A soy milk maker is a device used to make the process of creating soy milk easier and more convenient. There are a number of soy milk maker designs, although most are self-contained countertop models that look like a coffee maker, blender or large thermal container. The machine works by incorporating a grinder, water heating element, strainer and carafe into a single unit so soybeans can be added and processed automatically. Certain models of soy milk maker have additional attachments or accessories that allow the owner to make other types of foods, such as tofu or yogurt, from the beans. On average, most soy milk maker models will turn soybeans into milk within 10 to 20 minutes, although some designs require that the beans first be soaked for several hours before processing.
The general process of creating soy milk in a soy milk maker starts with the owner adding beans to the machine, along with some water. The machine will then grind the beans and turn them into pulp. The water that is added is heated much like the water in a coffee maker, and then the water and beans are combined so the flavor, nutrients and milk are extracted from the bean pulp. Depending on the exact configuration of the soy milk maker, the beans are either contained in a mesh filter basket or are drawn out of the milk with a sieve-like strainer. The liquid soy milk is then ready for use and the remaining bean pulp in the filter, which is called okara, can be discarded or used in other dishes.
The general procedures for creating soy milk are fairly generic, so it is possible to use most machines with other types of beans, fruits, nuts and grains. The grinding mechanism in many models allows for dried ingredients to be used without the need for pre-soaking. The resulting milk or liquid can vary from a light health drink to a thick, rich slurry that can be used in cooking.
In addition to producing milk or liquids, some models of soy milk maker allow for the addition of different ingredients so other types of soy or bean products can be made. With the addition of a special coagulant, soy milk can be turned into tofu or live cultures can be added to make yogurt in the carafe of the machine. Although these foods can be made from the soy milk without any assistance from the machine, certain soy milk makers have supporting hardware that can be attached to help press or strain the resulting products.