What’s the deal with people putting heavy cream in their hot and iced coffee?
Probably every coffee lover has had the same thought as they wander past the dairy case in their local grocery store: “I wonder what it would be like to use some of that ‘Heavy Cream’ in my morning coffee?”
Most of us who enjoy regular servings of black gold (aka “coffee”) have considered venturing out and using all sorts of additives, not just heavy whipping cream (which is usually labeled as “heavy cream” in stores).
Likewise, once your brain starts mulling the prospect of heavy cream coffee and what it tastes like, the chances are that you pondered the wide variety of flavors, sweeteners, and even artificial sweeteners of your daily dose of brew.
Many coffee drinkers use dozens of different ways to make their black brew taste better, such as:
- whipped cream (a favorite worldwide)
- Irish whiskey,
- cocoa powder
- MCT oil
- vanilla extract
- coconut oil
So, what’s the 411 on the question that started it all? Can you or can’t you use heavy cream in coffee? If so, what does it do for the resulting beverage’s taste, fat content, calories, and carbs?
Can You Use Heavy Cream In Coffee – Yes or No?
Short answer: yes, of course, you can.
Longer answer: you might or might not like the taste or the fact that there are about 5 grams of fat per ounce in the stuff. If weight loss is on your mind, there are plenty of alternatives to heavy cream.
Speaking, the “heavy” part of the cream is the part that rises straight to the top of milk while it’s being processed, which is why it comes with low carbs, lots of calories per serving (about 50 calories per ounce), and thus a strong dose of fat content.
But, when combined with sweeteners like standard sugar, caramel, sweet sauces, syrups, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients, the final recipe can be pretty delicious.
Don’t forget the history of coffee drinking.
Decades ago, before consumers had so many choices, people typically took their black coffee with cream, sugar, or neither.
And a lot of the cream they would pour into their cups was heavy cream, which gave the concoction a creamy texture and worked well as a taste combination with processed coffee beans that had been ground and brewed in hot water.
Coffee With Heavy Whipping Cream
You’ll probably not find many people who only add heavy whipping cream to their coffee.
Nearly everyone who cherishes the creamy, smooth additive uses one or more extras to bolster the taste profile of black coffee.
Folks who are lactose intolerant choose things like almond milk instead of any dairy product.
The almonds used in so-called almond “milk” (which, of course, is not milk at all) are a dairy-free food, so lactose-intolerant people often opt for it instead of heavy cream, milk, or even low-fat milk.
Coffee With Half and Half
Lovers of the bean (aka “coffee drinkers”) often use a hugely popular product called Half & Half, which is sold under multiple brand names but is almost always a version of coffee flavoring made of half milk and half cream.
In other words, you’re getting the creamy smoothness of heavy cream without all the fat calories.
Half & Half has a moderate dose of calcium, like milk and heavy cream, as do most dairy products. Even “low-carb” varieties of Half & Half and other dairy-based coffee additives exist.
Coffee With Coffee Creamer
Consumers who don’t want to deal with dairy in their coffee tend to choose coffee creamer, which comes in liquid and powdered forms.
You can find mocha, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and dozens of other flavor offerings when you shop for creamers.
The creamers have added sugar and other flavored chemical additives to enhance their taste, but most have no dairy content, which is why they’re so popular and sell briskly in stores.
Nearly every restaurant offers them in single-serving containers as dairy substitutes for patrons.
Coffee With Milk
Ever seen people drinking coffee with nothing but regular milk added to it? Or, maybe they’ll add some milk and sweetener.
These days, with cold coffee drinks all the rage, it’s become trendy to keep brewed coffee in the fridge, mix it with milk and ice cubes in a closed container, shake the whole thing up, and drink it as a sort of coffee milkshake.
Don’t knock it until you’re tried it because if you use high-grade milk and a better brand of coffee, the resulting mixture is quite flavorful and refreshing.
Also, because the human body more rapidly processes cold liquids, you’ll feel the caffeine effect quicker than if you drank the stuff hot.
What Does Heavy Cream Taste Like?
Coffee drinkers who use heavy cream regularly say that the stuff adds flavor, body, and a nice texture to the drink.
As for taste, first-timers are often surprised that it’s not so strong. Instead, it gives the coffee a smooth taste as you’d get from regular cream but with several other features.
As for the other features, they are sweet and have a buttery taste. For the most part, you won’t notice sweetness from “regular” cream, nor will you get a buttery flavor from it.
However, with heavy cream, there is a surprising and enjoyable taste of butter. That buttery note is relatively light and goes well with the natural coffee flavor.
It’s interesting to remember that in Central Asia, particularly in Mongolia, farmers and animal herders mix chunks of butter directly into a potent coffee concoction and drink it as hot as they can.
The drink offers a potent dose of caffeine, healthy fat, and warmth to bolster the herdsmen against bitter cold Mongolian winters on the high plains.
Espresso and Whipped Cream
People who like the taste and caffeine boost of a high-quality espresso in regular or Irish coffee love to put whipped cream on top of the beverage.
Remember that most commercial whipped creams have sugar, but even natural ones go well with the strong coffee taste of espresso.
Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream Coffee
In most cases, Half & Half gives you all the primary nutrients you’d get from heavy cream but with fewer calories and less fat.
They taste quite different, too, with the heavy cream being sweeter and naturally creamy.
Some coffee experts say Half & Half is just a step down from heavy cream. That’s probably because the lighter stuff comprises half milk and half cream.
Another thing to remember is that some versions of Half & Half are very low-calorie products.
Heavy cream is problematic for people watching their weight and counting every calorie. But be sure to read ingredient lists on your store’s low-cal and no-cal Half & Half cartons.
Often, they don’t contain much of anything except skim milk and a thickening agent, which is often corn syrup or a similar ingredient.
Consumers who don’t like chemical additives, corn syrup, and skim milk would use less heavy cream in their coffee than a whole serving of Half & Half.
It’s a matter of preference at that point and probably only matters to folks watching their calories.
Milk vs. Cream In Coffee
Sometimes the “milk vs. cream” decision is simply one of convenience. You might prefer cream in your coffee, but if there’s none in the fridge, you reach for the milk instead.
The choice rarely comes down to expense because price differences are minimal. Sure, ounce-for-ounce milk is less costly, but people tend to use more of it in coffee than the cream they use.
Plus, most grocery chains carry low-cost creams in their dairy case.
As for the taste question, the cream delivers smoothness, and a pleasant dairy tastes better than milk.
However, full-fat dairy (not two percent or fat-free) comes close to tasting like cream when added to a cup of coffee, even though you might have to use twice as much to get the smoothness effect.
Coffee Creamer vs. Half and Half
The “creamer vs. half & half” question is clear-cut for most coffee drinkers. Creamers (powdered and liquid products) arose because many consumers discovered that they could not use dairy products or preferred not to use them.
Most powdered offerings on store shelves started popping up in the 1960s when a massive wave of health consciousness swept the world.
Shoppers were starting to read labels, look for healthful choices, and compare products like never before.
As a response, food producers began selling non-dairy coffee creamers, which is wrong because the stuff contains no “cream.”
It contains flavor enhancers, added sugar, and other ingredients that combine to imitate the taste of natural cream.
Of course, some products do a better job than others. So, if you prefer artificial creamers, stick with top brands and try a few before deciding on the one that best meets your needs.
Can I Use Heavy Cream On Keto?
If you love coffee but are on the Keto diet, it’s possible to use heavy cream in “Keto coffee” because there are very few carbs in cream, even the heavy stuff.
The Keto crowd views heavy cream as an excellent substitute for sugar, which is usually a no-no on a diet.
Some Keto purists add grass-fed butter to their brew for nutritional and taste purposes. That kind of butter comes from animals that primarily consume grass and thus produce much higher quality butter than processed butter.
Can You Use Heavy Cream In Coffee? Final Thoughts
What’s the verdict on using heavy cream in coffee? If you aren’t lactose-intolerant, don’t mind a few extra fat calories, and want a creamy, rich-tasting morning or anytime drink, go for it.
Remember a few words of caution about buying heavy cream in your local store.
First, spending extra money on a name-brand product is almost always worth it. Some lesser offerings don’t come with the freshness guarantee that the big brands do.
Always check expiration dates on containers and opt for the ones that have the longest time until they’re past their “best by” dates.
Also, remember that most refrigerators have “cold spaces” near the back of the lower shelves, which is the perfect place to park your heavy creams.
When you shop, note that products labeled “heavy whipping cream” and “heavy cream” are the same. There’s no magic about the word “whipping.” Some sellers include it for effect.
Finally, be willing to experiment with coffee additions along with heavy cream. So often, people find one or two things that deliver the perfect taste for their preferences.
What do folks often add to their coffee and heavy cream? The top choices are sugar, artificial sweetener, cinnamon, chocolate syrup, and molasses.
Heavy cream is one of the three parts of what some consumers call “perfect coffee.” The three parts are the coffee, a creamy additive, and a sweetener.
Try out a bunch of different combinations before deciding on what your perfect mixture is.
The experimentation process is fun; you’ll likely discover several flavors and mixtures you would never have found otherwise.