The perception of flavored coffees among coffee connoisseurs is often associated with cheap beans and artificial flavor agents. Sometimes, though, we all want to try other flavors and enjoy different aromas. The easiest way is to go to the local chain coffee shop and order sugar-laden syrupy-infused coffee. Eventually, it might turn into a habit until one day you realize that all these sugar-flavored coffees are probably not the best thing for your health. So, now what? I still love my vanilla hazelnut brew; what are my options, you might find asking yourself.
Flavor Your Coffee at Home
Adding flavor to coffee is not a complicated process, and it is probably better if you do it yourself as opposed to buying it from the store. It involves deciding what coffee beans and roast levels to use (Arabica or Robusta), choosing the infusions method, and the flavor you are after.
People can flavor coffee beans right after the roasting process, and they can also apply the same flavoring methods to the store-bought ones. Preferably store the infused coffee in stainless steel or ceramic containers; the plastic ones might be porous and retain the smell. If using a glass jar, place the beans in a dark place away from sunlight.
The available flavor combinations for infusing coffee beans (vanilla, roasted coconut, cardamom, hazelnut, whiskey, etc.) are only limited to one’s imagination.
Buying from coffee retailers is also an option, but you will be dependent on the producer’s decision on the quality of coffee beans used, on the chosen type of infusing process, and the flavoring agents used as they are crucial to the potential health benefits of the brew. Often producers spray the flavors over the coffee beans creating sugary flavor coating overpowering the natural coffee flavor.
Infusion methods are easily done at home.
Typical Infusion Process
- Syrup – add flavor with simple syrup (1:1, sugar to water). Use ingredients of your choice such as orange peels, caramel, ginger, cinnamon or check this post for more syrup recipes. Let the roasted coffee beans soak in the syrup, the longer it stays the more flavor it absorbs, after that strain and let them dry before storing. In commercial settings, they spin the coffee mixture for about 15-20 minutes before straining and drying.
The best time to flavor coffee beans is when they cool down a little bit right after roasting, as their surface is more pourous and it allows better flavor absorption. The optimal bean temperature is between 38°C and 65°C (100-150°F). If you have already roasted coffee beans at home, warm them in microwave or mix with the syrup as they are.
- Add no more than 3% of syrup to coffee beans weight. (10 ml of syrup per 100grams of coffee or 1/3 oz to 3 oz approx.)
- Syrups contain sugar which adds lots of calories to your beverage.
- Alcohol is an infusion that goes both ways as the spirit (rum, whiskey, vodka) can also be used in coffee flavored cocktails.
Add 750 ml of alcohol and 1/2 cups of coffee beans to an air tight container and store it in a cool, dark place for between 6 and 24 hours. Shake the mixture once or twice during that time. Strain, let the beans dry, and store them.
- Spices – this is probably the easiest and most versatile way to infuse and add some flavor to your coffee before brewing. Mix the spices (vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks, clove buds, cardamom, or nutmeg seeds) into your coffee beans and store them in a dark cool place. it may take longer infision time to get the desired flavor, on the other hand there are no sweteners and artificial flavors added.
- Coffee bean oil flavoring – Don’t use any flavored oils from the supermarket. Buy specialty manufactured ones as they are able to withstand high heat brewing temperatures. How much oil to use will depend on the manufacturer’s instructions; usually it is between 1-3 teaspoons for a pound of coffee, or typically 2-3 percent of the bean’s weight.
Mix everything well and let it stay for about one hour or overnight, depending on the desired flavor strength. Check the ingredients if the flavored agent uses a chemical solvent carrier called propylene glycol, probably is good dea to stay away from it.
- Many oils are made with natural and synthetic flavoring agents. These synthetic chemicals are usually treated with solvents like propylene glycol, alcohol, or water. Check the manufacturer’s process being used prior to buying any oils.
- Add oil after roasting, not before.
Coffee Flavor Ideas
Flavors can also be added during the brewing process.
Spices are an exciting way of creating flavors. We can combine different aromas to create a new and more complex sensory experience similar to how masala chai is made. Instead of tea, coffee can be used as a substitute.
People around the world have been adding flavor to coffee for a long time. In the Middle East, the Arabs have used cloves, cardamom, and black pepper to add flavor to coffee for hundreds of years. In India, spice mix was used for centuries to make chai, and in Thailand, famous for its Thai coffee, spices and beans are added to the coffee before packaging and brewing. The traditional Mexican coffee, Cafe de Olla, is made with Mexican ground coffee, cinnamon, and raw dark sugar.
Here is a recipe for making Thai coffee, similar to Vietnamese coffee but different at the same time.
We will need a specific type of infused coffee to make traditional Thai coffee. If you cannot find one, add 1-2 teaspoons of your choice of ground spices (cardamom, almond, etc.) to the coffee before brewing, or use whatever plain roast you have in hand. I used a blend of coffee, corn, soybeans, and sesame seeds.
From that point, brew the coffee using the equipment you have. To make it more authentic, try the recipe below.
Traditional Thai Coffee
- 2 tbsp Thai coffee
- 1 cup hot water – not boiling, no more than 205F
- condensed milk or milk syrup* – 1-2 oz – depending on personal taste
- 1 tsp of sugar – optional
- pinch of salt – optional
- Place the cheesecloth in a tall container, add the coffee, slowly pour over the water, and let it soak for 5 min.
- Remove the cheesecloth with the coffee grains.
- Add the condensed milk/milk syrup, sugar, and salt to the coffee.
- Stir everything well.
- Strain over ice in a tall glass.
- Another way to serve: pour coffee first into an iced glass and then slowly layer the condensed milk/syrup. Stir gently.
- For adults: add liquor of choice to the coffee; amaretto, Baileys, Kahlua, Grand Marnier, brandy, whisky, etc.
|Thai coffee Variations|
|oliang||Black coffee with ice|
|gopi||Black coffee with condensed milk|
|oliang – yoklo||Black coffee with ice and fresh milk|
|iced coffee||Black coffee with condensed milk, ice, and fresh milk|
Flavored coffee should not be dismissed and regarded as inferior. Suppose you can not find or find it too expensive to buy good quality naturally flavored coffee. In that case, one can always do it at home, experiment with flavor combinations, control the flavoring agents, and, most importantly, have fun tasting different brews.