You can buy all kinds of pre-flavored coffee these days, from chocolate to cinnamon, to vanilla and just about anything else you can think of.
How is flavored coffee actually made though? Well, there are three main methods for adding that extra spice to your morning brew.
In this article I’m going to walk you through the most popular methods used.
I’ve also included some tips at the end that will help you craft your own concoctions in your kitchen!
(Looking for something else for your morning cup? I have a massive coffee brewing archive that has more to explore!)
How Flavored Coffee Is Made
There are three main methods that are used to add flavor to coffee beans:
Here’s a look at how each method works in practice.
This is the “purest” way of flavoring a coffee bean, and involves using real spices or nuts to add an entirely natural flavor.
You can either do this yourself at home (see further down the page for a few ideas), or you can buy them pre-flavored from your local coffee roaster.
There are loads of different ingredients on offer here, including cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, cocoa and nutmeg.
Don’t expect this approach to pack a massive punch. Instead you’ll tend to notice quite a subtle aroma and taste.
The idea here is to add to the coffee’s natural flavor profile, rather than overwhelm it.
These are similar to natural flavorings. The difference here is that those ingredients are concentrated into an oil using organic solvents.
Because of this concentration, these extracts are often much stronger than their natural equivalents.
The aroma of the drink will pack a much bigger punch, although you shouldn’t be able to detect any kind of chemical aftertaste.
In terms of taste they’re stronger than their natural counterparts, but not as overwhelming as you’ll get from synthetic flavorings.
These are the kind of flavorings that are commonly knocked together in labs. They’re created from various cleverly designed chemical concoctions.
The idea here is to get a very good approximation of natural ingredients, but do so in a way that can be scaled up at a much lower cost.
The flavoring is then applied to the coffee beans in a drum mechanism. The beans are sprayed with the flavoring oils, and a solvent is used to bind the flavor to the beans.
When it comes to both the aroma and taste of your coffee, you’ll find that these overpower the underlying coffee notes almost entirely. You’ll also have a noticeably sweeter drink.
You may not be too fussy about the use of synthetic flavorings, but if natural flavoring is important to you then do check the label carefully.
Natural flavors are much more expensive to add to coffee beans, so expect to pay a premium if you want to avoid synthetic flavors.
Beware The Old Beans
It’s really important that you go with a trusted roaster when you’re buying flavored beans. This advice goes double if you’re buying synthetically flavored beans.
As I’ve described, synthetic flavorings tend to be more overwhelming on the palate. This makes them ideal for masking the staleness of old beans.
If you’re buying your flavored beans in person, take a close look at them to see if they show any signs of dullness. If they’ve started to crack that’s another cause for alarm.
You won’t always be able to inspect them in the flesh, so to speak. If they’re already bagged, check the price difference between the flavored beans and their non-flavored equivalents.
If there’s not much difference in the price, the flavored beans are almost certainly fresh.
Make Flavored Coffee At Home
Fancy making a batch of flavored coffee at home?
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you want to roll your sleeves up and start experimenting yourself:
- See what flavors you already have in your pantry that you think might be a good fit. You almost certainly have a few common coffee-flavoring ingredients like hazelnut and cinnamon.
- If you’ve not already reviewed the tasting notes of your favorite whole beans, now’s the time to start! Think about complimentary flavors – chocolate goes really well with dark roast beans, for example.
- Don’t be afraid to try something you’re not sure about, and work in small batches at all times. Grind the spices alongside the beans to get a good blend going too.
- Remember the warning about inadvertently buying old beans? You can make your home flavor experiments work to your advantage here, and help savage some of the mustier beans in your collection.
Here’s a quick guide to making two of the most popular flavors:
How Is Hazelnut Flavored Coffee Made?
Preparing your own hazelnut coffee at home is always preferable to using those overpowering syrups. The good news is that it’s extremely easy to prepare in your own kitchen.
To do this, you’re going to need the following items:
- Fresh whole beans
- Shelled, unsalted hazelnuts
- A French Press
- A grinder
A quick note on the coffee beans here. Different flavorings work better with certain roasts.
For a high quality hazelnut brew, I recommend starting off with a light roast coffee bean. It’s not that you can’t use darker roasts, but I find the flavor comes through best if you go down the light route.
If you don’t have a grinder in your kitchen, I recently wrote an article about how to buy a coffee grinder for French Press brewing.
- Add whole hazelnuts to your whole coffee beans in a ratio of two parts coffee to one part hazelnut.
- Add them to your grinder and blitz them on a coarse grind setting. This is important as we’ll be using a French Press, and a coarse grind will minimize the sediment that finds its way into your drink.
- Add the bean / hazelnut grind to your French Press.
- Fill the French Press with water, then very gently stir the contents with a spoon. You’re not trying to mix the liquid here, just delicately combine everything.
- Let the coffee stand for four minutes, then slowly push the plunger down.
That’s it! As you can see, there’s really not much more effort than you’ll put into a regular cup of French Press coffee.
How is Pecan Flavored Coffee Made?
You can make pecan flavored coffee in a similar way. Just substitute hazelnuts for pecans, although I’d add fewer pecans at first.
The flavor is quite a bit stronger, so start with fewer of them and then add more to your next brew until you get things just right.