Drinking coffee from a cafe. Is it permitted?


Melbourne, Australia is renowned for the quality of its coffee and the abundance of chic cafes. My parent’s generation religiously quaffed a good cup of tea after dinner. This was a ritual. Coffee in Europe was perhaps more the domain of the “more cultured” countries, including Italy, Austria, and Greece. The shtetl in Poland wasn’t exactly a place where one could obtain a more refined cup of “Kaveh”. Over time, coffee consumption increased even for Holocaust survivors, who would start the day with a cup accompanying their breakfast. Of course, the coffee was often instant coffee, but it succeeded in nourishing a “caffeine hit” and fueled the ubiquitous Yom Kippur withdrawal headache. As time marched on, and new generations were born, a more sophisticated approach to coffee made its way into homes. Multiculturalism also gave rise to a range of cafes strategically positioned to entice a passerby.

These days, fancy coffee and cafes are everywhere. Indeed, even in Israel, I noticed an improvement in quality, though Israel still has some catching up to do in this regard. Homes now commonly employ a Nespresso-style coffee pod machine (or in the USA a Keurig machine).

Milk Alternatives

Another significant change has been the rise of nonlactose (non cow-based) milk. Let’s call them “alternative” milk. The demand for such milk has grown due to a number of factors-lactose intolerance, vegetarian and vegan demands, and somewhat unproven theories linking milk to a bevy of illnesses. One other benefit of alternative milk is that it is potentially Pareve. Unlike the older style parve coffee creamers, which were a chemical mash-up of all manner of “delights”, alternative milk, in theory, is basically derived from a grain or legume and the addition of water.

To be sure, it isn’t the case that every alternative milk is simply kosher. Every reputable kosher agency publishes a list of alternative milk products which are acceptable from a Halachic standpoint. Indeed, even those which are kosher are sometimes also designated as “DE-Dairy Equipment” which means that they should not be consumed together with a mouthful of meat or chicken.

For those who drink only supervised Chalav Yisrael cow’s milk and do not rely on the leniency of Chalav Stam, alternative milk can be a blessing. However, a DE designation may still change the rules. For them, even though the alternative milk is kosher since it may have shared an equipment line with non-Chalav Yisrael equipment, the DE classification would be moot. This isn’t universal. Non-Chassidim, who otherwise only consume supervised Chalav Yisrael, may nonetheless follow the rulings of Rav Henkin z”l (Teshuvos Ibra 43), as quoted by the CRC), Rav Kaminetsky (Emes LeYaakov p308 as quoted by Rav Jachter) Rav Belsky and others who do not extend the stringency of Chalav Yisrael to vessels/Kelim. For others, notably Chassidim, DE is meaningless if it shares equipment with Chalav Akum and has the same prohibition as Chalav Akum.

So where does this leave us vis-à-vis the contemporary barista coffee shop?

Barista Coffee

A typical machine looks something like this.

Essentially, coffee beans are ground and placed in the portafilter and then attached to the group head. Hot water is then pumped through the portafilter dripping freshly brewed coffee into a cup placed on the tray. Assuming that the coffee beans are not flavoured or oiled in some unacceptable manner, this part of the process ought not to present a Kosher concern. Therefore, someone who orders an espresso or a long black in a disposable cup should be pretty safe from a kashrus perspective. As in all such questions, one should not assume that this blog functions as a Halachic arbiter. Readers should discuss this with their competent local orthodox Rabbi. For Sefardim, a glass cup may be acceptable. Regular crockery presents more of a problem.

The plot thickens (sic) when we introduce the frothed milk or frothed alternative milk. Firstly, is all the regular milk used in the Cafe (especially for those who rely on Chalav Stam) actually Kosher Milk? These days, milk isn’t always “just milk” from the cow. Various additives are commonly introduced and one would need to be sure that the brand of regular milk being used is actually approved by the local kosher authority. Let’s assume that things are simpler and that the Cafe always uses a common brand of milk which is also Kosher (one would need to eyeball the milk and note that they use a fixed brand).

Next, the milk (regular or alternative) is poured into a stainless steel pot that looks like this

The steam wand pictured above is inserted into the pot and, using the steam control, the milk is frothed (yes it could be for a cappuccino, flat white, latte, macchiato, כפה הפוך, and more). The frothed milk is then poured over the freshly brewed black coffee and served in a disposable cup (as above). It’s yours after you part ways with 4-7 dollars.

Introduction of alternative milk

These days the alternatives to cow’s milk are ubiquitous. Almost every coffee shop offers a choice of soy, oat, almond milk, and more. The coffee is made in the same way except that the alternative milk that is now frothed in the pot (which is commonly rinsed in between cups with a hot gush of water) is one of the alternative milk, and shares the use of the steaming wand.

The reality is that some of the alternative kinds of milk are simply not approved by a local kashrut authority. In my experience, after asking which brand of alternative milk a given shop is using, it is very common for at least one of the above alternative kinds of milk to be not approved or not kosher. This reality presents a major problem. Even if one were to ask for a soy latte, and observe that the soy milk being used is of the kosher variety, since that pot and wand is used to froth at high temperatures with one or more non-kosher varieties (and the pot is obviously not kashered in between cups) then the resultant soy latte presents a serious kashrus question.

I know that many יראי שמים do buy a takeaway non-black coffee (with milk or a parve otherwise kosher alternative milk). I wondered whether perhaps I was not across all the halachic parameters and was needlessly alarmist in my thinking.

I discussed the matter with a number of local Rabbis who were somewhat silent but acknowledged the issue. Eventually, I wrote to Rav Yosef Rimon, a respected Posek and educator, who has visited Melbourne on a number of occasions. Rav Rimon answers promptly.

Rav Rimon answered (my adapted translation)

According to your description, some of the milk may not be kosher. If so, it is very possible that non kosher cooking within a 24 hour period occurred, and if so it [the pot] cannot be used anyway. Even if it is known that the pot hadn’t been used for 24 hours, in the first instance (Lechatchila) it would not be permitted and any Heter might only be permitted after the fact, BeDieved.

Therefore, it is difficult to permit and one has to make sure that all types of milk used there are kosher or that they use utensils that never contain milk of any type about which there is a kosher concern.

Personal communication March 9, 2023

In conclusion

It appears to me that unless a given coffee shop or cafe is absolutely known and verified to not be using any brand of non-kosher/approved milk or milk alternative, it would be forbidden to purchase a takeaway cup of non-black coffee. This must be checked, and indeed, a proprietor might be given a list of kosher milk to use as this would benefit religious Jews who wish to patronise their establishment.

If your Posek has a different view, do let me know in the comments section.

Record of correspondence

Here is the text of the question that I sent.

כבוד הרב,

אני כותב אודות בתי קפה בחו’’ל

לפני כמה שנים המצב היה פשוט יותר. למי שסמך על ההיתר של הגרמ’’פ זצ’’ל בדין של חלב ישראל ואחרים שסברו וסוברים כמוהו במדינות מתורבתות עם חוקים נוקשים לגבי מרכיבי מזון וזיוף, היו שנכנסו לבתי קפה וקנו כוס קפה שהוגשה בכוס חד פעמית או בכוס זכוכית (אני מתאר לעצמי שכוס רגילה היא יותר בעייתית) הקפה נעשה על ידי טחינת הפולים, מים חמים ותוספת חלב מוקצף. החלב המוקצף נעשה על ידי החדרת זרבובית מחוממת שהתיזה אוויר חם לתוך סיר מתכת קטן המכיל חלב. כמובן, היו וריאציות על כמות החלב והסגנון, ואלה נקראים בשמות שונים כולל ’’קפוצ’ינו, אמריקנו, לאטה’’ ועוד. יש אנשים אחרים, כולל כאלה אינם מקילים אל פי הפסק של ר׳ משה, ושותים רק קפה שחור.

(אגב אני יודע שיש חשש במדינות מסוימות בנוגע להליכים וטרינריים המקלים על הצטברות גז בפרות, כך שהנהלים הללו יכולים להפוך את הפרות לטריפות ויש שסוברים שזה דין רוב ואינו מיעוט שאינו מצוי. אני לא כותב אודות פרות כאלה ––– פה, הזנת הפרה היא דשא, והבעיה אינה שכיחה כלל.)

עכשיו אני פונה לשאלה בזמנינו.
ידוע, קיימים כיום סוגים חלופיים רבים של חלב ללא לקטוז, ביניהם סויה, שקדים, שיבולת שועל ועוד. כאשר מכינים קפה באמצעות חלבים אלטרנטיביים אלה, התהליך זהה, אלא שסיר הפלדה המשמש להקצפה של החלב מכיל את מוצר החלב אלטרנטיביים האלה. מוט ההקצפה שמרסס את האוויר החם משמש במשותף עם חלב רגיל ובין החלב באלטרניטיביים, אך מנוקה בין כל כוס עם סמרטוט, ולפעמים עם פרץ של אוויר חם מהמוט לפני ניגוב על ידי הסמרטוט.

כאן, ובמדינות מערביות אחרות בחו’’ל, לא כל סוג של סויה, שיבולת שועל, שקדים או חלב אחר מקבל הכשר. יש רשימה של חלבים כשרים ידועים, ובחנות ספציפית, כל אחד מהחלבים האלטרנטיביים שבהם הם משתמשים עלולים להיות לא כשרים. אפשר וצריך כמובן לשאול באיזה חלב אלטרנתיבי ספציפי שהם משתמשים, וגם לראות את קופסה. זה לא כך רגיל שבית קפה ישתמש רק בסוגים הכשרים של חלב אלטרנטיבי. סביר הרבה יותר, אם לא כמעט בטוח, שלפחות אחד מהחלבים האלטרנטיביים שהם משתמשים בהם אינו כשר.

ולכן, על פי הנאמר למעלה, יש שאלה על קניית קפה בבתי שפה אפילו עם חלב רגיל כשהשתמשות בסיר הפלדה ומוט ההקצפה בין כוס קפה לכוס קפה יכול להיות לפני כן עם חלב אלטרנטיבי לא כשר. שניהם––המוט וסיר הפלדה הם בוודאי בחום של יד סולדת. בדרך כלל, איך שאני ראיתי, שותפים את הסיר בין כוס קפה על ידי זרם מים.

הנה, בשולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות הכשר וטבילת כלים סימן קכב סעיף ו כתוב:

“אף על פי כן אסור לומר לעובד כוכבים: בשל לי ירקות בקדרתך, וכן לא יאמר לו: עשה לי מרקחת, שכל האומר: בשל לי, הרי הוא כאלו בישל בידיו”
(גם אם הבליעה יהא בטל, או אינו בן יומו, או טעם פגום או בטל)

שלכאורה, לפי זה ועוד, יהיה לכאורה אסור לקנות קפה בחנות כשידוע שמשתמשים באפילו סוג אחד של חלב שאין לו הכשר? (לפי הועדת הכשרות במדינה).

(כאמור, בחנויות הם שותפים את סיר הפלדה מהר בזרם מים בין כל כוס וכוס … והם מנגבים את מוט ההקצפה בין שימוש לשימוש)

and here is the response

מקווה שעבר עליכם פורים בטוב
לפי הנתונים שלכם חלק מהחלב איננו כשר. אם כך, ייתכן מאוד שהיה בישול אפילו בן יומו לא כשר, ואם כך ממילא אי אפשר להשתמש. גם אם ידוע שזה לא בן יומו, ההיתר יהיה בדיעבד ולא לכתחילה.

לכן קשה להתיר וצריך לדאוג שכל סוגי החלב יהיו כשרים או שישתמשו בכלים שבוודאי לא היה בהם חלב מכל סוג שיש לגביו חשש כשרות.

בהצלחה רבה בע”ה

יוסף צבי רימון

Supervised Milk vs Government Regulated Milk

Firstly a disclaimer: In our house you will only find Milk that was formally supervised, that is, in Melbourne the Milk from Tempo supervised by the Hungarian Charedi community. This is commonly known as Chalav Yisrael. The same is true of cheese we buy and eat.

It is common among the “frum world” to call standard milk that one buys from a supermarket (assuming it’s kosher of course, because sometimes they now have strange health additives) as “Chalav Akum“. Now, there is nobody who permits Chalav Akum. It is forbidden according to Shulchan Aruch without any question.

But, it grates on me, that people call the milk one buys in, say, Australia or the USA as Chalav Akum. It is NOT Chalav Akum. This milk falls into its own category. R’ Moshe Feinstein called it “Chalav HaCompanies” and permitted it expressly in many of his Responsa. He never changed his mind, however, he said that in Yeshivas that could afford  Jewish supervision of milk, or for someone who considers themselves  a “Baal Nefesh” (which is difficult to translate, but let’s just say it’s someone who is wary of any/most lenient opinions across the gamut of Judaism—perhaps this is the level of “Tzadik” described in the Sefer HaTanya?) they should take on the stringency of Jewish supervision.

Rabbi Dr Tendler, R’ Moshe’s son-in-law, testifies there was standard milk in R’ Moshe’s house. If R’ Moshe was strict, he extended it only to himself. The Rav agreed with R’ Moshe.

The term Baal Nefesh wasn’t defined by Reb Moshe, of course. It appears earlier in many Seforim. Sometimes they use Medakdekim, but I don’t know if that’s exactly the same thing. Perhaps it is.  I haven’t merited seeing a definition. There are people who I consider to be a Baal Nefesh, but I think the real Baal Nefesh would never call themselves that 🙂

HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank זצ’’ל, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and Dayan of the Eda Charedis

Now, what grates on me is the issue of powdered milk. Why so? There are some (e.g. the Har Tzvi, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank) who contend that the decree to need milk to be supervised never applied to milk powder. If one looks carefully on Hashgacha in Israel one often sees that they make mention that the milk (usually from overseas) is from milk powder, because they know that some agree with Rav Frank.

What some Charedim do, however, is mislead. They mention that powdered milk is the same as milk, and quote the Chazon Ish. Yes, the Chazon Ish was the première Posek of Bnei Brak and his word is most important in the Torah world. As such, Charedim will not accept the powdered milk permission of Rav Frank, (even though he was no lightweight in anyone’s eyes and a staunch opponent of Hungarian Charedim). I don’t have a problem with anyone following the Chazon Ish, of course. Why should I? He was the Posek of B’nei Brak and his influence extended beyond.

So what is this blog post about? Well it’s about what they do not tell you about the Chazon Ish.

Everyone assumes that the permission to use Government regulation for Milk was initiated as a “lenient” opinion by R’ Moshe Feinstein זצ’’ל. (R’ Moshe was disgustingly ridiculed by Satmar, as is well-known, and one of their ilk wrote a repulsive book called Ma׳aneh L’igros, which might have been taken seriously if the author had even a modicum of Derech Eretz. The book was thrown in the gutter because of its disgraceful lack of respect to R’ Moshe and withdrawn from print.

The FACT however is that no less a figure than the Chazon Ish himself, before R’ Moshe, allowed Government regulation of Milk and he, yes, the same Chazon Ish expressly permitted it to satisfy the rules of Chalav Yisrael!

Some biased ones will tell to sell you all sorts of tall tales about this. The facts are that the Chazon Ish mentioned his decision/psak to Rav Wosner ז’ל on two occasions, and published it openly in his Seforim, and his Psak was also affirmed by the Steipler Gaon (the Chazon Ish’s brother-in-law). Some will do everything to make one think that the Chazon Ish didn’t mean it; that it was not L’Maaseh (for practical effect); it was just a Sevorah (theory) etc. However, those that say this are just plain revisionists for their own populist purposes. I thank RDS for an excellent article on this topic. If “the Baalei Nefesh” want to forbid it, fine. To claim that this was also the view of the Chazon Ish, though, is just pure fiction.

So, in future, if you are one of those who drinks Government regulated milk, you really should mention that it was permitted by the Chazon Ish. Saying it was permitted by R’ Moshe Feinstein can make it sound like a “lenient opinion” but if you say it was the Chazon Ish, then you are telling the truth and standing on the shoulders of a Charedi giant. Of course, R’ Moshe was a giant, but not for Charedim in Israel who considered his opinions too permissive.

I recently discussed this with the OU, and they affirmed that they agreed 100% with my sentiments.

One more disclaimer: the milk really needs to be from a civilised government where corruption and alternative milk substitution is not rife. If you are travelling, you need to be very careful because in some countries, there really is no issue of respect/fear of Government regulation if it exists at all. If it doesn’t exist, there is no permission to use the Milk according to anyone, unless they don’t have Treyf animals in that country! As a tangential example, we all know many Hindus are strict vegetarians or even vegans. Yet, for years, McDonalds in India sold their advertised pure veggie food, using animal oil from cows which many Hindus consider a sacred animal! The outcry in India was enormous. I was there at the time. (Personally, I only ate what was in my suitcase)

Meir Gershon Rabi’s latest venture: From Flesh to Milk

I heard about this probably a year ago or longer. The concept is far from new and has appeared in many halachic issues. For example: Dinei Yichud (being alone with someone of the opposite gender (or indeed same gender for someone who is Gay!).

First, an admission. In our family, we only drink mashgiach supervised Chalav Yisrael. Ditto for milk products, with the exception of a chocolate bar that is known to be from Milk powder (see Rav Frank in Har Tzvi, which is also accepted as normative in Israel by the Rabbinate).

The reason my family does this now is because I did it for about 7 years before I got married. Why did it I do it then? It wasn’t because I was a frumak who had returned from learning overseas and overturned his parent’s house and insisted on them making a range of changes because things weren’t “up to scratch”.

Absolutely not. I had and have no doubt so ever about any aspect of Kashrus in my parents’ home, where standard Australian Milk is and was used. Rather, in those days, in the early eighties, there were a group of people who did not accept the permission of the famed Chazon Ish*, R’ Moshe Feinstein, and others, that Milk in the US, and countries like Australia can be assumed as “supervised” as a non-Jew would be loath to breach Government regulations and introduce non cow’s milk. In Australia, they are particularly strict, as any visitor to this country trying to bring in an apple will know. Accordingly, I approached my mother, and asked permission if she minded that we have one bottle of milk that is humanly supervised by an assumed reputable Mashgiach in the house. I told her that my motive was to be another person who bought such products, so that the nascent business which was trying to produce traditional Chalav Yisrael would survive. I was somewhat altruistic, and even agreed to support Hungarians 🙂 so that an alternative view could also exist from a business perspective by my small gesture. My mother accepted, and would make things Chalav Yisrael as she wanted me to be able to eat them, after I mentioned this.

What started as an altruistic notion, was also expressed explicitly at the time, and even now, in terms of the fact that I do not consider, based on reliable world-renowned Poskim, the Government milk (Chalav HaCompanies) as any less Kosher. I did not take a blanket Neder (vow). As such, I never had or have a question of Keilim (vessels). I simply do not consider such vessels Treyf in any way or form.

Unfortunately, come companies, such as Cadbury’s do use real milk, so the milk powder view mentioned above loses much value! In Israel the Rabbinate notes when overseas chocolates are made with Milk Powder.

Enter Meir Gershon Rabi (MGR). He wants to produce Chalav that is supervised, using a web cam style supervision. The supposition is that in addition to Government regulation, one could “see” (although technically that can be faked easily enough) that its real milk from a Cow. Now, of course, as is well-known, MGR, runs a private BUSINESS  from his Kashrus together with other investors. I would call them business entrepreneurs who use kashrut as their commodity. I have no doubt that MGR and his family did not rely on the Chazon Ish or R’ Moshe Feinstein, and instead bought the fresh Chalav Yisrael from Adass or the long life version.

So, MGR announces that he has put into place a series of cameras for surveillance of a farm or two so that “more” confidence in the source of the milk can be ascertained. I assume he either considers this as more Mirtas or real Hashgocho. Whatever.

I don’t understand the business model. People who are quite comfortable with the Chazon Ish and R’ Moshe Feinstein can buy any milk on the Kosher Australia app or web sites or publications. These are Kosher. They are not mehadrin according to those who don’t follow the Chazon Ish or R’ Moshe. Those who know, make their mind up.

Presumably, MGR wants to increase the “confidence” in the mehadrin status of the milk through cameras. My prediction is that those who need a physical set of eyes via a Yotzeh V’Nichnas (surprise occasional visit from Mashgichim) or a full-time Mashgiach (who also examined the cans before milking—ask whether MGR’s web cams do that). Those people, and there are many, will not engage in MGR’s supervision of anything. They don’t eat from his Hashgacha anyway, and I’d love to know if MGR will now bring this new milk (which is used in this way in Israel but not accepted as mehadrin by the OU and others) into his own house for his own wife and children and grandchildren.

The others who are happy with milk as listed in Kosher Australia don’t need to be bothered with his innovation. The milk in the Kosher Australia list is already deemed Kosher Milk. Why do they need MGR’s Camera Milk suddenly? Did he tell them they needed traditional Chalav Yisroel before his got his surveillance by video working?

At the end of the day I am puzzled by this from a business perspective (although there is an initial outlay). Who are the potential buyers of such milk? MGR and his business partners must feel there is a new market?  At the end of the day MGR’s business is a private company, and they will not allow the community to see their books or the money made from his Kashrus “innovations”.

I just don’t get it. There seems to be no money in it!

A much more pressing issue is the Kashrus of cows in general! One must ascertain that they haven’t had their lungs punctured because of stomach problems, by veterinarians, because their Milk would be Treyf even with human eyes. Perhaps MGR also uses web cams to scrutinise the veterinary procedures and records. [I’m told that in Australia these procedures are less likely than in the USA due to the quality and type of feed]

What have I missed?

* There have been revisionists who claim the Chazon Ish wasn’t serious about his view. He most definitely was. The rest is the type of revisionism beautifully described by Marc Shapiro in his “Changing the Immutable” and documented with great precision by HaGaon R’ Dovid Segal.

From Greenberg Art


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