Cream Vs Milk In Coffee – Which One Tastes Better?

Creamer or milk in your coffee… it's a debate going back decades for those who don’t like their coffee black. The shortcut to the answer is to decide which is most delicious!

Still, coffee creamer and milk are completely different. Some people add heavy creamers to their coffee. Others use skim milk or coconut milk. So how can you make the best choice?!

Knowing the answer to this coffee creamer vs milk debate is what I'm about to settle once and for all!

Everybody likes their morning coffee drink in their own unique way. Some make coffee with a French press. Others boil a kettle of water and mix in instant coffee powder.

Thankfully no matter what you do, your coffee is still coffee. That means every morning cup of coffee has common ground. The big question, though, is… milk or cream?!

The coffee creamer market “was valued at USD 1.81 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 2.76 billion by 2029," according to Data Bridge Market Research.[1] Coffee whiteners are here to stay.

Let’s look at all the main aspects of coffee creamer vs milk.

How They Taste

Adding coffee creamer vs milk makes a huge difference to your coffee taste.

Creamer is sweeter than dairy milk. This sweetened creamy taste isn't for all coffee drinkers, but if you have a sweet tooth, it definitely is!

Milk is the perfect option if you don't want that slightly sweet taste to your coffee.

Adding dairy will keep your coffee close to its original state. No added sugar. No saturated fats. No manufactured colors or flavors. Just milk and coffee!

Texture On The Tongue

Coffee creamer vs milk shows massive differences in texture. Adding creamer brings a thicker texture to your coffee because of the extra fat.

Think of how different it feels to have a spoonful of creamer compared to a sip of milk. THAT awesome smoothness is caused by the fat. It’s where you’re getting that irresistible velvety texture from.

Sugar and added flavorings also contribute to the creaminess. If you pick out flavored coffee creamer, you'll find the standard creamy texture mixed with a tasty flavor.

Calories

Coffee creamer vs milk shows the difference in calories can be HUGE.

How many calories in milk or cream always varies by type. Heavy creamer is about 51 calories per tablespoon, while reduced-fat milk is about 5 calories.

Conversely, real cream and dairy products provide protein, a necessary macronutrient, and may make those calories worth it.

Added ingredients benefit the taste and texture of coffees, but this usually means more calories as well.

There is the risk of too much fat and sugar.

If you're worried, get milk with less fat or produce homemade coffee creamer. Coffee creamers can also have artificial ingredients, so check the labels on your preferred coffee creamer.

Adding Starbucks Non-Dairy Creamer to Coffee

Sugar Levels

Coffee creamer vs milk will always show creamers have the most sugar!

This is because heavily processed coffee creamers like the Nestle CoffeeMate Funfetti Creamer have more sugar involved to create sweet flavors.

A richer flavor won’t come from the milk because it doesn’t have the thickness or artificial additives which create those flavors. The subtle flavor of milk is down to its lower sugar levels.

No matter the fat content, milk has roughly 12 grams of sugar in a whole 8-ounce glass. A very sweet creamer like Starbucks Caramel Macchiato creamer has 6 grams in just ONE TABLESPOON.

Fat Levels

Look at coffee creamer vs milk, and you'll see the very high fat content in the creamer. Most creamers give the coffee a stronger flavor because of the fat.

Adding coffee creamer makes any brewed coffee much thicker, improving its taste. So coffee creamer vs milk on the matter of fat gives coffee creamer the victory, hands down!

Calories in whole milk are greater than reduced milk. According to the University of Pittsburgh, whole milk has "150 calories and contains 4 grams of fat"[2].

Reduced milk has 90 calories and virtually no fat.

This is true no matter the type of milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, or cow milk. Liquid coffee creamer is your best choice for smooth and sweet coffee. If you're good with the fat, then pick out heavy cream!

Artificial Flavorings

Research from Tyler Murdey and Edgar Chambers shows people look at foods “primarily to make decisions about naturalness.”[3] This is very relevant when it comes to flavorings.

Another main difference between milk and coffee creamer is the presence of flavorings when you drink coffee. Flavored creamers often add artificial flavorings to make it nicer to consume.

However, that "French vanilla" might actually be pretty fake.

These aren’t healthy because they contain extra ingredients that aren’t good for you in more than small amounts. They can add some needless calories depending on how much creamer you use.

Milk doesn’t add any of these to your coffee and keeps it pure. Regular coffee creamer and milk like half-and-half is another way to avoid manufactured flavors with your coffee add-ins.

Adding Teaspoon of Powdered Creamer to Coffee

Artificial Colorings

Coffee creamer vs milk differs wildly with colorings. These make the coffee creamer look good when you pour it into your coffee.

It doesn't do anything for your body, though. Best to avoid these where possible. As with artificial flavors, these are not present in milk.

Protein And Minerals

Important nutrients in your coffee creamer vs milk are different. If you’re using natural creamers, the difference between milk and cream won’t mean much.

Magnesium and potassium are found in milk but not in manufactured coffee creamer. Fat and sugar are also present in milk, but there's much less of them than in coffee creamer.

This means the healthiest coffee creamer you can get is dairy-free creamers.

As for protein, there is MUCH more in milk than in coffee creamer, which is one of milk's great benefits.

No matter how much coffee creamer you add to your beverage, the milk you could have instead is much better for a protein boost.

Using a dairy product in your coffee will still add protein, though - so no need to chuck the coffee creamer out!


Who Should Use Coffee Creamer In Their Coffee? (When It’s Better)

You should use coffee creamer if you’re not worried about the ingredients. It’s a handy liquid or powder from the local grocery store for your coffee-making.

It replaces scoops of cream or half-and-half and is much easier to add to the coffee without messy spills. Just ask any barista!

Coffee enthusiasts who LIVE for a good cup of joe will love their coffee’s flavor when it’s boosted with a splash of coffee creamer. If that’s you, read on!

Coffee creamer is better than animal milk or dairy-free products when you want a thick texture or sweeter flavors without getting awkward with one tablespoon of cream.

So if you're looking for the ultimate drinking sensation in your coffee, go for coffee creamers.

Coffee creamer is best when natural or homemade, but if you can only get powdered coffee creamers, that's ok too.

If you're not worried about the amount of fat and sugar you're consuming, then have coffee with cream to your heart's delight. It has more calories, so if you're concerned stick to milk.

Adding Liquid Creamer to Coffee

Who Should Use Milk In Their Coffee? (When It’s Better)

Use milk in your coffee to keep the calorie count low. It will always have less sugar and fat.

Comparing coffee creamer versus milk is easy when not counting calories because you can have as many added ingredients as you like.

Milk takes the edge over other dairy products when you want to lose weight. You'll add less fat to your cup of coffee than you would with creamer.

Of course, there's ordinary cow's milk, low-fat milk, and non-dairy alternatives are common ones. All have a healthy calorie count.

Whole milk gives coffee an authentic milky taste. Low-fat keeps any creaminess at bay and the calories low. Non-dairy options are good for lactose intolerance but have subtle taste differences.

The best way to navigate the situation is to try different whole milk varieties. Then switch to some almond, soy, or coconut options.

Milk is a healthier option than coffee creamer because milk is less likely to have artificial flavors and ingredients.

As convenient as powdered creamer is, we both know it's not real milk or real cream! And still, many of us will choose highly artificial tastes over regular black coffee.

The saturated fat content in milk is much lower than you'll get in coffee creamer as well. If you don't mind the thinner texture of your coffee that results, then it's perfect for you.

All you need to do is choose which type of coffee creamer milk you like.

Almond Milk Chai-Tea Latte

Commonly Asked Coffee Creamer Vs Milk Questions

Are cream and milk interchangeable for coffee drinks?

No, adding milk or adding cream is not interchangeable for coffee drinks. Creamer and milk both do very different things to the coffee. The taste and texture differ. So do the ingredients and calories. Some coffee creamers have artificial flavorings too, which you’ll need to look out for.

Why do Americans use cream instead of milk in coffee?

Many Americans use half-and-half in a cup of coffee but refer to this as "cream." However, half-and-half literally means 50% cream and 50% milk. This makes some people think Americans rarely use milk because they call it coffee creamer at the local store. This isn't the case, although some prefer milk alone, and others prefer creamer alone.

How long does creamer normally last?

A liquid-form coffee creamer made with a dairy product normally lasts 2-3 weeks past the use-by date when you leave the coffee creamer unopened. If you open it and leave it in the refrigerator, it should last just as long. Just make sure you double-check the label!


Is It Optimal To Use Milk Or Creamer In Coffee? (Our Verdict)

If you struggle to know whether to use coffee creamer instead of milk, here’s my view.

Put the coffee creamer in when you want to add flavor and a rich texture but aren’t concerned about calorie intake or sugar levels.

Put the milk in when you want to have as little sugar and fat as possible in your coffee additions. This will keep the calorie content low, and the coffee will slip down like a treat.

It won't have much thickness, but it will still be a nice and refreshing cup of joe!

References:

1. https://www.databridgemarketresearch.com/reports/global-coffee-creamer-market
2. https://share.upmc.com/2016/08/whole-vs-skim-milk/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722695/

Kayla Stavridis

Head of Marketing

Kayla Stavridis
Kayla Stavridis is a coffee enthusiast and Head of Marketing for Barista HQ. She blends her professional insights and experience with a deep passion for all things coffee. Kayla offers a unique, hands-on perspective on coffee culture and trends. You can find her sipping a cold brew with just a touch of milk on the beach in the afternoon and a Corona with lime in the evening.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... Cold Brew

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