Milk and cream are both dairy products that are farmed or collected from mammals. In the United States, most of these come from cows, however internationally there are people who consume dairy products produced by sheep, goats, and buffalo.

The cream is made using butterfat that is extracted from raw milk. There are a number of different types of cream available in local grocery stores, they vary in fat content and are classified and sold based on this characteristic.

Milk and cream are used for a number of things, one of the most popular being as an enhancer for coffee and tea. The difference between milk and cream for coffee is one that is frequently up for debate.

Let’s talk about whole milk and heavy cream in specific, discuss some of the differences and similarities, and how they apply to coffee drinkers.

What Is Whole Milk

What Is Whole Milk

Whole milk is best and most simply described as cow’s milk that has not had any of its constituents removed or otherwise been nutritionally altered in any way, other than to make it safe for human consumption.

Whole milk has all of its natural fat retained, which is about 3.5 percent making it slightly viscous. The only reason whole milk is not considered “raw milk” is because it has gone through the process of pasteurization, which makes it safe for humans to consume.

Whole milk has a higher fat percentage than other varieties of milk (reduced-fat, skim, etc), and as a result, is creamier and richer than the lower fat kinds of milk.

Alternative types of milk are good for individuals who want to manage their fat intake or people who may be lactose intolerant and would need lactose-free or low-lactose milk products.

Whole Milk In Coffee Pros

A general rule of thumb when choosing milk for your coffee is that higher fat content milks will naturally provide a richer and creamier taste to your beverage.

At an average fat content of somewhere between 3 and 4 percent, whole milk is one of the heavier milk options that is typically available for coffee drinkers.

Coffee bars, cafes, and coffee houses will always have whole milk as an option, and it will often be the default choice for orders that are unspecified. This is because it is the most popular and well-enjoyed milk for coffee flavoring.

From a nutritional standpoint, whole milk is packed with beneficial nutrients like calcium, vitamin B, phosphorus, potassium, and Vitamin D. On top of that, it is an excellent source of protein and is known to promote bone health and healthy weight maintenance.

Whole Milk In Coffee Cons

One of the most prominently discussed negative aspects of adding whole milk to your coffee is the significant amount of calories that it adds to the beverage.

Black coffee comes in at around 5 calories per cup, while a cup of coffee with whole milk can have well over 50 calories. An increase of ten times the calorie intake from black coffee to adding whole milk.

Another potential downfall to the use of whole milk in coffee is its allergenic potential. In other words, individuals who are allergic to lactose will inherently react negatively to whole milk in their coffee.

Lactose intolerance does vary in severity from person to person, and in some cases can be incredibly dangerous. This creates the potential for harmful allergic reactions or gastrointestinal issues.

What Is Heavy Cream

What Is Heavy Cream

The cream is also a dairy product that is made specifically by using butterfat that is extracted from raw cow’s milk. Through the use of a centrifugal machine, the milk is separated into streams that extract the non-fat milk from the cream, which is the milk fat.

This accelerates the natural separation process that would occur on its own after a period of time.

The cream that is produced is called whole cream, also known as heavy cream. This is the milk fat that collects on the top of fresh milk if it has not been homogenized.

It has been decreed that heavy cream can contain anywhere from 36 to 40% fat, while the rest of the liquid is milk.

You will often find creams on the lower end of this range in most grocery stores, while high-end restaurants and cafes will sometimes have 40 percent cream on hand.

There are other varieties of cream with a lower fat content, like half and half, which is also known as table cream, light cream or coffee cream. The fat content in these ranges from between 10 percent and 18 percent.

These are made by reintroducing milk into the whole cream in varying amounts, in order to produce different creams with different fat contents.

There are a number of potential heavy cream substitutes in recipes that it is called for. One option is to melt ¼ cup of unsalted butter and then gradually combine ¾ of a cup of whole milk.

This will produce a nice cup of cream substitute that can be used for soups, sauces, puddings, pies etc..

Heavy Cream In Coffee Pros

One of the most important and often the most popular benefits to adding heavy cream to your coffee is the enhanced taste, flavor, and texture it brings to the beverage.

Heavy cream will act as a thickener for your coffee, resulting in an incredibly smooth, viscous, and rich mixture.

In regards to the potential health benefits associated with adding heavy cream to your coffee beverages, there are a number of positives. Heavy cream is a good part of a diet that aims to be high in fat, and low in carbs.

Today’s world is filled with carb-loaded foods. Many diabetics need to maintain low-carb diets with proper blood sugar content. Adding fats to their diet can help with caloric intake requirements.

On another hand, heavy cream provides a dairy product option that is much lower in lactose content than milk. Heavy cream contains almost zero sugar, in fact it is about 0.5 grams of sugar per 15 milliliters.

This low sugar content means that it will also have a very low lactose content. Therefore, people who are mildly lactose intolerant should be able to have heavy cream without any significant side effects or reactions.

Also, people looking to cut back on lactose, in general, can use heavy cream instead of milk to achieve it in their diet.

Heavy Cream In Coffee Cons

The high-fat content in heavy cream that can be seen as a benefit also comes with a set of negatives. Heavy cream is very high in fats, but low in nutrients.

It provides a boost of calories, but these calories are quite empty (do not have important nutrients), and will simply be energy that your body burns off.

Heavy cream will really stack on the calories, especially if it is being used multiple times a day with each coffee. This is something to be aware of for people who are trying to watch their calorie count.

Heavy cream will take up a large amount of the allotted calorie intake for a day, when it should be used on foods that provide nutrients and other important compounds with their calories.

Another important thing to remember is the fact that heavy cream is significantly more expensive than milk.

This is due to a number of factors including the process to make the cream itself, as well as supply and demand, and the handling costs associated with producing and selling the smaller cartons that cream typically comes in.

High cost is definitely one of the downfalls of using heavy cream for your coffee.



In order to provide a detailed comparison between milk and cream, we have decided to construct a mini table, and proceed by discussing some of the main differences between the two dairy products.

Amount Of FatsMilk contains less fat content than creamCream has more fat content than milk
Amount Of NutrientsMilk provides more nutrients than cream (calcium, potassium, Vitamin B, Vitamin D etc..)Cream has little to no nutrients that are useful for humans
Method Of ProductionMilk is produced directly from the mammary glands of mammals (cows, goats etc..)Cream is the butterfat that is extracted from milk, and then used or diluted into lower fat content creams
TypesAlmond, oat, soy, whole, skim, reduced-fat etc..Heavy cream (35-40%), half & half (10%-18%), pasteurized etc..
UsageUsed for ice cream, cakes, milkshakes, cereal, omelets, baked goods etc..Used for thick gravies, coffee, whipped cream, dessert fillings, icing etc..

Main Comparisons

Main Comparisons
  • Milk is an independent dairy product, whereas cream is a byproduct that is dependent on the production of milk to be produced itself
  • Milk has a significantly higher nutrient content than cream does
  • Cream has a significantly higher fat content than milk does
  • Milk is produced by the mammary glands of mammals, whereas cream is produced by the homogenization of milk
  • In coffee, milk is often preferred as opposed to heavy creams


In conclusion, we have been able to discuss the ins and outs of both milk and heavy cream on their own, and also compared these two incredibly popular dairy products.

Our main focus was the use of milk and heavy cream in coffee. We provided insight into the relative pros and cons of using both heavy cream and milk, with regards to health benefits, taste, texture, flavor, and overall cost.

We also provided a simple comparison table for the discrepancies between milk and cream. Things like fat content, nutrient content, common usages, existing varieties, and production methods were included as comparison points.

Consider the key takeaways we provided and use them to make an educated decision in regards to what you are adding to your daily caffeinated beverage.

Overall, we hope that you have found the information you are looking for or enjoyed learning more about the similarities and differences of milk and heavy cream for your coffee.


Last Updated on February 6, 2022 by Ashok Parmar


My name is Ashok Parmar, and for seven years, I worked as a warehouse manager that strictly dealt with coffee shops all around the United States.

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