When you break open a coconut, liquid pours out that you can drink. Is this coconut milk or coconut water? I see both in the shops, but what is the difference, and how do you get one as opposed to the other? What about the cream, how is that made? Is it the same as with dairy?
Good question - it can be very confusing!
The liquid that comes out of the coconut is coconut water. It is highly refreshing and makes a great drink in hot humid conditions.
Coconut "milk" is made by blending the coconut flesh with water. A good brand should just have coconut and water in the ingredients though sometimes you do see something else added to keep them blended together, or homogenised, as otherwise the coconut tends to settle at the bottom of the container!
I haven't encountered coconut cream but I would think it is the same as the milk but with a higher proportion of coconut to water. Or maybe just the coconut flesh but blitzed until it becomes smooth and creamy.
Coconut milk and cream is the same with different consistencies. Cream is thicker. If you blend coconut flesh with very little water, you get cream which is paste like consistency. Same thing, under more dilution with water is coconut milk
Traditionally the milk of the coconut has been the liquid that it in the center of the nut.This is best drunk when the coconut is green. The flesh is white pulpy material that is best eaten when the coconut is brown.
These were the terms we used for years in the tropics where I grew up.
Now that coconut products have been "found" to solve all sorts of maladies the popular terminology has changed. Whereby the milk is called water while they make a more milky looking substance from the flesh.
My advice is to move to the tropics and pick your own coconuts and eat then from the nut itself.