Cream vs. Creamer

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For over 50 years, nondairy creamers have served as an alternative to milk or cream in coffee. Although designed to resemble cream, creamer has little in common with it. Each product has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each has a loyal following.

Cream

  • In unhomogenized milk, a layer of higher-fat liquid can often be seen floating on top of the milk. This is cream; its higher fat content means that it is less dense and gradually separates from the milk around it, floating to the top. Modern cream is mechanically separated from milk before being treated to make it safe and extend its shelf life. The high fat content in cream gives it its characteristic mouthfeel. Adding cream -- or a mixture of cream and milk -- to coffee cools the coffee and softens its strong flavor.

Creamer

  • Creamers contain a range of different ingredients intended to simulate the effect of cream on coffee. Vegetable oils provide the creamy texture, while corn syrup solids provide the bulk. Although most creamers are marketed as nondairy because they do not contain lactose, they typically contain sodium caseinate, a protein derived from milk. Other ingredients are added to stabilize the creamer or add flavor.

Advantages of Nondairy Creamer

  • Although some food critics object to creamer because of its ingredients or because they feel it is oversweetened, creamer has several advantages over cream. It lasts far longer than cream and can survive without being refrigerated. In addition, it is suitable for lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers. Long-lasting, easy to store and inexpensive, creamer is popular in offices, hotels and other environments where large quantities of milk or cream might be impractical.

Other Uses

  • Unlike creamer, cream has a number of other cooking applications, from sauces to soups and desserts. Some cookbooks may recommend using nondairy creamers as an alternative to cream in cooking, but "Los Angeles Times" nutrition writer Dr Ed Blonz recommends against it. However, creamer does have another unusual application. Because it can be highly flammable, special effects technicians sometimes use nondairy creamer to create explosions for movies.

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