If you love to add milk or creamer to your coffee but want to try something a little creamier and richer, you may be asking yourself can you use heavy cream in coffee?
So in this article we answer all your coffee with heavy cream questions.
We cover whether indeed you can put heavy whipping cream in coffee, what it tastes like and some delicious hot and cold heavy cream coffee recipes to make at home.
What Is Heavy Cream?
Heavy cream is a liquid dairy product containing at least 36% fat.
Also known as heavy whipping cream, or thickened cream in Australia, heavy cream is commonly used in cooking and baking.
Can You Use Heavy Cream In Coffee?
Half-and-half may be the most common creamer for coffee, but many people use other dairy and non-dairy milks to flavor their hot and cold coffee drinks.
An especially rich alternative to the standard half-and-half is heavy cream for coffee.
Whilst not as common as other dairy products, you can add it to brewed coffee, iced coffee, cold brew or even used as the major ingredient for espresso-based coffee drinks.
Before adding heavy cream to coffee, however, there are a couple of considerations to be aware of.
- Certain factors can cause heavy cream to curdle in coffee. Cream in coffee doesn’t always curdle, but using older heavy cream and/or light roast coffee may create curds. We cover more on this below.
- Heavy cream has a much higher caloric count than other dairy milks. How the increased calories factor into your diet is a personal consideration.
What Does Heavy Cream And Coffee Taste Like?
Regular heavy cream alters both the texture and flavor of coffee, and it does so much more than half-and-half or other milks.
The altered texture is immediately evident, as cream gives coffee a thick and silky mouthfeel that lingers.
Many people find the heaviness and body of heavy cream coffee to be luxurious, but some don’t like the coating that remains on your tongue.
The flavor alteration is more subtle, but you may detect a slight nuttiness. This is a change that’s not present with thinner milks, including half-and-half.
It’s also one that makes heavy cream go well with nutty Central American and South American coffee beans (which are frequently roasted medium or dark).
Ways To Use Heavy Whipping Cream In Coffee
Heavy whipping cream is a highly versatile product and can be added to coffee recipes in many different ways.
In addition to pouring regular heavy cream in coffee, there are several other ways to enjoy coffee and heavy cream and these will have somewhat different effects on texture and taste.
1. Flavored Heavy Cream
Sugar is usually used when flavoring heavy cream, so any flavored cream will sweeten coffee in addition to imparting whatever flavor is chosen.
Common flavors that pair well with coffee include chocolate (mocha), caramel and vanilla.
More unique options include blueberry, lavender, pumpkin and cinnamon.
2. Whipped Cream
Whipped cream has a light texture and slightly sweet flavor that is easily placed on top of the coffee and makes a useful platform for adding syrups and dustings of spices.
Adding whipped cream to coffee will make the first few sips creamy and sweet.
Latter sips will also be a little creamier and sweeter than black coffee because some whipped cream will melt into the cup.
However the effect isn’t as pronounced as using regular or flavored heavy cream, which quickly combines with the coffee through the cup or glass.
Of course, whipped cream can also be flavored in creative ways.
3. Cold Foam
With a texture and sweetness akin to whipped cream, cold foam has a velvety smoothness that’s even more luxurious than whipped cream.
The main difference between heavy cream vs cold foam is cold foam combines with the coffee more easily.
This has a larger effect on latter sips than heavy whipping cream, particularly if the cream has been whipped.
Sweet foam is a popular addition to Starbucks cold coffee drinks – such as their Irish Cream Cold Brew and Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew drinks.
4. Irish Cream
Irish cream will impart a sharpness that comes from the whiskey used in the liquor.
Many recipes also call for notes of vanilla, cinnamon and/or honey to be added. However, any sweetness that these provide will be largely overpowered by the whiskey’s flavor.
Irish cream will also thicken the coffee somewhat, although not as much as regular heavy cream does.
Reasons For Using Heavy Cream For Coffee
While not the most popular dairy (or non-dairy) addition to coffee, heavy cream has a loyal following among those who do use it.
People enjoy heavy cream with coffee for a variety of reasons.
1. Creamy Texture
The most obvious reason to add heavy cream is for the rich creaminess that it provides.
To a lesser extent, a few people like the slightly nutty taste the cream imparts on the coffee.
2. Reduced Bitterness
The weight and creaminess of heavy cream help it significantly mask some coffees’ bitterness.
This is useful to make an average coffee taste better, but is also a good pairing for dark roasts, which can naturally be more bitter than lighter roasts.
Sugar also mitigates bitterness, so flavored or whipped cream are the best ways to add heavy cream when using for this specific purpose.
3. Decorative Iced Coffee Drinks
Whipped cream in coffee is an effective decorative topping on iced coffee drinks, especially since latte art isn’t possible with these types of coffee drinks.
Chocolate shavings, coconut, flavored sauces and syrups can be used on top of whipped cream.
4. To Make Cold Foam
Cold foam is the most common way to top cold-brew coffee and nitro cold-brew.
Heavy cream is the most common dairy used to make cold foam.
5. Followers Of A Keto Diet
The high fat and protein content of heavy cream is consistent with the general principles of keto dieting.
The fat in non-organic cream aren’t necessarily “healthy fats,” but organic cream tends to have more healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
These are partly skimmed off when making lower-fat organic milks, so high-fat cream may be preferable when using organic dairy for its omega-3s.
The high fat content in heavy cream is favored by coffee drinkers on Keto diets, similar to bulletproof coffee which uses butter,
Heavy Cream vs Half-And-Half vs Creamer
Heavy cream, half-and-half, and coffee creamer all enhance coffee, but they each do so in their own way.
1. Heavy Cream
Heavy whipping cream has the highest fat content of all three, being at least 36 percent milk fat.
A single tablespoon (15 ml) contains around 51 calories, which includes at least 18 calories from fat.
The calorie content at higher quantities quickly becomes quite high. For example 4 ounces used to steam a heavy cream cappuccino would have 400 calories.
The fat content of heavy cream is what makes this dairy so thick and rich, and why it adds so much body to a cup of coffee.
Even pouring a dash of heavy whipping cream in coffee can have a profound impact on texture.
2. Half and Half
Half-and-half contains 10 to 18 percent milk fat.
A tablespoon contains around 20 calories, including 2 to 4 from fat. Both the total calories and the calories from fat are much less in half-and-half than heavy cream.
Despite having much fewer calories and milk fats, half-and-half still gives coffee more body than regular milk.
It is the dairy of choice for many coffee lovers and in coffee drinks like a breve coffee.
The caloric and fat content remain less than what heavy cream has, even if twice as much half-and-half is used.
That makes this dairy a good option for most people.
3. Coffee Creamer
Creamer is most often made by sweetening and /or flavoring half-and-half, either with a sugar or artificially sweetened flavoring.
The nutrition content of coffee creamers varies greatly depending on the ingredients used. It tends to be similar to half-and-half’s plus some additional calories if sweetened with sugar.
When comparing half and half vs heavy cream vs coffee creamer, creamer is the only one of the three that sweetens coffee when used on its own.
It also can add any number of flavors, such as peppermint, amaretto, caramel, chocolate and many others.
Coffee Drinks With Heavy Cream
While not necessarily the standard, there are many heavy whipping cream and coffee drinks recipes you can make at home.
- Brewed Coffee With Cream: Black coffee with cream instead of half-and-half.
- Espresso Con Panna: Espresso with a dollop of steamed cream.
- Vienna Coffee: Latte-sized hot coffee with whipped cream.
- Cold Brew with Flavored Foam: Cold brew coffee with foam made with heavy cream. There are many seasonal variations to this drink. Ideas include these Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew and Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew recipes.
- Irish Coffee: Brewed coffee with Irish cream (whiskey and heavy cream).
- Frappuccino: Frozen and blended coffee drink with heavy cream used in the mix.
- Cold Brew with Sweet Foam: Cold-brew coffee topped with a blended combination of heavy cream and sugar.
- Keto Iced Coffee: Hot-brewed coffee poured over ice, with heavy cream added.
Heavy Whipping Cream In Coffee FAQs
All dairy can be frothed, although heavy cream is much more difficult than milk to create microfoam from.
The proteins in milk are what provide structure for air bubbles in froth, and fat weighs down the air bubbles.
A meringue pie is analogous, as the protein in egg whites provide structure for the meringue but any fat from egg yolks can cause it to collapse.
The high fat content of heavy cream make it quite challenging to froth, and you’ll likely only be successful if practiced with and using a steam wand (i.e. not a hand frother).
Heavy cream doesn’t always curdle in coffee, but curdling is a possibility in certain situations.
The age of the cream and the acidity of the coffee can each contribute to curdling.
All dairy will be more prone to curdling when it’s not as fresh (although still good to use), and this is doubly so for heavy cream.
Light-roasted and bright coffees have more acidity in them, and thus will be more prone to curdle cream.
To prevent curdling, add fresh heavy cream to medium and/or dark coffees that have low acidity. Other combinations might not curdle but the chances of curdling are higher.
Whipping cream comes in both heavy and light forms.
Heavy whipping cream is the same as regular heavy cream, having a fat content of 36 percent or higher.
Light whipping cream has slightly lower fat content of 30 to 35 percent.
Putting heavy cream in coffee isn’t inherently bad, but it adds a lot of calories and fat to your beverage.
What impact this has on health depends on how much heavy cream you use, your other dietary practices, your lifestyle, your health conditions and other factors.
Everyone must come to their own conclusion as to whether heavy cream is something they can safely add to their coffee.
Heavy cream has a unique effect on coffee that no other dairy quite matches. Give heavy cream a try, and you may find a new decadent way to enjoy your coffee at home.
More Coffee Brewing Guides
If you loved this guide to heavy cream coffee, here are more brew guides to help you make great coffee at home.
Discover more helpful tips in our coffee brew guides or find some coffee recipes to try here.
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