Why I Make Soy Milk and How You Can Too

Sometimes I get really riled up about things that are not a very big deal, compared to real issues like human suffering and cruelty to animals. One thing that drives me nuts is all the stuff people add to food which doesn’t need to be in it, and that’s why I make most of the food I eat myself. I don’t like to eat sugar, and I refuse to eat corn syrup. If you start reading labels, you might be shocked and/or annoyed (or infuriated, if you’re me) to find that sugar has been added to even the most unlikely food products, like salsa or soup!! This is the kind of thing that makes me jump up and down like Rumpelstiltskin in grocery store aisles and go stomping off to the produce department with a black cloud over my head. I mean really. Why do they need to put sugar in soup??? It just drives me nuts!! This is yet another reason not to buy processed “foods,” but this happens even with the fancy organic-labelled products that cost twice as much and appear to be all natural and healthful…. Grrrrr.

I have been battling with my temper for several years due to soy milk. Every time I shop in a hurry (which is usually), I end up grabbing a box of soy milk that appeared to be normal, plain, unsweetened soy milk when I glanced at the big letters on the front (call me crazy, but I usually assume that plain means plain)…..and then at home when I check the fine print, it turns out to be full of added sweetener and flavorings and all sorts of stuff that I personally would not expect (or want) to find in “plain soy milk.” (Westsoy plain unsweetened soy milk, actually is, by the way, but most of the others are extremely not.)

Moreover, I have never been very comfortable with liquids that are stored in plastic containers. Those soy milk cartons are not only a recycling nightmare, but they cradle the soy milk in plastic. It’s been pretty clearly established that liquids that sit in plastic pick up the chemicals from the plastic and put them right into you, which does weird things to your hormone levels and who knows what else. Not to mention all the bad things plastic does to everybody else, but that’s another conversation.

So when I added some “plain unsweetened” soy milk to a very nice fresh pesto sauce I was making one evening, for a dinner guest no less, and suddenly smelled a strange warm vanilla scent rising from the olive oil, basil and pine nuts in my sauce pan, it was the final straw. First I sent some incensed emails to the soy milk company, asking them why “plain, unsweetened” actually means “we added vanilla and sweet things and called it “natural flavor”,” and then I decided the time had finally come. I needed a soy milk maker. Now obviously I am always reluctant to add more plug-in appliances to my life, but at this point, it had to happen.

I bought a Soyapower Plus soy milk maker from Amazon, for $120, and some dried soy beans. I figure that since I normally buy 1 carton of pre-made soy milk every week, it would pay for itself in about a year. Not counting the times I buy soy milk that turns out to be undrinkable by me. And, no more drinking soy milk soaked in plastic chemicals, and no more feeling like an eco terrorist every time I throw away those cartons. These things were all good. But I had never actually made soy milk, or seen it done, so….

As it turns out, it’s very simple. I bought a glass pitcher from the thrift store for $1 to keep the soymilk in my fridge. I also use a large glass pyrex pitcher (which I already had but you can buy at the grocery store or Target or the thrift store if you get lucky–you could also use this for keeping it in the fridge if you can’t find a little scotty dog pitcher at the thrift store) for the decanting process, so as to avoid pouring hot soy milk in the plastic pitcher that came with it (I’m not kidding about this liquid/plastic thing, you can research it. and it’s even worse to put hot liquids in plastic). After making the soy milk a few times, I found that it tasted a little “soy beany” with all soy beans, so I started to make a blend of brown rice, soy beans (half and half) with about 6 organic almonds thrown in for good measure. It’s amazing how little rice, soy and almonds it takes to make a pitcher full of soy milk. The little measuring cup is like an oversized thimble. It’s plastic, by the way, but everything is dry when you measure it. πŸ™‚

Usually I put the rice, soy and almonds in a glass full of water and let them soak either all day or overnight. Then I fill the maker with water to the line inside, toss in the beans, and turn it on. When it starts beeping at me, I open it up, clean off the inside parts immediately (because if you wait at all, it’s harder to clean), and then pour the soymilk through a mesh strainer (comes with the soy maker) into my big pyrex pitcher. I let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours to cool, because this causes more sediment to settle, and also seems to make it taste good. After that, I strain it from the pyrex pitcher into my little scotty dog pitcher, and put it in the fridge.

When I notice I’m getting low (usually in a week or less), I put some beans in to soak again.
It’s pretty darn easy. And now I can save my passion for things that are truly maddening, like Sarah Palin and rooster fighting.


  • Mel

    Thank you for this post. I never thought about making my own soy milk until now!

  • Steph Davis

    You’re welcome! It took me forever to start doing it, but now I think it takes less time than actually buying it, and is definitely cheaper and healthier πŸ™‚

  • Awesome! Stickin’ it to the Man while cuddling w/ Mother Nature!

  • Audrey

    Interesting facts. I’ve been thinking about making the switch to soy, we do whole or low fat organic now. On the news this morning they stated that canned soups and vegetables also contain BPA on the inside lining of the can.

  • Steph Davis

    I once met a climber who is also a biochemist, and I asked her what is the single “grossest” thing she knows about, due to her work….she said, “well, knowing what I know, I never eat anything from a can.”

  • Chad

    You rock! Transcendence at every level!

  • Dagny

    Have you ever made your own rice milk? I found this recipe on a runner’s blog, and it sounds simple, and requires only a blender instead of a new kitchen implement:

    1 cup of cooked white or brown rice
    3 cups water
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    1 tablespoon agave nectar, brown rice syrup or other sweetener
    Combine ingredients in blender and blend for 2 minutes until smooth. If the texture is grainy, strain through cheesecloth or fine strainer.

    Granted, it wouldn’t contain the protein that soy milk does.

    If you get a chance, will you please estimate how much it costs you (in ingredients, per week) to make your own soy milk?

    Thanks so much for a very informative post!

  • Steph Davis

    Thanks for the recipe! I do like rice milk. It makes me wonder if you could try making soy milk this way too, if you didn’t want to buy the maker?

    So I did the math, and here’s what I came up with: it takes 1.75 ounce soy beans, 1.75 ounce brown rice and approximately 6 almonds. The soy costs 16 cents, the rice costs 15 cents, and the almonds cost 20 cents (that one is pretty general). So it’s around 51 cents for a pitcher of soy milk.

    Less than I thought, actually πŸ™‚

  • Andrea

    I totally agree with you about the whole sugar thing and plastic deal. Almond is my milk of choice and I have had the same problem purchasing “original” Almond Milk (which one would assume means “plain”)…only to get home and find out it has been sweetened….sux. I have made Almond milk pretty much how you described making your soy milk, minus the machine. I am guessing that the machine does some pretty fine grinding (more so than a blender). What is it about the soy milk machine that would be a bonus over just a regular blender?

  • jill

    you know, i hate plastic containers and bottles and i try my hardest to never eat or drink hot foods/beverages out of them, but i never thought about the soymilk bottles for some reason. in boulder we can actually recycle them, so its not as bad from the recycling side, but the plastic part is still gross.

    i also have a strong hatred for the sweet ‘plain’ soymilk. its so gross when you’re making mashed potatoes and they’re sweet. not so good with the gravy. yuck. when i want something sweet, i drink almond milk. its my new favorite on cereal.

    now i really want to make my own milk blend. sounds so good.

  • Steph Davis

    I’m not sure how/why the soy milk maker is better than a blender. I can tell that it is simultaneously heating and blending the soaked beans, in a couple of different cycles. I still think it could be interesting to try with a blender though….

  • Molly

    Steph,

    Great post and thanks for the info. I guess I know what I will be up to this Saturday! I wonder if there is a way to experiment with natural flavors, like strawberries, blueberries and the like. Mmm.

    I thought you would enjoy this quick video. Seems like good eating is finally catching on:

    http://joshuaaricohen.com/goodfoodbadfood/

    -Molly

  • Shaun kell

    You sound like someone who has read (or should read) Michael Pollan. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” His books have recently ruined my life (in a good way). Am now growing more of my own food and hanging out with people who grow most of their own food. This is, of course, easier in the Southeast where nature is kinder to plants. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Bryan

    Great blog post. Will have to try this myself.

    After you’ve soaked the beans, how long does it take the machine to do it’s thing?

    I have been buying Trader Joe’s unsweetened soy milk. Will have to do a double take on whether or not it actually has another sweetner in it or one of those mysterious “natural flavors” in it.

  • Steph Davis

    Thanks! Like I said, Westsoy plain, unsweetened soy milk is nice because the ingredients are :soybeans and water. Imagine that. πŸ˜‰
    I think the machine takes about 15 minutes to do its cycle (I haven’t timed it). When it’s done, it makes a quiet, but repetitive beeping noise.
    πŸ™‚ Steph

  • I’m jealous – living in a camper really keeps me honest with the appliances. But I’m still curious if you could use the soymilk maker to make a purely rice or almond milk? Sometimes I feel like despite my efforts at diversity in my diet, soy and corn still manage to dominate. Prior to my mobile lifestyle I made a lot of almond milk with a blender and cheesecloth, which I loved, but was definitely more expensive than your recipe. Thanks!

  • Steph Davis

    πŸ™‚ Yes, you can make all rice, all almond, or any number of variations with pretty much any grain. The almonds do get expensive! My blend would only cost 31 cents instead of 51 cents if I didn’t add those 6 almonds! But I really like the blend of soy, brown rice and almonds.
    Also, a lot of people make things using the leftover pulp you get, after straining. There are a lot of recipes for adding it to baked goods, etc, but I haven’t yet tried it myself. Though I do like the idea of using everything completely.
    I hear you….after living in my truck for so many years, I have kind of an irrational avoidance tendency towards anything with a plug, which never seems to really go away πŸ™‚ So I’m pretty reluctant to have appliances. But I’m really glad I got the soymilk maker.

  • I would take my leftover ground up almonds, spread them on a cookie sheet, salt lightly, and toast them in the oven. Takes a little practice to get them toasted well without burning, but then they’re great on all sorts of things – pasta was one of my favorites.

  • Sonja

    Hi Steph
    Interesting blog!! Didn’t yet have the time to read everything – but one question just popped up reading some of your latest blogs. Why are you Vegan? I’m not because I think I need the Calcium. Where do you take the Calcium from?
    Thanks and looking forward to reading more from you,
    Sonja

  • Steph Davis

    Hi Sonja,
    I have been vegan for 8 years. At first I did it to improve my athletic performance (which it does). After I had been vegan for some time, and watched my performance increase dramatically, I started to learn about how animals are treated in factory farms. It is completely heartbreaking. Now my choice to be vegan is equally motivated by my wish to reduce consumer support of those practices.
    So it’s for both reasons. Also, I feel more healthy by not eating animal products.

    For calcium, I eat soy, dark green vegetables (kale, chard, greens) and I also take daily vegan calcium supplements, because calcium is very good for bones, so I want to make sure I have plenty.
    Enjoy! Steph

  • Arlynn

    Hi Steph…
    found your blog through “vegan searching” rather than rock climbing…but it piqued my interest…I’m a 58 yr. old grandma…vegan 8 years…still trying to fine tune my diet. My son and his girlfriend rock climb. He’s also been a skateboarder for a number of years.

    A word of advice/caution about your soy milk pitcher…some glass can contain lead..

    Best wishes to you.

  • Steph Davis

    Thanks Arlynn!!

  • Denise King

    Hi Steph,

    I found your site while looking for rock climbing blogs. I am brand new to the sport and can’t believe I am doing it because I always thought I would be too scared. Seeing climbers on the cliffs in Yosemite as a kid made me think “That’s not for me!” But anyway…I digress.

    I’m actually writing because I also make my own soymilk. A coworker was gifted a soymilk maker that she didn’t want, so I took it home. I love it and will never go back to the boxes. I am wondering how you handle the cleaning of the little stainless steel strainer (if that is how yours works?) I find that if I don’t clean it well, the milk is watery. My current method is to clean it with a sponge, let it dry out, and then clean it again with a little cold water and a sonic care toothbrush. I use my old tooth brush heads and it seems to work well!

    Thanks for your blog. You are a great role model for people of all ages.

    Denise

  • Steph Davis

    Hi Denise, Thanks! do you mean the mesh strainer (in the first picture on this post)? I just wash it with my regular dish brush and dish soap, it and it seems to clean up very fast, with no problem. I do notice with the clean up, that the sooner the better, with all of it. Have you tried soaking it, if it’s hard to clean?

  • Helena Ortiz-Krablin

    Hi Steph, I love your site #1. And I will be trying the wheat free lasagna #2 and now making soy milk, wow #3 πŸ™‚ I look forward to cooking again and making my own soy milk. I agree and don’t understand why plain soy milk needs sugar. I just don’t get it.
    Thank you for the recipes πŸ™‚
    Helena

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  • Turtlehealth

    Do any plastic Parts touch the Soy Milk while processingΒ 

  • no, all the parts are stainless.

  • Anna

    Hi Steph..thanks for reminding me of someone!Β  Myself!Β 

  • i love it πŸ™‚

  • Steph, I went looking for this note of yours for a friend and couldn’t find it. But Rodden had a link from her recipe so “bob’s my uncle.” Thanks. Cheers, Kim

  • that worked out well!

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  • Max

    Rooster fighter is awesome m/ m/

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