December 2, 2011

SoyaPower Plus Soymilk Maker

If you've read my blog much at all you know I try to be frugal when I can, especially when doing so not only saves me money, but gives me better results.

If you know me personally at all you probably know that I used to tip the scales at almost 280 pounds and I went on the HCG diet, losing 60 pounds.  While I've found some already, I'm working on losing them without the diet.  For the record, I went through a doctor, not some gas station clerk (seriously, they are trying to sell the HCG drops at gas stations?).

Anyway, after going through the diet where I really didn't consume milk or cheese for a couple of months I found that a lot of dairy didn't agree with me.  Milk and ice cream were right out.  Cheese is ok and while I've never like yogurt (except frozen yogurt), I've been having better luck with small amounts of Greek Yogurt.

I started trying out milk alternatives.  I'm not a fan of soy milk, but I tried it anyway.  Meh.  I did try rice milk, which was ok, but I really liked almond milk.  Fred Meyer carries quite a variety.  It took some experimenting, but what worked best for me was to mix one container each of the sweetened and the original to get the right amount of sweetness.  These quart containers cost around $2.25 each, depending on brand, which means that a gallon was close enough to $10.  Yikes!

There has to be a better way.  A little internet research showed me it would be easy enough to make my own almond milk, but it seems rather time consuming and messy.  Somehow I stumbled across the Soy Milk Maker website. I wondered if I would like homemade soy milk.....but I'm not spending $100+ to find out.  I poked around the site some more and found that the machine could be used for making rice or almond milk, or even a combination of nuts and grains.  There were a couple of videos on the site that have been submitted by "professional" bloggers and general users.  It did seem simple enough to use, maybe I could get one as a Christmas present.

I put the SoyaPower Plus on my Christmas list and figured that was that.

Around Thanksgiving I went through my list, copying pictures and links to create an offline list I could give to my family.  When I came to the SoyaPower Plus I noticed they had some returned/refurbished models at a big discount.  Instead of hoping I'd get the machine I just figured that I should buy one for myself and make sure I get one.  In my experience "refurbished" usually means the buyer had second thoughts and returned the item, often unopened.  I've yet to have a problem with a manufacture's willingness to stand behind their product in case there was a problem.....and I've yet to have a problem.

My SoyaPower Plus arrived Wednesday and I was just shy of giddy about the prospect of making my own almond milk.  I had to wait until the next morning since I had to soak my almonds and give the machine an initial cleaning.  In anticipation I had already purchased some raw almonds and some agave nectar for sweetness.

The process was just as simple as the videos had depicted.  I soaked 100g of almonds in warm water overnight.  The almonds I bought (the cheapest) were sliced raw almonds and I used a digital scale instead of the measuring cup they included.  After rinsing the almonds they went in the machine with a specified amount of water.  Latch the top part on, press a button and wait about 15-20 minutes.  The SoyaPower Plus beeps non-stop when it is done, which I found slightly annoying.  The instructions recommended letting the machine cool down for a few minutes before removing the top.  Afterwards you just have to strain the almond milk to remove the solids.  They give you a nice strainer and pitcher just for that purpose.  When the milk has cooled a bit you can (I'd say have to) flavor it.

My first batch of almond milk wasn't very good.  I expected this since I had no idea what I was doing, even though I had instructions.  What one person considers good is not necessarily going to work for me.  My first batch was too watery.  The amount of water you use should be between 1300 and 1500.  I'm assuming milliliters, but I'm just going off of the marks inside the machine that read 1300 and 1500.  I went with 1500 on the first batch.  The agave nectar wasn't really my style either.  It's not bad, it just is missing something.

I started soaking some more almonds and figured I'd give it another go when I got home from a meeting last night.  On my way home I stopped at the store and looked at the labels of some of the commercial almond milk available.  Most had added vitamins and what I assume were ingredients to prevent the almond milk from separating (more on that later).  The sweetener that was common to all the varieties I liked was evaporated cane juice, which I just so happen to be using lately in the kitchen.

My next batch I used 1300 units of water and instead of using the Soy button on the machine I tried the Soy+ button.  I'm still experimenting here, so why not?  After the milk was done and filtered, but still quite warm, I flavored it with 1/8 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 3 tablespoons of evaporated cane juice.  The whole batch went into the refrigerator and I had to wait until this morning to test the results.

Flavor wise it is spot-on for what I like.  It is clear to me that I have my base recipe, which is odd since it only took two tries.  The consistency of the milk is good, but you have to shake/stir it up before pouring and drinking.  The milk looks kind of like it is curdling, but it tastes great.  I'm sure if I wanted to play around a bit with some additives I could, but I don't see the appeal of that.  With some of the commercial almond milks, even with their additives, there would be a residue on the side of the storage container.  Since I was mixing two types to get the appropriate level of sweetness, I could see this.  Most users probably wouldn't have noticed this in their cartons.

I haven't done the detailed math yet, but a quick Google check and price comparison means I'll get just barely short of 5 batches of almond milk from a pound of almond.  If I assume that each batch is 1300 ml, which equals .343 gallons, then I'm getting 1.7 gallons of almond milk per pound of almonds. when I do this type of math I tend to round against my favor.  Let's say we get 1.5 gallons and that almonds are $5 a pound where I get them.  I actually get them for under $4 a pound, so I really shouldn't have to worry about the cost of the salt, vanilla, cane juice, or electricity.  That means I pay $5 for an amount of almond milk that would cost me $13.50ish at the store.

Continuing my lopsided math a little further, that means if I purchased a brand-new SoyaPower Plus for $100 (shipping is currently free), then my break even point is just about 58 batches of almond milk made.  Wow....this is even with the numbers skewed away from reality.  I'm guesstimating that in my case I'll be ahead no later than next February!

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