flavored coffee without syrup
October 5, 2020 8:03 PM   Subscribe

I like flavored drip coffee that can be bought in bags at the grocery store. The kind that tastes like vanilla or cinnamon without the addition of other ingredients.

Some coffee shops just have these prebrewed for customers so it is easy to purchase them. (yes, I live in the midwest, we are hicks I'm sure). Anyway, when they don't have it it also seems impossible to order, or at least I don't know what to ask for.

I prefer this to flavored syrups and milk.

I would be fine if this was recreated via espresso.
posted by aetg to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Adding spices after the fact doesn't seem to work as well, as know some places offer them as a sprinkle on top.
posted by aetg at 8:04 PM on October 5, 2020

If you grind your own coffee, it's as simple as throwing a little vanilla bean or cinnamon in with the beans when you grind them. Otherwise just try adding a little preground spices in with decent quality ground coffee before brewing it. The flavor will be a little different when it's extracted by the hot water passing through it than just adding it after the fact.

If you have a Trader Joe's near you, they have a few preground varieties with spices added, including a winter one, which is probably close to what you're looking for.
posted by Candleman at 8:13 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love those flavored beans! When I barista’d in Pennsylvania, our little shop always had a policy to keep a flavor of the day on carafe. So you might have some fun finding some outposts that do that regularly.

If not, and you’re at a little indy shop and it’s slow, ask them! Most will be helpful and welcome the novelty of figuring this out. Then you can ask for that specific thing next time.

They might try Candleman’s spice trick in the espresso before brewing or even in the grind. You mentioned no syrup — for me, the problem with syrup is it’s way too strong. I might see if they could do a quarter shot, you know, let the suggestion of the flavor kind of waft in. I’ve enjoyed adding a teaspoonful of caramel ice cream syrup in my regular coffee at home, and that’s been rather nice.

You might also try adding a few drops of vanilla or almond extract or liqueur to your plain coffee or espresso drink. This might require you to carry a small dropper vial with you, but may be well worth it.
posted by mochapickle at 8:56 PM on October 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I like that kind of coffee, too. If you're speaking with a barista and not sure how to express this idea, you could try asking if they have any drip coffee along the lines of French vanilla, hazelnut, or celtic/highlander grog.

What I have found is that local coffee roasters tend to have this type available online under the header of flavored coffee (as opposed to coffee sold by origin). If you have a local coffee shop you already like, you could check online and see what they have available. Chain grocers sometimes have a "local specialties" shelf but I've found Kroger to be less than reliable with stocking with my preferred flavors.

If you are willing to ship:
I've had this roaster recommended to me a few times and it looks like they have a big variety.

These guys have less gargantuan variety but I can actually vouch for the quality.

Savory Spice used to have a coffee flavor set that came with vanilla sugar, black onyx cocoa powder, etc. If you run out of flavored-by-the-bag options, I recommend you take a look at their baking spices section and see if anything sounds tempting... keeping in mind that spices bought from a spice merchant, as opposed to a grocery store shelf, tend to be very fresh /potent / dimensional.

Good luck!
posted by snerson at 8:57 PM on October 5, 2020

Is the question that you'd like pre-flavored coffees at places that do not offer this? This isn't really going to be achievable at a shop that's not set up for it. The reason that places don't offer it is because it wreaks havoc on grinders (and brew equipment to a lesser degree). You have to maintain two of everything, and it gets expensive quick, even if its done poorly. Replicating these isn't something that a shop can really do on the fly. Shops who carry syrups do this for the flexibility of offering lots of flavors without an infrastructure other than bottles and pumps.

The flavorings you're talking about are mostly concentrated, non sugar-based extracts that are sprayed on the coffee before they're ground (they're closer to essential oils than a syrup), and only coated with ml or so of oil per pound. If you're looking to make your own, coffee is very porous and you can use this to your advantage; whatever you store the beans with will soak up the flavor around them very, very easily. A couple of sprays with a fine mister, of an essential oil or two over a pound of coffee will stick with the coffee very easily. This will basically nuke any coffee grinder you use however, and you'll be hard pressed to get any of those aromas out of them. If the item you want to flavor the coffee with is itself very aromatic, you can get away with just storing the coffee (ground or whole) with the item; vanilla comes to mind here. That won't work for like nut flavored coffees, because nuts aren't really aromatic in the same way.

I'd mention from experience in the industry, that many of those flavorings that are sprayed on coffees before packaging are oftentimes carcinogenic and/or have extremely high levels of diacetyl. The workers that use them are supposed to wear respirators while working with them (and companies rarely provide this). Its a pretty dangerous part of the job that leads to long-term lung damage for some folks who have to work at lower-rent roasteries.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:05 PM on October 5, 2020 [13 favorites]

If you by any chance find yourself at Dunkin' Donuts, a flavor "shot" is an unsweetened flavor added to the coffee (as oppose to a "swirl", which is a sweet flavored syrup).
posted by mosst at 6:08 AM on October 6, 2020

I've gotten good results by putting a few chocolate mint leaves in with the ground coffee while brewing. It tastes like girl scout thin mint cookies! Chocolate mint is easy to grow and has taken over almost a whole raised bed in the garden. I bet different spice blends meant for herbal teas would work that way, too.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2020

Piggybacking on furnace.heart's suggestion, if you're willing to wait a couple weeks for the results, you could follow a recipe for making vanilla sugar, but substitute coffee for the sugar. The vanilla flavor will infuse the whole batch.

For cinnamon coffee, add ground cinnamon to the coffee grounds. If you haven't had good results before, you may just not have used enough.
posted by me3dia at 8:31 AM on October 6, 2020

If you add a few cardamom seeds in with the ground coffee when brewing, it will add a nice flavor reminiscent of Turkish coffee. You can do this with any spice that sounds appealing to you.
posted by QuakerMel at 5:53 PM on October 6, 2020

As others have said, this is going to be difficult at most coffee shops that don't already carry flavor-coated beans or don't already have a system of unsweetened flavor add-ins. Starbucks was testing flavor extracts instead of syrups awhile back but I don't think it became widespread--I haven't seen much published after 2018 about it.

If you happen to have a sous vide setup (or have been looking for an excuse to acquire one), you can make an excellent version at home by putting ground coffee and your dry flavoring of choice in a jar with water, and putting it in the water bath--it infuses the flavor thoroughly but gently, so you can either drink it cold or heat it later without it being a re-heat. Here's my favorite method.
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2020

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