As your coffee creamer swirls into your morning cup of joe, do you ever wonder, “What the heck am I adding to my coffee? What is coffee creamer anyway?” Well, now that you’ve had your daily jolt of caffeine, it’s time to find out.
I have never used a coffee creamer in my life, and that is thanks to some wonderful advice my grandfather gave me: “Always drink your coffee black, never pay your taxes, and never let another man see you cry.” Looking back now, maybe I was a little misguided by him. But I have stuck with the coffee advice. When I take that first sip each morning, I want my eyes to water and my tongue to hate me. I realize that’s not everyone’s cup of
tea coffee, so I wanted to learn more about coffee creamer and see what the big fuss is. Come along and learn with me.
What is coffee creamer?
Coffee creamer hit the food scene in the middle of the 20th century as an alternative to milk, cream, or half and half, scoring a major win for vegans and the lactose intolerant. In 1950, the first commercially available coffee creamer hit the shelves. In 1961, Carnation (now owned by Nestle) created Coffee-Mate, which thrives to this day as one of the most popular and ubiquitous coffee creamer brands. Today, coffee creamers are in every office break room and on every diner table in America.
Coffee creamer comes in two different forms: liquid and powder. You’ll likely find a wide variety of coffee creamer brands in your grocery’s dairy aisle, despite the fact that many coffee creamers are non-dairy. But if it’s not milk-based, then what the heck is in it?
What is coffee creamer made of?
There is no milk or cream in coffee creamer. The primary ingredient in most coffee creamer brands is vegetable oil, with corn syrup being a close second. As with many processed foods, coffee creamer is also jam-packed with sugars and other chemicals to create its sweet taste. Additionally, artificial flavors are used. There are also non-fat, low fat, and low sugar options from most major brands.
There is one sneaky ingredient in many coffee creamers that may put off vegans: sodium caseinate. Caseins are milk proteins that are commonly used in cheesemaking. The science of it all is truly beyond my comprehension, but I think the most basic explanation of sodium caseinate is that it helps to stabilize many processed foods, coffee creamer included. If you look at the label of your favorite coffee creamer, it will most likely list sodium caseinate (milk derivative) in the ingredients. So, while the label says it’s non-dairy and it has negligible amounts of lactose—nowhere near enough to bother someone with an intolerance—there technically are animal products in many coffee creamers.
How long does coffee creamer last? Forever?
Technically, no. But compared to milk and cream, it might as well last forever, thanks to the additives and preservatives used in the making of coffee creamer. Your typical milk-based product is going to have a shelf-life of one to two weeks at max and it must be refrigerated. Whereas non-dairy liquid coffee creamer can be consumed up to a month after its best-by date. And, when it comes to those tiny creamer cups, they don’t even need to be in the refrigerator.
The powdered coffee creamer has even more staying power. It doesn’t really go bad, so you could use it up to six months after its best-by date. Beyond that, the powder starts to lose its flavor. So feel free to keep it in your cupboard next to the tarragon and celery seed that you used once for that recipe three years ago.
If I start drinking coffee creamer at this point in my life, will I instantly die?
Have you ever read those stories where someone who is 103 years old is asked, “What’s the secret to a long life?” And they answer with something like, “Ten fried eggs and a cigar every morning.” That’s how I feel about my personal coffee creamer use; if I change up my routine at this point, I will certainly fall over dead within a month.
But I don’t begrudge anyone for adding a little something extra to their morning coffee. It’s hard enough as it is to get out of bed every morning and face everyone at work, so why should anyone deprive themselves of the simple joy of their coffee tasting like strawberry cheesecake or banana nut or whatever the hell Willy Wonka Whipple Scrumptious Fudgy Caramel is.
It’s just not my style. You’ll never catch me using coffee creamer, or my name isn’t Luke Field (it isn’t, for tax evasion purposes).
Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!