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Aug 26, 2010 11:07 PM

What is the real cream used in coffee?

A very long time ago, I remember people using "real cream" in their coffee. Several years ago after staying at a 5 star hotel, "real cream" was brought to the table for our coffee. It was unbelievably better than any kind of creamer, dry or liquid, that I had been using. When I returned home, I tried to find cream at our groceries. No one had it. There was half and half, but not any kind of cream. I have checked occasionally since then, with no luck. (I am trying to stop using powdered coffee creamer.)

BUT, today while in the store, I found these:
whipping cream
heavy cream
light cream
heavy whipping cream

Confused, I came home with only fat free half and half. :-(

I read the posts here regarding the difference between whipping, heavy, light, cream, and understand that.

My question is this: do any of you know which is the kind of cream that was used in coffee before all of the "fancy" liquid and powdered creamers came along?

Thanks a lot!!!

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  1. Any of those will work. I would use the pasturized cream in a small milk carton.

    What is with the fat free half and half? Is it really half and half without fat?

    If you want it to be even more luxurious add some vanilla to the cream.

    If you take sugar, you could even use those whipped cream spray cans. You know... the ones you used to hold up to your mouth and spray it in when your mother wasn't looking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Hank Hanover

      Unfortunately the spray-can whipped cream often has stabilizers and can sometimes separate when it melts, leaving a very unappetizing slick of -- well, butter, basically -- on top of the coffee. It's happened to me! ;)

      I agree, fat free "half and half" is completely horrifying, as are non-dairy and powdered creamers. Just read the ingredients -- they're about as closely related to real cream as a Twinkie is to my great-aunt's sponge cake.

      1. re: Hank Hanover

        respectfully disagree about the canned whip creams.
        a way to ruin a decent foodstuff, imho.

        1. re: westsidegal

          Canned whip creams are only good to use as toppings for specialty coffees such as iced coffees and such. It's not really meant to use as a creamer. I personally just used canned evaporated milk (not 2%, but the full fat one

      2. Fat free half and half is full of all kinds of extra ingredients, I would avoid it. The reason cream tastes so good is because of the FAT!

        What you want is Heavy Cream, and it should have listed on the label the percent of butterfat. 36% is standard, but if you can find 40% or more you will be very happy. And if you can find (like at Whole Foods) pastuerized rather than ultrapastuerized, there is a world of difference there too. Also you can get the glass bottles of milk with the cream on top, if you really want to do it the old way, and scoop it off. There's just enough for a cup of coffee.

        14 Replies
        1. re: coll

          Agreed! Just do be sure to check that there aren't any stabilizers or thickeners. The ingredients list should not include carageenan or guar gum or anything like that.

          1. re: LauraGrace

            Note that it is REALLY difficult to find a gum-less heavy cream. I buy Organic Valley and even it has carageenan.

            1. re: tenacity

              My Organic Valley just has cream as the only ingredient. AND, it's cheaper than crappy store-brand cream with additives.

              1. re: sandylc

                There are 2 different styles of the Organic Valley cream. One, (the far better) is pasteurised, and is cream only. It's probably the best cream I've seen generally available in the USA. You can identify it because the carton doesn't have a plastic spout.

                The other is ultra-pasteurised (which means much longer shelf life) and has carrageenan. I believe the ultra-pasteurisation process denatures the proteins in cream to a degree that interferes with the texture, and it may affect the fat as well. That's probably why it's added to the Organic Valley U-P version, and probably why most cream in the USA has thickeners added, because most of it is ultra-pasteurised, this probably in turn because it is more profitable for the retailers (because of longer shelf life = less wastage). You probably have to be in a position where you have reliably fast turnover on cream to justify stocking a pasteurised (short-shelf-life) cream.

                In the UK, this is commonplace, because cream is a central aspect of British cookery. Almost any stockist has no problem turning shelves on a weekly basis.

                1. re: AlexRast

                  Alex - thanks for the insight into U-P cream. Coming from the UK I couldn't understand why cream in other countries always seemed to have thickeners - even a big dairy producer like Australia.

                  And the pure creams always seem to sell out of supermarkets really early in the day, so whilst the demand is there I suspect the manufacturers and retailers like the convenience of U-P. I now read the ingredients labels very carefully....!

                  1. re: PhilD

                    The big surprise for me was how cream passed off as "whipping cream" doesn't actually whip. Certainly not like double cream. That's one I still don't understand - how it is that people can accept a product that doesn't do what it says on the tin.

                    However, I think if the demand truly were there then the shops would make it available. It's interesting that you say supermarkets sell out really early in the day. If that's the case, they're missing a potential profit-maker because they could clearly stock more and make more money. More likely though that there is a fairly fixed clientele, who "know the system", and arrive within a narrow timing window.

                    1. re: AlexRast

                      I haven't had that problem, it always whips for me.

                      1. re: calumin

                        When you say "whips" what do you mean, exactly? I get the feeling you might have a different concept of the state that can be considered "whipped". Double cream whips as stiffly as egg white - that is, when you turn the bowl upside down the cream stays in the bowl. There is NO looseness or runniness at all - which is what I expect. It has a dense, thick consistency, like a good mousse.

                      2. re: AlexRast

                        much american whipping cream is light whipping cream with less fat. there is also heavy whipping cream. most cream and organic milk seems to be ultra pasteurized.

                        i often just use milk in coffee or half and half. occasionally even evaporated milk. cream sometimes breaks in hot coffee and i hate that.

                        I got some non homogenized milk in a glass jug. maybe I should have let it warm up but the top inch was solid cream that had to be spooned, I don't know how you could just shake it in. the bottom milk was thin. deposit for jug was over $3.

                    1. re: iL Divo

                      It's at all natural foods stores and many grocery stores around here. It's our go-to brand for milk, too.


                      EDIT: I plugged in various cities at their website, and it looks pretty available across the US.

                  2. re: tenacity

                    carageenan is seaweed extract it is natural.. of course so is hemlock .. but it isnt a chemical

                2. re: coll

                  trader joe's has pasteurized heavy cream as well @ 2.49/pint

                  1. re: wonderwoman

                    Good to know! I'm sort of partial to Ronnybrook though, especially the "free" glass bottles they come in!

                    I did buy an asceptic pack of heavy cream at Trader Joe, but I keep forgetting I have it. I really should just stick it in the fridge.

                3. Fat free half and half is an ersatz food product to be avoided. Powdered and "fancy" liquid creamers are also ersatz foods, skip them.

                  Back in the day before homogenization one could actually purchase whole milk where the cream rose to the top of the bottle. One would scoop off the cream and use that for any application that called for cream. It wasn't all that long ago that milk was delivered to homes and it wasn't homogenized, and one could actually purchase it in grocery stores. Sadly, homogenization has taken over and it is extremely rare to find unhomogenized milk.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: janniecooks

                    Young's Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio, is one of 3 dairies in the country licensed to sell raw unhomogenized milk. And that's JERSEY milk, with over 5% butter fat.


                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      We've got a raw jersey dairy in my county, too. BEST STUFF EVER. It's my favorite thing for coffee, bar none, but it's expensive and makes (twists my arm, you see) me drink lots of sweet, milky coffee. The flavor is superlative.

                      We also have non-homogenized, pasteurized local dairy. Dang, we are spoiled!

                    2. Fat free half-and-half sounds positively ghastly!
                      Just get some heavy cream for whipping, should be about 42%. Call it good.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Fat free half-and-half is an oxymoron because half-&-half is half milk and half cream, neither of which are fat free. That said my preferred coffee creamer is non ultra pasteurized half and half.

                        The power of marketing and the absence of logic is the reason can convince Americans to buy anything.

                        1. re: Tripeler

                          Heavy cream and whipping cream are too fatty for coffee. You may as well plop in a pat of butter.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              Uh oh. Better not Google "bulletproof coffee" if the thought of cream in your coffee makes you feel nauseated. :)

                              1. re: greygarious

                                I'm with you greygarious, it leaves a butter slick on top of your coffee and the flavor is just heavy and overwhelming. I personally find that "light cream" or half and half allow the coffee flavor to come through best.

                                Light cream I think has a higher butterfat content than half and half does

                                Avoid Whipping Cream, Heavy Whipping Cream or Heavy Cream

                                1. re: cgarner

                                  Unless you whip it a bit first! Then it's a nice, decadent change of pace.

                                2. re: greygarious

                                  If a link I saw recently is correct, apparently some people DO put butter in their coffee......

                              2. My favorite is regular half and half. Full cream is delicious but for everyday I actually prefer the half and half because it gives the coffee nice smoothness without being too heavy or oily.

                                I agree with the others, deep six the fat-free.

                                Let us know how you do.