How to Flavor Coffee
Every coffee drinker has his or her preferences for flavoring the coffee. Some like it black. Some like it white and sweet. Some like it sweet but not white, or white but not sweet. The traditional ways to flavor coffee are with cream, milk, or non-dairy creamer and sugar or sugar substitute. Every coffee shop provides these options. There are also more unique ways to flavor your coffee.
Some people prefer soy milk or rice milk to milk, cream, or non-dairy creamer. Personally, I think soy milk tastes horrible in coffee, and rice milk, not much better. Yet these options are popular enough for many leading coffee shops to offer soy lattes.
As for sweetener, enough of us are accustomed to good old-fashioned white sugar that it is the easiest option to find for sweetening coffee, along with artificial sweeteners meant to mimic it. If you would like to sweeten your coffee in a more unique way, try honey.
A light honey with a not too bold flavor is excellent in coffee. Honey has the advantage of being sweeter, overall, than sugar, so a smaller amount goes a longer way. And from the standpoint of environmental and social ethics, the honey industry is much more ecologically sustainable than the sugar industry, and much more hospitable to small businesses.
Brown sugar or maple syrup can also be a decent coffee sweetener. Like honey, maple syrup is sweeter than sugar. It takes maybe half to two thirds the amount to get a comparable sweetening effect. Brown sugar works as well as white sugar, but if you use just a little too much, its bold flavor will really stand out in your coffee. If you would like a unique flavor in your coffee, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Even stronger in flavor than brown sugar is molasses. A touch of it in your coffee, with or without milk or creamer, may be just the unique flavor you are looking for. Since molasses has such a strong flavor, it will not appeal to everyone. It is best to try a very small amount the first time you use it.
Fairly new on the market, agave nectar and stevia are touted as natural alternatives to sugar. Both kinds of sweetener are absorbed differently from sugar and do not raise blood glucose in the same way, making them safer for diabetics and others with low tolerance for sugar.
As well as varying what you put in your coffee, varying how much you put in can make for a new flavor. If you normally use just a little cream, try adding about a third again as much cream as coffee. Taste it before adding sweetener. The taste will be quite different, perhaps enough to make you want to quit using sugar altogether.
For variety, spice up your coffee – literally. A dash or two of nutmeg makes it seem especially rich, somewhat reminiscent of eggnog or cocoa, without actually tasting like either. A sprinkle of cinnamon on top makes brings a hint of Mexican chocolate to a simple cup of coffee. Even a tiny dash of ground cloves adds a nice flavor.
Got milk? Most of us think of milk as something to add to coffee, not the basis for the coffee itself. Yet in many Latin American countries, using milk instead of water to brew the coffee is the norm. It gives the coffee a rich, creamy taste, yet different enough that it takes some getting accustomed to if you are used to coffee brewed with water.
The traditional ways to flavor coffee are not the only ways. If you wish to be unique, start with your morning coffee.