A lot of people just add milk to coffee. Isn't cream too heavy? Do people really add cream to coffee, or is it just an expression?
People do not usually add what is commonly thought of as 'cream' to their coffee. Most cream (such as heavy cream, whipping cream and clotted cream) is way too heavy for coffee, as it would generally overpower it in both flavor and texture.
However, a lighter type of cream is frequently used to add flavor and body to coffee drinks, and some people add what is properly known as "non-dairy coffee creamer" and commonly known as coffee cream.
In the United States, the light type of cream used for coffee is known as half and half. In the United Kingdom, it is called half cream.
Whereas heavy cream is upwards of 36 percent milk fat and light cream is 18 to 30 percent milk fat in the US, half and half is in the range of 12 to 18 percent milk fat. Similarly, the UK's single cream is 18 percent milk fat, while its half cream (the kind often used for coffee) is only 12 percent milk fat. These are legal definitions of the milk fat levels, so they vary from country to country (as do the terms used). Interestingly enough, Switzerland has a separate category for coffee cream, which has a minimum (and typical) milk fat level of 15 percent by weight.
Coffee cream sometimes has a cream stabilizer to keep it from "feathering" (producing oily globules) when it is poured into coffee. It can also be made more stable (and less likely to feather) by partial demineralization and addition of sodium caseinate.
Also known as "coffee whitener," non-dairy creamer is a liquid or granular substance used in lieu of milk or cream in coffee. Although it does not contain lactose, many brands contain a milk-derived protein, so they are sometimes shunned by vegans.
To achieve a mouthfeel akin to that of coffee cream, non-dairy creamers often use vegetable-based fats.
Many non-dairy creamers are sweetened (often with corn syrup) and stabilized with various chemicals or processed. Some non-dairy creamers are flavored to taste like French vanilla and other popular coffee flavors.
Coffee Creamer Brands & Flavors
Common brands of coffee brands include Nestle, Carnation, Coffee Mate and International Delight. The non-dairy, vegan coffee creamer Silk Creamer has also become more popular in recent years.
There are many flavors of coffee creamer available in American grocery stores. Some vary seasonally and are themed around holiday desserts (such as eggnog or pumpkin pie) or seasonal ingredients. Others are available year round. Here are a few flavors you are likely to encounter:
- Vanilla and French Vanilla
- Chocolate and Mocha
- Hazelnut and other nut flavors (such as pecan, almond, and walnut)
- Sweet Cream
- Irish Creme and Amaretto
- Cinnamon and various spice mixtures
Homemade Coffee Creamer Recipes
You can make coffee creamer at home from unflavored non-dairy coffee creamers and your own flavorings or from scratch. Here's a great recipe to get you started: