Some people might find black coffee to be too strong. This is where creamers come in. Let’s discover “what are coffee creamers?” and if these coffee mates are worth it.
Coffee creamers can be in powder or liquid form. They’re used to lighten and sweeten black coffee or tea. Unfortunately, it might not be the healthiest item in the pantry.
What is coffee creamer?
Coffee creamer is a liquid or granular product used as a substitute for milk products such as half-and-half or cream. Its flavor and texture are similar to half-and-half or whole milk.
Basically, it is made to improve your coffee-drinking experience. Coffee creamers should give you coffee that is sweeter, silkier, and more flavorful.
You can easily buy this at any store in powder or liquid form. The majority of coffee creamer is dairy-free. What’s in it? Well, usually instead of dairy it contains sugar or sugar substitutes, oil, and thickeners.
You probably aren’t new to coffee creamers. But here’s an ad from one of the biggest coffee creamer brands:
As you can see from that ad, coffee creamers are often sweetened or flavored. Some common flavors are vanilla, almond, and hazelnut. But there are also bold flavors like chocolate, caramel, and pumpkin spice.
A coffee creamer is used to lighten and sweeten hot or cold black coffee, espresso, or tea. You can make your dairy-free version or use it as a vegan alternative when mixing coffee drinks.
Coffee and creamer are often served together. The combination is almost already expected.
There are more than 180 million Americans who used coffee creamers in 2020. Chances are, you are adding coffee creamer to your coffee too.
What is coffee cream made of?
Coffee creamers are made of high concentrations of sugar, oil, and additives.
Unfortunately, the fact that they are overly processed makes it questionable if they are good for your health. Plant-based milk substitutes do exist. These include almond or coconut milk which may be a much healthier option.
But even then, you still need to keep an eye out for added sugar and other additives.
In general, coffee creamers are heavily processed combinations of the three main ingredients which are water, sugar, and vegetable oil. Powdered coffee creamer and even liquid ones normally don't contain dairy products like cream or lactose.
But before you get excited and get one as a vegan option, these creamers likely contain proteins that are obtained from…guess what —milk!
Coffee creamer contains a lot of fat, similar to real cream. This is what makes coffee taste smoother, and why it is said to have a creamier mouthfeel.
Here are the ingredients in coffee creamer such as Coffee Mate:
- corn syrup solids
- coconut/ palm kernel/ soybean
- milk derivatives
- 2% or less of dipotassium phosphate
- sodium aluminosilicate
- mono- and diglycerides
- artificial flavor
- annatto color
Coffee mate is used by more than 20 million people in the United States and is probably the most popular creamer brand.
And that's not good news. We've gone through the facts to show you just how bad coffee mate is.
What does creamer do to coffee?
When added to coffee, creamer enhances the texture and softens the bitter taste of any caffeinated beverage. Adding milk or cream improves the texture and masks the bitterness.
Milk proteins reduce the bitterness of coffee by binding to polyphenolic compounds such as tannins. Although tannins are beneficial to your body, they have an astringent taste that makes coffee less palatable for others.
Not only our favorite coffee but other drinks like tea, wine, and even our favorite chocolate are some of the richest and most common dietary sources of tannins. The astringent and bitter flavors found in coffee are common in these foods and drinks.
If you're looking for something to flavor and sweeten your coffee, creamer is a good option. It is, however, high in calories and saturated fat. So, if you're trying to lose weight, you might want to skip this addition.
Creamer is commonly used to sweeten black coffee, espresso, or tea and generally just make it milder. And it usually doesn’t matter if it is served hot or cold. It also comes in both powdered and liquid forms.
Although a lot of people might prefer powdered creamers. It makes sense that it’s the most commonly used because it is easy to store at room temperature compared to liquid creamers.
Potentially harmful bacteria can grow at temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So make sure to consider this before buying too many liquid coffee creamers.
Even dairy-free coffee creamers can spoil and grow germs if left too long. All liquid coffee creamers, regardless of dairy content, have a two-hour time limit outside the refrigerator.
Coffee creamer has so much fat in it just like real cream. But it does make coffee taste smoother. And I think it even has a creamier mouthfeel.
Does coffee creamer have caffeine?
Most coffee creamer brands do not have caffeine in them.
But some products like the Rapid Turbo Creamer have 76 mg of naturally occurring caffeine.
I personally don’t think I need a caffeinated coffee creamer. I mean it might be too much caffeine already. But I understand how this could be an attractive option for those who need the extra boost.
Difference between milk, creamer, half and half, and heavy cream
Most of us consider coffee a big part of our day. Who doesn’t want to enjoy a cup of goodness right?
But what exactly is the difference between milk, creamer, half and half, and heavy cream? Which is best in coffee?
Creamer is sweeter, thicker, and contains more oils and fats than milk. As a result, it will enhance the richness and creaminess of whatever you're cooking —in this case, drinking.
It usually makes no difference whether the coffee creamer is liquid or powdered. If your dish calls for a liquid, you can easily dilute powdered creamer with water.
And if we were talking about storage and shelf life, powdered creamers win.
Depending on the brand, coffee creamers have a shelf life of 1 to 3 years. They easily keep for an additional couple of months, and often much longer. You can still use it up to a couple of months after opening.
Coffee Creamer vs Milk
Milk usually doesn’t contain artificial additives.
On the other hand, most creamers contain oils, fats, and other additives that allow them to result in a richer flavor when added to coffee.
Creamers tend to offer a wide range of flavors. Well, yeah, you can buy various types of milk or dairy-free alternatives. However, the flavors they offer do not have a distinct taste as that of coffee creamers.
Milk may be flavorless but it doesn’t have fat and calories compared to creamers. Coffee creamer has a slightly sweet flavor and is creamier and thicker than milk.
But this just means it is a whole lot healthier than coffee creamers which contain ingredients that milk does not. Not-so-healthy ingredients such as sugar, artificial flavors, and ugh —colorings.
Artificial food dyes can be pretty harmful. They have been linked in studies to ADHD, irritability and depression, asthma and hives, and even tumor development.
Coffee Creamer vs Half and Half
Both creamer and half-and-half are common coffee additives. First of all, they have a similar mouthfeel.
This means that half and half pairs just as well with bitter black coffee or tea as creamers.
Half and half are made up of equal parts whole milk and cream. This is what gives this dairy product a thickness and richness that falls somewhere in the middle.
Aside from your favorite drinks, it is also used in the preparation of desserts and creamy savory dishes.
Coffee creamers do tend to have a similar consistency as half-and-half. But coffee creamers are usually dairy-free and contain no milk products while also having high sugar content.
Now, unlike half-and-half, coffee creamers aren’t as flexible. This is because they aren’t as effective to use outside of beverages.
You can’t exactly use creamers in your panna cotta, can you? 😂
Coffee Creamer vs Heavy cream
Heavy cream is also known as heavy whipping cream. It is probably one of the highest in fat among the usual options that are added to coffee and other drinks.
It is the thick, high-fat cream that rises to the top of fresh milk. This is skimmed off during the manufacturing process.
Many food manufacturers speed up this process by using separators that enhance the separation of milk and cream.
Although the cream is typically the only ingredient in heavy cream, it is sometimes combined with thickeners such as gellan gum to improve its consistency.
In terms of taste, Heavy cream is thicker with a richer flavor compared to coffee creamers. But heavy cream is not very sweet, as it doesn’t contain any added sugar.
Personally, I would say this is better because sugar isn’t exactly the healthiest.
Coffee creamer is typically highly processed and high in added sugar. Most coffee creamers can contain up to 5 grams of added sugar in a single serving. That is more than 1 teaspoon of sugar!
History of coffee creamer
Coffee creamer was invented around the 1940s. It started with the intention of having something to mix with coffee that wouldn’t clump up.
Rich Products Corp. employee Holton "Rex" Diamond wanted a cream that did not for curds when mixed with coffee. He decided to experiment with a gelatinous form of soybean protein to make a soy cream.
This is probably our first glimpse of a non-dairy creamer for coffee.
Then comes in another Rich Products Corp. employee, Frank S. Mitchell. He created Perx, a nondairy coffee creamer which was pretty much a market success. Together with Diamond, they created a non-dairy whipped topping.
This soybean-based whipped topping is also superior to cream because it could be frozen after much trial and error.
But it didn’t end there. In 1958, the Carnation Company created a product that easily dissolved in hot liquid.
They achieved this by replacing most of the milk fat with vegetable oil, as well as the reduction of milk protein. The new product was marketed under the Carnation label as the Coffee-Mate we know today.
Initially, I thought creamer was developed because people were looking for more non-dairy options. But I found a discussion on Quora that coffee creamers were made to give Jewish Americans more options.
Is coffee creamer bad for you?
No matter what your reasons are for choosing coffee creamers, it can’t change the fact that it is bad for your health.
You've heard it before: It's recommended to stay away from highly processed chemicals, oils, and artificial sweeteners.
Unfortunately, most coffee creamers on the market contain this. Nutritionists advise constantly reading the label. First of all, make sure you can pronounce, or at least recognize, every chemical that is stated on the label.
Sucralose, for instance, is a popular component in sugar-free creamers. It has also been proven to negatively affect your gut microbiota.
This could cause various diseases ranging from mild diarrhea to fulminant colitis.
Fulminant colitis occurs in a subset of severe UC patients who have more than 10 stools per day. People suffering from this disease experience continuous bleeding, abdominal pain, distention, and acute, severe toxic symptoms such as fever and anorexia.
Here are a few of the other bad stuff coffee creamers bring your way.
1. It can contain too much fat
Now the fat content of coffee creamer varies by brand, it is usually less than half-and-half. One gram of fat is contained in one tablespoon of coffee creamer.
But does creamer have healthy fat?
Unfortunately, the fat in coffee creamers is nothing more than oil, sugar, and thickeners. To make matters worse, the oils in question are partially hydrogenated.
While a one-tablespoon serving of this super unhealthy trans fat contains less than 0.5 grams, putting creamer in your coffee every morning will quickly add up. Well, that’s going to mean an extra set at the gym. 🏋️
2. It can contain too much sugar
Coffee creamer is typically highly processed and high in added sugar. A single serving of some popular coffee creamers can contain up to 5 grams of added sugar. That equates to more than 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Coffee creamers can cause blood sugar spikes just as much as flavors and fatty foods.
It’s just as much as dairy products and coffee sweeteners.
Coffee creamers and sweeteners contain saturated fats or actual sugars, such as dextrose and maltodextrin in Splenda, which cause blood sugar levels to go up. Not only that but saturated fats cause insulin resistance.
So if you aren’t exactly the healthiest person on the block, it might be best to just steer clear of it.
3. It has lots of chemicals
Coffee creamers are one of the most processed food there is. Below are just a few of the chemicals in creamers: 👇
- Thickeners. This could include carrageenan, gellan gum, and cellulose gum which are known to cause inflammation, digestive problems, and even cancer.
- Preservatives. Although preservatives protect your food from mold, air, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and other food contaminants, it isn’t the best addition to our food.
BHA and BHT preservatives affect serotonin and norepinephrine levels. This is a stress hormone released by the brain when it detects a stressful event. It ends up disrupting sleep. BHA and BHT have also been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive disorders.
And, while it may appear that a small amount of creamer will not cause any harm, the cumulative effect of these chemicals can be dangerous.
One example is the ingredient dipotassium phosphate. It is known to manufacturers as a food additive, fertilizer, and buffering agent.
Dipotassium phosphate can cause serious diseases such as kidney disease, severe heart and lung disease, and thyroid issues. What dipotassium phosphate does to the body is a bit alarming, especially for those who already have health problems.
It's a synthetic chemical substance. It has zero health benefits, and excessive consumption can lead to serious kidney problems.
If dipotassium phosphate appears on the ingredient list, it should be a big red flag 🚩 that the food in that package has been heavily processed and may be harmful to your health.
4. It’s got lots of bad ingredients
Sugar-free? Vegetable oil? Sounds healthy! Wrong! ❌
First of all, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium are sugar substitutes that taste like sugar but have few to no calories.
The use of artificial sweeteners has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Saccharin and other artificial sweeteners are regarded as potentially hazardous.
Turns out you are just replacing one bad thing (sugar) for something worse. 😨
Artificial sweeteners may raise cholesterol levels, cause neurological problems, and metabolic syndrome, and have a negative impact on liver metabolism. As a result, many people have abandoned it.
Now, how about the vegetable oil in coffee creamers?
Well, linoleic acid has been linked to a number of health issues. These include coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma. You can find this omega-6 polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oil.
Linoleic acid is harmful to one's health because it cannot be synthesized. This means that it accumulates in the body when eating a lot of it.
Is sugar-free creamer bad for you?
Even if a coffee creamer has no added sugar and no cholesterol, it still might not be considered healthy. Carbs, calories, and fat are important as well.
And like what I mentioned earlier, swapping sugar for artificial sweeteners can be much worse.
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, changes in the natural balance of gut bacteria, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
There are also concerns that artificial sweeteners will reinforce the sweet taste. This would potentially lead you to more intense and frequent sugar cravings. Yikes!
How to use creamer in coffee
Using coffee creamer in your favorite morning brew is a no-brainer: Just add it to your coffee and stir before drinking, simple.
Personally, I would add my powdered creamer to freshly brewed coffee first. If I want Iced coffee, I’d wait for it to cool before dropping some ice. 🧊
Because black coffee is darker, coffee with cream cools about 20% slower than black coffee.
If you're adding powdered creamer to your iced coffee, you may need to put in some elbow grease in the stirring for it to dissolve. In this case, liquid creamer is going to work best in iced coffee.
But if you’re wondering how much creamer to put in your coffee, it would depend on your preference. On their website, Coffee Mate advises us to use 1 - 3 liquid creamer singles for an 8 oz cup of coffee to whiten and flavor your cup.
On Reddit, one user claims that 3-4 tablespoons are the perfect amount of creamer for their coffee.
And a few people in the thread actually agree! According to them, they don’t feel that it’s an issue with their weight loss efforts.
Some creamers are sweeter than others, so you might want to start with a little bit and add more to taste.
Is there a healthy creamer for coffee?
Alright, I admit, I’m not a big fan of coffee creamers. I personally don’t have it on my grocery list because they’re not healthy.
But certain companies claim that their coffee creamers are healthy or are at least safer to consume than most.
- Coffee Mate natural bliss
Of course, I didn’t think Coffee Mate is going to let anyone else take the spotlight.
Coffee Mate claims that Natural bliss is a healthier alternative to most coffee creamers. This might be better compared to the non-dairy varieties. However, still contains some questionable ingredients and should be consumed in moderation.
At least it doesn’t have artificial color or flavor.
- Elmhurst Oat Creamer
The unsweetened Oat Creamer from Elmhurst. has only 10 calories and no saturated fat or sugar. And if you are looking for a non-dairy option, this coffee creamer might be worth checking out.
But the taste. Oh, the taste is definitely a big deal. This is the first thing that went through my mind. Yes, it’s healthy…BUT…does it taste good?
The reason we’re using creamers in the first place is to improve the flavor of coffee not ruin it! Here’s one review I found on Amazon.
If you don’t think the deliciousness creamers provide isn’t worth the health issues, there are examples of what to use instead of coffee creamers:
1. Skim milk
2. Evaporated Milk
3. Sweetened Condensed Milk
4. Half and Half
5. Heavy Cream
6. Almond Milk
7. Oat Milk
8. Soy Milk
10. Coconut Cream
If you still have a lot of questions, here are more frequently asked questions about coffee creamers.
Is coffee creamer dairy?
Coffee creamer usually doesn't contain any dairy products and is completely dairy-free. It is similar in thickness to half-and-half but typically contains a lot of sugar (sugar-free options are available). The only application is as a beverage additive.
And you know what’s in dairy? Lactose.
This is probably why people with lactose intolerance prefer creamers. Just like this guy on Reddit.
It’s a great solution for a crappy experience. Quite literally. 😂
What is coffee creamer used for?
As I’ve repeatedly mentioned in the article, creamer is supposedly used to improve the flavor of the coffee.
Black coffee, espresso, or tea, whether served hot or cold, can be lightened and sweetened with creamer. A lot of creamers are also flavored which turns out to be a preference for a lot of people.
And of course, coffee creamers can make coffee become velvety and have an appealing texture.
Is coffee with cream bad for you?
As long as it’s taken in moderation, coffee with added cream shouldn’t be that bad to consume.
But that’s the problem, is it? Coffee creamers are made to be so tasty you’d want them in your coffee every single time, every day!
This can be very very bad news for habitual coffee drinkers who also happen to prefer not-so-bitter-coffee.
How long is coffee creamer good for?
Coffee creamers sold individually have a shelf life of roughly 6 months. Although they easily last an additional month or two after the written date.
However, you need to use the entire cup right away after opening it. You can also just store the leftovers in the refrigerator and consume them within 3 to 4 days, at most.
If you plan to offer creamers in waiting areas where you can’t control temperature, I would recommend opting for powdered creamers instead of the liquid variety.
Can you use heavy whipping cream as coffee creamer?
Whipping cream as coffee creamer…well, yeah. But I don’t recommend it. Heavy cream doesn't blend well with coffee because it is denser and thicker than standard cream.
But the good news is if you are practicing intermittent fasting, its fat and protein content is so negligible. This means it doesn’t really count as breaking your fast if you add it to your coffee.
What happens to your body if you drink coffee creamer every day
Consuming coffee with creamer every day may heavily impact your cholesterol levels and may cause unnecessary or wanted weight gain. Not only that but the amount of chemicals and unhealthy ingredients in creamers brings you closer to serious illnesses.
It helps to know what are coffee creamers and what it brings to the body. Yes, the flavor is important. But is it really worth sacrificing your health for?