Serving Coffee

Coffee purists don't think much of making it any sweeter or creamier. Over time however, coffee has become the world's most popular beverage exactly because it can be flavored to personal taste using sugar or cinnamon to sweeten, and milk or cream to whiten. Purists should loosen up, this customization of your coffee is what helps make it such a popular drink.

If for no other reason, you should have sugar and dairy in the house when serving coffee if not for yourself than for your guests.

The Coffee Controversy

Coffee purists do not put cream or sugar in their coffee. If they did, it would be in such small amounts as not to "contaminate" a quality coffee. Otherwise, they feel that the beverage stands up on its own merit so well that these additives are not necessary, or reserved for those who don't truly love coffee. The closest any purist comes is in the brewing of Turkish (or Greek) Coffee, where sugar is used in the brewing process.

But, there's no reason for you to listen to coffee purists. Let them enjoy a straight black cup of coffee without anything added to whiten or sweeten it. That's their business. Odds are that you have come to enjoy drinking coffee by adding to it after it's brewed, and there's no reason why you would stop. You shouldn't feel that you are contaminating anything if you season it to your personal preference. Drink it how you like it. Having said that, if you add triple servings of sugar and cream, don't spend money on gourmet exotic coffees as you are diluting its uniqueness.

Let's Get Started

Coffee Whitening

There are three main choices for whitening a cup of coffee: cream, milk, and powder whitener.


Cream is the way to make a coffee more 'desert-like' by adding both dairy and some fat. The cream has the same dairy benefits as milk, and adds some new flavor from the fat.

To be sure, I've whitened coffee using whipped cream because there was some in the fridge and I would take that (generally 20% dairy) over powder whitener any day.


Milk is preferred by tea drinkers in North America, whereas cream typically goes with coffee. Milk is believed to reduce the acidity in tea and neutralize tannins, so for some, it is a must in enjoying tea. For others, it cuts the strong taste into something more enjoyable.

Powder whitener

Powder whitener is the least preferable of the three as it is non-dairy so it will cut through some of the bitterness of the coffee but does not add much of a creamy element to it. Further, it does not dissolve as easily as you would like, and often leads to clumps or else a undissolved particles rising to the surface and resting at the top. It's unappealing to look at, and doesn't lead to a very memorable coffee experience. It has become more of a camping accessory over time, or else as a way to flavor coffee. Even to flavor coffee, I would suggest the flavoring creams over the flavoring powders as the former at least add some dairy content.

Coffee Sweetening

Coffee is a bitter drink, but that's why many people enjoy it so much. For others however, sugar is needed to cut the bitterness and make it more enjoyable.


Sugar (or substitute) is a straightforward grocery store product so there isn't a great deal to say on the subject. In North America, two teaspoons of sugar in a six-ounce cup of coffee is a standard serving.


Cinnamon is a popular coffee sweetener, because the taste of cinnamon is such a great complement to coffee. It allows you to cut the bitterness of coffee while adding a flavor a little more exciting than sugar. There are two ways to do this, you can put a cinnamon stick in your coffee, even using it to stir in any additional additives such as cream or sugar. Or, you can simply add a sprinkle of cinnamon to the poured coffee after it's been brewed for that extra cinnamon flavor. Cinnamon has become so popular with coffee that many coffees are roasted with a cinnamon flavor (not to be confused with the cinnamon-colored level of roasting).

Check out Marc's posts on serving coffee