Iced or cold brew? Concentrated or regular? Nitro or not? The coffee aisle is buzzing. So is the coffee creamer case.

Here's how to find a creamer that won’t turn a 10-calorie cup of black coffee—or even a 30-calorie coffee with half and half—into a milkshake. Read on for our take on the latest coffee trends.

1. Don’t pour it on.

Most coffee creamers list Nutrition Facts for just one tablespoon. That may have been okay for your grandmother’s dainty 6-ounce cup. Today, many coffee mugs hold 12 oz. Travel mugs get even bigger.

Since many folks view one tablespoon of creamer...or even just a jumping off point, we limited our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions to no more than 20 calories and ½ gram of saturated fat per tablespoon. Our Best Bites also have no added sugars. Honorable Mentions can have 2 grams (half a teaspoon).

2. Know what you’re getting.

“Creamer” doesn’t always mean “cream” (or even dairy). Your options:

  • Dairy. Most mix milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavors. Fat-free and lowfat half and half are the only Best Bite or Honorable Mention dairy creamers (except for milk). They’re largely milk with little or no sugar, plus thickeners and emulsifiers. Dairy milks are all Best Bites. Even a tablespoon of whole milk has less saturated fat and sugar than most creamers.
  • Plant milk. Most dairy-frees replace the cow’s milk with almond, coconut, or soy milk. Many are winners (see Step 4).
  • Sugar & oil. Most International Delight and Coffee-mate “creamers” have no milk or cream. (Exceptions: Coffee-mate Natural Bliss and Artisan Café are dairy.) They blend water, sugar, and oil with thickeners, emulsifiers, and natural and artificial flavors.

International Delight’s palm oil supplies ½ gram of saturated fat per tablespoon. Coffee-mate’s powdered creamers reach roughly 1½ to 2½ grams of sat fat. Blame their hydrogenated (trans-free but saturated) oils.

3. Skip most flavored creamers.

They’re one-third sugar. With 4 or 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of added sugars, they reach 30 to 40 calories per tablespoon. Coffee-mate Artisan Café Creamer—it’s largely cream and sugar—hits 50 calories.

At least the company’s Natural Bliss Made with Real Honey Creamer drops down to 3 grams of sugars and 25 calories. Just don’t expect much “real honey.” (“Made with” is code for “made with very little.”)

We withheld Best Bites and Honorable Mentions from sugar-free flavored creamers from Coffee-mate and International Delight, since both add (unsafe) sucralose and (poorly tested) acesulfame potassium.

4. Try plant-milk creamers.

“Treat your coffee kindly,” says Califia. Indeed. Every “original” (read: lightly sweetened) plant-milk creamer in our chart—and even a few flavored ones—earned a Best Bite or Honorable Mention.

Some highlights:

  • Califia Better Half. A blend of almond milk and coconut cream keeps Better Half oh-so-creamy yet low in sat fat. While most varieties have no added sugar, the Vanilla and Hazelnut get a touch of sweetness from monk fruit juice concentrate.
  • Califia Almondmilk Creamer. Want something a bit sweeter? Califia’s Pecan Caramel, Vanilla, and Hazelnut add a mere half-teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon—and taste divine.
Califia farms almond milk creamer
  • So Delicious Original Coconutmilk Creamer. Looking for a non-dairy doppelgänger for dairy creamer? This was the closest we found. It’s creamy, lightly sweet, and doesn’t taste like coconut.
  • Soy creamers. Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer has 0 grams of sat fat per tablespoon, thanks to soymilk and canola oil. Silk Original Soy Creamer (with palm oil) has just ½ gram.
so delicious coconut creamer

5. Don’t be fooled by “fat free.”

Coffee-mate Fat Free The Original powder has just 10 calories and no fat, says its Nutrition Facts label. But its second ingredient is hydrogenated oil. What gives?

The label’s numbers are for a paltry one-teaspoon serving. And labeling rules let companies list less than ½ gram of fat per serving as 0 grams. Of course, a one-tablespoon serving has about 25 calories and 0.9 grams of fat (almost all of it saturated). We know because we sent a sample to a lab for analysis.

Cold Brew Basics

Cold brew coffee—don’t confuse it with iced coffee—is all the rage.

Starbucks cold brew

A quick primer:

  • Cold brewing. Cold brewing makes for a “smooth-tasting” coffee with “less acidity than hot brewed coffee,” promises Califia.

Ground coffee is soaked in cold water for 12 to 24 hours, then strained. Most brands sell it black and unsweetened. It’s usually served iced, but it can be heated.

  • Caffeine. Caffeine varies—from roughly 80 to 180 milligrams per cup—depending on the brand. Our chart lists approximate levels that we got from labels (if companies chose to list caffeine content) or from the companies directly.
  • Brew your own. You can make your own cold brew by adding coarsely ground coffee to cold brew filters or bags that are sold online. Or try Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Grady’s bags, which come filled with coffee.

Want decaf? You’ll need to do it yourself. We didn’t find any bottled decaf cold brews.

  • Nitro. Nitro is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen bubbles, which add creaminess and a slight fizz. Tilt or shake the can, then pour. It’s on tap at some Starbucks.

Fattened Up Coffee

pin nic butter coffee

“Drop excess weight,” promises Picnik’s website. “Bring on the butter.”


A 10 oz. bottle of Picnik Butter Coffee has 9 to 13 grams of saturated fat—half to two-thirds of a day’s worth—from butter and “medium chain triglycerides,” which aren’t the weight-loss magic bullet they’re cracked up to be (see Dec. 2014, p. 9). Bulletproof is in the same ballpark.

What’s more, two Picnik butter coffees—Mocha Latte and Dirty Chai—hit 300 calories, thanks, in part, to 5 teaspoons of added sugars from maple syrup. Is replacing your regular coffee with Picnik a sure-fire way to “drop excess weight”? Fat chance.

Instead, give your waist (and your heart) a break. Our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions have no more than 1½ grams of sat fat per serving. That’s what’s in a cup of 1 percent milk.


chameleon cold brew concentrated and single

Concentrates may look just like cold brews, but they pack a heftier punch.

That’s long as you can tell them apart. The only difference (other than the size of the bottles) between Chameleon’s concentrated and regular Cold-Brew? The tiny ”Concentrated” or “Ready to Enjoy” on the labels. Dilute the concentrate with equal parts water or milk, the label recommends.

Califia 2.5x Concentrated Cold Brew needs 1½ parts water or milk for every 1 part coffee. Trader Joe’s concentrates need 2 parts water or milk. Read before you pour!

Sugar high?

la Colombe cold pressed coffee

Bottled and canned coffees run the gamut from unsweetened (our Best Bites) to what are essentially milkshakes (Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffees, McCafé Frappés, Starbucks Frappuccinos).

Our Honorable Mentions don’t top 5 grams—about a teaspoon—of added sugars per serving. For labels that don’t yet disclose added sugars, we estimated.

A couple of tricky claims:

  • “Not too sweet.” A 14 oz. bottle of STōK Black Not Too Sweet Cold Brew has four teaspoons of added sugars—a third of a day’s limit and more than any other black coffee in our chart. Sorry, but that is too sweet.
  • “Made with real banana.” Starbucks Doubleshot Coffee Smoothies have more sugar than banana purée.

Some of our favorites:

  • Black coffee. We liked no-sugar-added cold brews by Califia, Chameleon, Starbucks, Stumptown, and Peet’s Baridi Black.
  • Black coffee with sugar. Try High Brew Cold-Brew Black & Bold (just 1 gram of added sugars per can) or Califia Pure Black Lightly Sweetened Cold Brew (1 tsp. of added sugars per cup).
  • Coffee with milk & sugar. Our tasters’ top picks: High Brew Cold-Brew Double Espresso and La Colombe Pure Black & White.

Photos: fahrwasser/ (top), La Colombe Torrefaction, INC. (La Colombe), Jennifer Urban (all others).