 a cup. That’s almost double the cost. I’ve not harmed the environment in my drinking of it, but I’m not won over by this process yet either.

A few days later I try again. I scrap the cheesecloth. Instead, I’ll attempt a stainless steel mesh strainer for an initial strain, and then do a secondary strain with a finer tea strainer; I have both already, and they’ll clean more easily. I plan a second blend to get more outta the almonds, too. 

I begin: I blend on high for two minutes, and then on low for another two. I strain first over the Pyrex, pressing with a silicone spatula and discarding the chunky pulp as I go. I sit the tea strainer in the mouth of a glass jar, pouring and pressing and discarding again. This pulp is finer. I get my full two cups of milk this time, and fewer flakes dot my counter. 

Dang, this milk tastes good.  It’s rich, clean, and so nuttyI smile as I sip my coffee.

By the third go a few days later, my movements are quick and sure and as smooth as the batch of milk that comes almost in meditation as my hands move from blender to cup to jar. I’m enjoying this now. 

I realize how rich the milk is and start using less of it. The jar takes longer to finish, the cost lowering as time passes.

One day, curious, I pour some into the frother. No almond milk before proved worthy of a second attempt, producing instead lame foam that quickly sizzled and separated. I press the button and stand back. When I open the cap, I breathe a happy gasp at what I see—foam. So rich and thick that, after I pour some of the steamed milk into espresso, I need a spoon to scoop it out and glob it on top. There’s so much that I can’t fit it all. Half an hour later, it’s still there, proud and jaunty.

This almond milk? It’s magic.

Soon, my sixty-day study will be up, and I can buy bottles of almond milk again. But I don’t think I’ll want to. There’s something about this process—the repetition of movement, appreciation of product, the clean and concentrated flavor, the nutty contribution to my morning coffee, and the possibility of that fun and phat cappuccino—that saving money and time can’t buy. This is one habit I'll keep.