What is the Difference Between a Milkshake and a Malt?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Milkshakes and malts are both popular soda fountain drinks, and the only distinguishing difference is that malts, also called malteds, include malted milk powder in addition to the typical ingredients. As a result, this drink has a distinctive, slightly sour flavor that some consumers enjoy. The original beverage appears to have been developed in the early 1920s by a soda fountain employee who thought it might make an intriguing addition to shakes. Both beverages can easily be made at home with the assistance of a blender or milkshake machine.

A classic milkshake is a combination of ice cream and milk.
A classic milkshake is a combination of ice cream and milk.

A classic milkshake includes milk and ice cream, blended to a dense, creamy consistency. In many cases, it is flavored with syrup, and fresh or frozen fruit may be added as well. Typically, a shake is also dressed with whipped cream, and a cherry may be placed on top. There are many different formulations, although vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry are quite standard. Given that any flavor of ice cream can technically be used, the possibilities are quite varied.

A scoop of ice cream.
A scoop of ice cream.

To make a malt, malted milk powder is added to the ice cream while it is blended. The liquid rehydrates the powder and distributes the flavor throughout as it blends, although some does tend to settle to the bottom. The distinctive flavor does not always pair well with some syrups and ice creams, so discretion is advised when inventing new malt flavors at home. Fruit flavors, in particular, tend to clash with it. People can imagine malted milk balls, a popular candy, paired with a fruit like peaches if they are curious about whether or not particular flavors go together.

Barley, which can be malted and combined with milk to make malted milk.
Barley, which can be malted and combined with milk to make malted milk.

The powder is made by combining malted barley with whole milk and wheat flour, which is then dried for convenience. In baking, malted milk with starch converting enzymes is used to make crustier bread doughs with more rise. The enzymes are usually absent in powder that is intended for use as a flavoring.

Malted milk powder is readily available at many markets, usually alongside condensed and dried milk. When stored in a cool dry place, it can last for several years. Typically, one or two spoonfuls are sufficient flavoring for a single milkshake, and one spoonful is advised for people who are experiencing the flavor for the first time. The powder can also be sprinkled on top of drink for extra texture and flavor.

Milkshakes are often topped with whipped cream.
Milkshakes are often topped with whipped cream.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Well when I was a kid we went to the local "malt shop." Never heard of a milk shake shop. Malts came standard with a scoop of malt. You would have to ask them to leave it out and then you had a milk shake. The corruption came along with soft ice cream. They just poured it out of the machine and adding malt was an extra step and cost that fell by the wayside.


Not all milkshakes contain ice cream, hence milkshake! Outside of New England, USA, milkshakes may contain ice cream or may not!

Inside New England, if you order a milkshake, you will get a drink of milk and syrup flavoring.

A milkshake with ice cream is called a frappe in New England!


Coca-Cola has no interest in putting alcohol in a non-alcoholic drink. Their interest is trying to make you buy sugared water.

Would I serve it to my child? No. It is like Fanta and Sprite - no good for the teeth!

Reasons, ingredients are listed from largest amount to lowest:

Sugar: Promotes bacterial tooth decay

Acidulants: Acids soften the enamel of the teeth and promote tooth decay

Citric and malic acid: a little bit is good vitamin C, but too much promotes tooth decay.


anon23113: What makes you think Coca Cola would sell you an alcoholic drink and not tell you? I really don't think you have anything to worry about.

If it did contain alcohol, I might be interested, and I'd buy you a drink, too. jim


From what I have read about Novida, it is non-alcoholic. It seems to be more of an energy drink.

As far as giving it to your one year old, I would say no since it is high in sugar. Also, since it has malted barley in it, it could easily ferment, becoming slightly alcoholic, if it sat in a sippy cup for too long.


Hello i am mailing from kenya, coca cola company has introduced new product in kenya called Novida it is written Non alcoholic drink but i am suspect it. here the ingredients....

carbonated water, sugar, acidulants, citric and malic acid, malt extract, stabilizers, flavourants, preservatives, potassium sorbate,and sodium benazoate.

is this a normal drink like fanta, sprite and so on or can we say it is juice. is it related with any alcoholic drink? can i give it to my son who is 1 year? or kids pls help

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