How to Recreate France’s Cafe Creme

in Brewing Coffee, Serving Coffee

Question: “I lived in France for a year and became hooked on their coffee. I’m trying to recreate it at home and have a cafetiere and Colombian beans ground specifically. But what do they add to the French “cafe creme”? I’ve tried everything – varieties of milk, cream, even creme fraiche and nothing seems to work. Please find an answer for me, it’s driving me crazy!” – Lydia Turner

Answer: Lydia, I love a challenge.  I’ve never been to France but I too have wracked my brain trying to recreate a coffee drink I’ve loved.  In my case, it was to avoid buying an overpriced but extremely tasty drink from a major coffee chain.  So I’ve gone through the same exercise as you, tweaking quantities of the various inputs until you have it exactly right.

So I put on my research hat and got to work.  As you’ve no doubt already noticed, there isn’t a ton of easily accessible information on the Web to explain what exactly the French do to make the Cafe Creme so unique.  The most detailed description I found is that it is coffee served in a large cup with hot cream – the end!

It is often referred to as an espresso drink so if you aren’t using an espresso machine to prepare the coffee, I suggest a dark-roasted coffee bean – coincidentally or not, use a French Roast coffee or what Starbucks refers to as an Espresso Roast.  You can use your conventional drip brewer instead of an espresso machine but at least make your coffee from dark-roasted beans.  An espresso machine is ideal, if you have one.

Next is the cream.  While I wasn’t able to find a recipe for Cafe Creme, I did find a chain advertising their own version of the drink and they emphasized the “espresso flavored cream” that they used.  I believe your secret ingredient might be that the cream itself has been flavored.  To learn how to flavor cream, our friends at About.com outline a simple procedure to make your own cream and to flavor it.  And more good news, they even have a recipe for an espresso flavored cream:

Espresso Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp espresso powder

If whipped cream is too thick, sub out for a heavy coffee cream instead.  Give it a shot and I’d love to hear back from you whether you were able to recreate that unique taste.

It’s a fun adventure to try and recreate a unique coffee flavor.  Click here to learn more Cafe Mocha and other special coffee recipes.

13 Comments

  1. You know, I too returned from a trip to France craving Coffee Creme. I was thinking about dublicating it. Your receive a nice cup of very brown strong coffee and a small pitcher of hot maybe it is cream or whole milk. The milk is not frothy but definitely hot. It doesn’t need a sweetener…but it is so good. Not a bit like Starbuck’s. What is the secret, I wonder.

    Comment by Nan — May 24, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  2. Thanks, Nan. I hope that the blog post helped you recreate it at home. I’d love to hear if it did or not, although I’m sure each cafe in France has a special ingredient – perhaps something sweet, as you point out.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — May 29, 2012 @ 11:55 pm

  3. Café Crème is coffee (typically made from espresso) with a dash of (usually) hot, somewhat foamed cream in it. No need to guess — just Google, and people who have been to France and/or are practiced in the kitchen will explain what it is and how to make it.

    To make mine, I grind my beans in a Capresso Infinity (for fine, espresso grind) and then make strong coffee in a Chemex, and then heat a tiny bit of organic half-and-half and then use a $14.95 milk foamer to foam it just a little. You don’t put much milk in the coffee — just a dash.

    Comment by Amy Alkon — December 9, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Excellent, Amy. Google was the first place I went, but had difficulty finding as concise an explanation on how to recreate it at home, as what you’ve provided. Thank you.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — December 12, 2012 @ 3:02 am

  5. Remember that the milk in France tastes so much better than the milk in N. America – that obviously will have an impact on the taste of any drink into which it is poured. Cheers.

    Comment by Colin — March 10, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  6. I didn’t even think of that, Colin, good point. Any idea if we have a close equivalent to French milk in the US? I’m thinking even if some ingredients are different, that we would have an equivalent.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — March 12, 2013 @ 12:55 am

  7. I have just returned from my 14th time to France, and I love cafe creme. I intend to try Amy’s version. With regard to the milk in France, it may be because it’s not Pasteurized. I know that they take great pride in their cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.

    Comment by Carol — June 7, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

  8. I’m getting the sense that I need to visit in person to get the true experience of this particular drink :).

    Comment by Marc Wortman — June 8, 2013 @ 3:45 am

  9. The milk must be the key. It isn’t refrigerated. Marc, if you go let me know. I just got back, still travel hungover but would love to go back! Best week ever!

    Comment by Emily — May 30, 2014 @ 7:11 am

  10. I’ve never been personally, but I would love to see it for myself, and definitely will one day.

    Comment by Marc Wortman — May 30, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

  11. A real Cafe Creme is made with heavy cream, not milk. Thus the name.Traditional proportions are 2/1 to 3/1 espresso to cream.

    Comment by Don — October 21, 2016 @ 10:51 am

  12. Hi all, I’m late to the conversation, but I too came back from France 20 years’ ago and was desperate to recreate the amazing taste of cafe creme. I did research online, I bought ultra pasteurized milk, I bought raw milk, I added creme fraiche. I have never been able to recreate that wonderful taste, but the closes I’ve come is by using a quality espresso or french roast coffee and adding heavy whipping cream from the grocery store. I call it the “Beny Love” after my name, and I never tell the people I serve how I make it because people are so health conscious nowadays. Instead, I just watch their faces light up as they exclaim how good it taste. I just tell them it has a secret ingredient. Try it and enjoy!

    Comment by Beny — July 23, 2017 @ 9:29 pm

  13. Great and simple recipe, Beny. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Marc Wortman — July 26, 2017 @ 1:00 am

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