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Do you like flavored coffee but want a little more control than you get with commercial flavored coffee blends? Commercial flavored coffees are made by adding oils – some natural and some synthetic – to coffee beans before they are ground. In some cases, as many as 100 different flavoring agents are used to achieve a complex flavor. That’s an awful lot of chemicals and oils in just a little cup of coffee. If you’d like to drink flavored coffee without worrying about what you’re drinking with your coffee beans, here are a few suggestions and tips for you to try.
Spicing Up Your Grind
The easiest way of adding flavor to your coffee is to add them when you grind the beans. There is one problem with grinding spices into your beans – the volatile oils you’ll be releasing into the beans this way will also flavor your coffee grinder. If you do grind spices along with your coffee beans, be sure to clean your grinder well after to avoid transferring the flavors to the next batch of beans that you grind. A handy tip for soaking up the leftover oils from grinding spices – toss in a handful of rice or breadcrumbs and grind to a powder. The starches will soak up the oils and odors so that they don’t transfer to the next batch of coffee beans.
A better choice is to keep a separate grinder just for grinding spices, then mix the ground coffee and spices before putting them in the brew basket of your drip coffee maker.
Spicing Your Beans
A more subtle way to flavor coffee is to infuse your coffee beans with flavor before you grind them. This works best when you use whole spices with strong flavors. It’s the simplest method, but takes the most time, and is best used for a “favorite” flavor of coffee that you’ll want to brew again and again. Simply transfer freshly roasted beans into an airtight container and bury the whole spices in the beans before sealing the container. Wait at least 24 hours before brewing, but be aware that the longer the spices and coffee are enclosed together, the more intense the flavors will become. Again, be sure to clean your coffee grinder well after grinding to avoid transferring flavors to other coffees.
Ideal spices to use for infusing coffee beans with flavor include cinnamon sticks, whole nutmeg, whole allspice, cardamom, cocoa and vanilla beans. Try various combinations and adding them to different roasts to find a flavor profile that you like best.
Other Ways to Flavor Coffee
You can also add flavor to your coffee after you’ve brewed it by stirring a flavoring or spice into the brewed coffee. There are several different brands of coffee flavor essences that you can use for flavors like amaretto, cinnamon spice, vanilla, chocolate raspberry and other “gourmet flavors” you’ll find at your local coffee shop. You can also opt for more natural methods by stirring drops of spice extract into your coffee, or adding spices to the cup with your sugar and cream. One completely natural way to flavor your coffee is with flavored sugar you make yourself. It’s as easy as infusing coffee beans.
For vanilla sugar: Place two vanilla bean pods into an 8-ounce jar. Pour sugar to within an inch of the top. Cover and shake. Allow the sugar to absorb flavor from the vanilla beans for at least a day before using. Turn the jar over a few times daily to mix well and prevent the flavors from concentrating in one area.
For cinnamon spice sugar: Love cinnamon in your coffee, but not the skin that forms when you use it ground? Try this: put a few sticks of cinnamon into an 8-ounce jar. Add other whole spices if you desire – whole cardamom, star anise, cloves and nutmeg all are good spices for spicing sugar. For nutmeg, use a grater to score the outer rind and release the oil before adding. Proceed as you do for vanilla sugar above.
Experiment with different spice combination to find flavors that you like – and keep in mind that different spices will taste completely different when you use them with various types and roasts of coffee.
What Type of Coffee?
The type of coffee that you use will also affect the flavor of the final product. Lighter roasts carry more of the varietal flavors of the coffee itself. The darker the roast, the more similar the different varieties will taste. Darker roasts have a stronger “coffee” flavor and work well with stronger spices. Lighter roasts work best when you use a light hand with the spices, letting the natural over and undertones of floral and fruity flavors shine through.