All good things must come to an end. But luckily, when you hit that depressing moment when a bowl of cereal is done, you still have that magical elixir waiting for you as a last treat. You know what I'm talking about here, people. Cereal milk.
Growing up, chocolate cereals were probably the most forbidden of all. Occasionally I could trick my mom into buying some sort of lightly frosted something or other, but my only exposure to chocolate cereals was the very "healthy" variety. You know, the kind that weirdly tastes like vaguely rotting fruit?
It was years before I poured myself a bowl of the real stuff and watched the milk turn almost instantly into a delicious chocolate-y pool.
Now I love cereal milks of all shapes sizes and colors, but after the shock of the Mexican vs. American Coco Krispies milk, we got to thinking: are all cereal milks created equal?
We decided it was time to take things a step further. A blind taste test to find out which chocolate cereal makes the best milk. After some deliberation, we decided to go with the three most popular, purely chocolate cereals: Cocoa Krispies, Cocoa Puffs and Cocoa Pebbles. That'd be one from each of the three major brands (Kellogg's, Post, and General Mills).
We tasted for sweetness, chocolate flavor and all around drinkability. We crowned one the king of the cereal milks.
With Kenji's help (OK, he did the whole thing while I stood by helplessly, eating dry Cocoa Puffs) we re-created the cereal + milk => cereal milk process, in a measured, controlled manner.
Why don't I let him explain the process:
Each cereal was measured and placed in an identical container and covered with a predetermined quantity of milk. I'm a whole milk drinker myself (everything else just tastes like white water to me), but I know Leandra prefers her icy cold skim, so in the spirit of compromise that so often marks Serious Eats intra-office politics, we went with 2%.
To determine the proper steeping time, we tried to figure out how long it takes someone to eat a bowl of cereal. Again, Leandra downs a bowl in about 30 seconds of choking/shoveling but we opted for what others thought was the more conservative time—we set our timer to four minutes, with the entire container being stirred with a spoon once a minute during steeping. After, the milk was passed through a fine mesh strainer into three identical containers for tasting.
Tasters were given milk in unmarked cups and asked to evaluate them on overall flavor, chocolatiness, and sweetness. The results were then tallied up in a spreadsheet and analyzed by a powerful calculator (by which I mean my brain) in order to determine the winner.
In the end, turned out that Cocoa Puffs won by a healthy margin. In looking at the scores, it was no surprise: of the three cereals, it was the only one marked by true chocolate flavor, without the cloying sweetness of the other rice-based contenders.
Back to you, Leandra.
Going with the crowd, my own pick for favorite was Cocoa Puffs as well. It's an all around superior cereal, in my opinion.
In third place was Cocoa Pebbles. Can't say I was surprised. This milk appeared to be dark at first, but when I poured it, I realized it was just a film of powdery chocolate on the surface. Gross. It ranked second for sweetness, but was the least chocolate-y of the three. Clearly not a winning combo. I tasted almost no chocolate flavor, with more of a sugary caramel thing going on which I was not into. The grainy cereal flavor was especially evident as well.
In second place came Cocoa Krispies. The Krispies produced a milk that was somehow richer and creamier than the others. Some people equated it with milk chocolate or Swiss Miss. It was ranked the sweetest, with decent chocolate flavor. This tasted the most like straight up chocolate milk to me, with little evidence of cereal. I would gladly drink this.
The clear winner was Cocoa Puffs. Several tasters were able to identify which cereal it was from first sip. The delicious chocolate-y flavor of those satisfyingly crunchy little puffs was evident throughout this milk. Tasters found this one to be the least sweet of the three, but with the most chocolate flavor. One taster referred to it as "complex and toasty." For me, it had that distinct cereal milk taste that I love so dearly. Bottle that business up!
Which of these is your favorite chocolate milk producer? Is there another chocolate cereal that you think makes better milk?
About the author: Aside from doing an awesome job with her role as Advertising Sales Manager, Leandra Palermo secretly harbors a lifelong passion with all things crunchy and served with icy cold skim milk. This column represents the culmination of that love affair.